Bloomington sports-tech startup scores with D.C. schools partnership

Kentucky native Hunter Hawley is set to graduate from Indiana University in December with degrees in entrepreneurship and innovation and technology management.

But he won’t be searching for a job.

That’s because he already has one.

Hunter Hawley

Hawley, 21, last year launched sports technology startup Blueprint Stats out of the Dimension Mill co-working space in Bloomington and already has dozens of customers. And the business is getting a big assist from a new partnership signed this month.

Hawley and his older brother, Blake—a self-professed statistics freak—developed a system to help high schools analyze basketball game film to improve their own teams and to scout opponents.

While Blake helped start Blueprint, the Western Kentucky University graduate recently left the company to pursue his doctorate in chemical engineering. But that hasn’t slowed Blueprint’s growth, said Hunter Hawley, the firm’s sole owner.

Last year, with Hunter leading the sales and marketing effort, Blueprint Stats signed deals with 30 schools—primarily in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio—and company officials are confident the roster of customers will grow this year.

Hawley told IBJ his platform has the potential to offer high schools the same kinds of video and statistical analytics packages used by big universities and NBA teams. The difference, he said, is that Blueprint’s can break down game film taken on low-end video cameras or even a cell phone.

“We’re trying to take technology that is being used at the highest level of the game and make it available for people at the lowest level of the game,” Hawley said. “That’s never been done before.”

Blueprint Stats this month signed a partnership agreement with the District of Columbia State Athletic Association to provide video analysis services during the 2021 DCSAA state basketball championships.

Blueprint Stats uses human and machine-learning video analysis to produce data sets, visuals and training guides that help coaches and athletes understand and improve their performance, explained Hawley, who played basketball at Cloverport High School east of Owensville, Kentucky. Blueprint can have a statistics and analytics package to a team within 24 hours of the end of a game.

“We are pushing the limit on what data can do in sports, and the DCSAA state basketball championships are an incredible place to do that on a large stage,” Hawley said. “The talent level in D.C. is unmatched, and the DCSAA is incredibly receptive to innovation. What more could we ask for?”

DCSAA is the organizer of 31 state championship events for 51 high schools and 14,500 student-athletes in the District of Columbia.

“We are excited to incorporate this technology into our state basketball championships,” the association’s executive director, Clark Ray, said in a statement. “Providing our coaches access to this platform will give them an opportunity to provide constructive analytical feedback to their players.”

The association is not a paying customer, Hawley said. “It’s a strategic partner.”

“This is a double marketing play,” he said. “We’ll be present at state tournament and train coaches how to work with our platform. This will give us a great opportunity to make contacts with coaches and players. A lot of people around the country look at D.C. as a basketball talent hub. We feel our work there can spread beyond that area.”

After spending a year trying to sell his wares directly to coaches, Hawley drew up a new game plan for this season.

“Last year, we became interested in finding new, innovative ways of putting our product in the hands of our customers,” Hawley said. “We decided to approach high school athletic associations and do a top-down approach. D.C. is a concentrated talent pool. Since it’s one metro area, the talent production is far and away better than anyone. We wanted to go where the talent was and see where this takes us.”

Last year, Blueprint charged schools $600 to $900 for a full-season package. This year, the startup has added more packages, with the top-shelf offering priced at $1,500 for the season and a more basic package selling for less than $600.

Hawley said he hopes to have 200 teams signed on this year—if the high school basketball season isn’t terribly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

But, he added, Blueprint—which has five full-time employees—is just scratching the surface working with high school basketball teams. He’s also looking to expand into AAU and other club leagues.

While Blueprint Stats’ offering could be applied to other sports, Hawley said the company—for now—is focused on basketball.

“I’m from Kentucky and went to Indiana University, so basketball is what I know best,” Hawley said. “But we think there is a lot of potential for our program in other sports. We could move into other sports as early as 2021.”

Hawley, who attended IU on an academic scholarship, said he and his brother are self-taught techies and have done much of the technical work in developing Blueprint’s platform. That’s pretty amazing considering Cloverport doesn’t have internet speeds fast enough to download game film “unless you have a couple of days,” Hawley said.

“I was obsessed with computers and stats,” he said. “There’s not much to do in a town of 1,200, so I just read everything I could on code, computers and networks.”

The Hawley brothers attended school in a building where kindergarten through 12th grade students were under one roof. “I did have one teacher at school who knew quite a bit about computers who was really helpful,” he added.

Blueprint’s capabilities—like Hawley’s—continue to evolve.

“Initially, we developed the IT to input data and now we’re making a huge push into what’s called computer vision to answer questions humans can’t,” Hawley said.

“Now, we’re developing a computer program that can be fed game film and identify things like where all players are on the court at all times, measure how far and fast players move and measure their level of fatigue,” he said. “Users can pause film and produce a mini-map of where every player on the court is and where the opportunities lie, for instance, in attacking a defense, and how all of that correlates to statistical performance. And that’s just the start, really.”

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