Profile 90 has its eye on the ball for spotting sports talent

5 Feb 2018

From left: Profile 90 founders Dr Jagdish Basra and Trev Keane. Image: Shane O’Neill/SON Photographic

Our Start-up of the Week is Profile 90, the Dublin-based creator of a smart talent identification platform that will revolutionise how sports teams recruit.

“It is the first scouting technology to combine a multi-focus on the physical attributes, mental fitness and social behavior of players,” said Profile 90 CEO and co-founder Dr Jagdish Basra.

Profile 90 is a smart scouting platform that integrates scientific insights, taking traditional scouting to a new level. This allows clubs to see a 360-degree view of a player before they ever sign them.

‘In essence, this will be a Spotify for sports talent, a talent discovery platform’

The company was founded by Basra, a doctor of psychiatry with three years’ experience working as a lecturer on the UEFA Pro Licence, and Trev Keane. Profile 90 improves the efficiency of the academy, reduces the cost of player acquisition and increases revenue from player sales. Profile 90 uses consistent, efficient reporting, coupled with scientific insights, to identify top talent.

“With a firm focus on big data, Profile 90 will solve the challenges of scout management and talent identification in sport.”

The market

Bara explained that the target market is sporting clubs, organisations and sports management agencies.

“While our system has been developed for any sport, initially we are focused on the UK, US and Chinese football markets. The UK is based on location and the desire from football clubs to improve the academy success rate – currently at just 3pc – while the US and China are due to the innovative approach both nations are adopting for talent identification. The methodology is very much in line with our focus.

“We have launched with Burnley and Peterborough in the UK at the moment with a further nine clubs and agencies using the platform.”

Basra explained that one of the appeals of the product is that it is not designed for any one individual sport.

“Mental resilience in athletes is the same across [every] sport so we want our platform to be used for identifying talent across multiple sports. We have identified rugby and cricket as secondary markets and have already started to move into the rugby market.

“In the second phase of the product, we will create an international marketplace for athletes who have been professionally scouted, which allows them to highlight their talent. In essence, this will be a Spotify for sports talent, a talent discovery platform.

The founders

Basra’s background is in medicine. “Originally I am from Canada; however, since 2005, I have lived and studied in the UK and Ireland. I was working in Belfast as a psychiatry doctor when the idea for Profile 90 came about 18 months ago. In addition to working as a doctor, I have also worked on the UEFA Pro Licence Course and UEFA A Badge course with the Irish Football Association for the last three years.

“I have had the opportunity to work with Premier League and internationally renowned footballers and coaches with all things mental health, mental skills and mental resilience.

“My work on the A licence led to seeing an opportunity to use my psychiatry training with younger athletes, and led me to link up with my co-founder Trevor Keane to form Profile 90.”

Keane has a strong commercial and sports background with his start-up Sportego.

Also on board is Mal Brannigan – the former CEO of Sheffield United – as head of commercial and finance, as well as Shane O’Connell, a recent addition to the team in the role of account manager.

“Our technology partner is Zoosh, whose CEO Mervyn Graham, former head of business planning and operations at Nokia/Siemens, has been the lead tech for Profile 90,” said Basra.

“We also have a dedicated research team working to ensure that we are market leaders in the space of sports psychology.”

The technology

As Basra explained, the company’s initial focus is on football, and this is based on one astonishing fact: the success rate of football academies has remained very low (3-5pc) consistently over the last 26 years.

‘The product will disrupt the industry as it is the first multi-sport talent identification tech platform to identify future talent through data analytics and 360-degree profiling of players through our mobile-based app’

“During that period, football transfer fees have increased fortyfold,” Basra pointed out.

“Profile 90 will improve success rates for academies, ultimately reducing the cost of first team player acquisitions and generating revenue from the sale of better academy talent.

“When talent like Neymar go for record-breaking numbers of in excess of €200m, identifying youth talent better becomes increasingly more important for clubs, from a business intelligence perspective. Increasingly, clubs are looking for science and evidence base behind their decision-making, particularly when it comes to talent, as that is what adds monetary value to a club.

“The product will disrupt the industry as it is the first multi-sport talent identification tech platform to identify future talent through data analytics and 360-degree profiling of players through our mobile-based app. Talent identification rates have remained stagnant for years and Profile 90 will change that through use of tech and evidence-based science.”

Basra said that the unique aspect of Profile 90 is the digital psychological profiling of players, allowing clubs to understand who their players are before they sign them.

“In sport, we observe situations where a team or an individual underachieves. On paper, teams look equally prepared, physically and tactically, yet one team [may] fall short during the game at a crucial moment.

“Teams increasingly leverage sports science to prepare for competition, often using similar techniques and approaches, with the result that the gap between the teams are narrow. Mental preparation and players’ psychological competence play an important role in sporting outcome.

“Psychological characteristics are often associated with ‘peak performance’; those regarded as champions or winners are often spoken of as being mentally tough and psychologically robust, and these are identified as critical components of their sporting success.

“Robin van Persie captured the relationship between sports ability and mental skills when he said: ‘I think it’s the combination you have to have; the mental toughness and the talent. You have to put in the quality but as well have the mental strength to do it over and over again.’”

Basra said that scientific research has established key psychological characteristics that contribute to players developing into successful professional players.

“Understanding and developing a player’s psychological characteristics will enable them to translate their talent into successful performance.”

Science underpins sport

Basra said that Profile 90 is looking to be an innovative force in the sports industry using data and evidence-based science to help in athlete identification.

“Science is what underpins all our work and will continue to do so.

“We are looking for global domination as that’s the pinnacle. We are starting in the world of football but we will quickly be looking to scale in the fastest-growing sports such as rugby, cricket and e-sports as well as US sports such as the NFL, NHL and baseball.”

The company is making progress more rapidly than Basra and her team anticipated.

“We launched our minimal viable product in November with Premier League Club Burnley and have just launched with Peterborough United. We have 11 clubs signed up across the UK, Europe, United States and India. We are also in the process of bringing on two SSE Airtricity League of Ireland teams and have just signed up two highly regarded football agencies. The feedback to date has been very strong, with Burnley’s head of recruitment, Jon Pepper, delighted to be able to ‘develop a database of player intelligence’.

“Our aim is to work closely with the market and understand the challenges they face in acquiring talent and how we can improve our platform to enhance their success. Ultimately, we want to ensure that the success rate from academy to first team increases from its current 3-5pc up to 10pc in the next three years.”

To maximise the potential and keep the momentum, Basra said that Profile 90 is currently raising £500,000 in seed funding.

A goals-based approach to overcoming start-up challenges

While the psychology of athletes is what Profile 90 is all about, Basra said that the psychology driving founders and their wellbeing is equally crucial.

“There are always ongoing challenges every day in start-ups as you have to be on your toes and always ready to go. Even great days and successful days have challenges as you and your co-founders are your own admin, the sales people, the designers, the business strategists.

“Being a start-up, you learn how to stretch every penny you have and you have to think outside the box frequently to get things done.

“Personally, the biggest challenge is separating myself from the start-up as you can become so obsessive and completely consumed by it that you forget the rest of your life. It’s a great attribute to have, as well as [the fact that] it drives you on through the hard days, but you have to remember to keep your mind healthy and happy as well.”

Basra believes there is no better time than the present to be part of the Irish start-up scene.

“The Irish start-up scene can only be described as hot. It has grown to be a hub for the tech and banking industry, and continues in its growth. People move to Ireland to be part of this scene, for what it offers and the talent that’s available. There is a real community focus in the start-up world, and this is enhanced by the business support that is available. You couldn’t ask for a better place for a start-up in my opinion. The friends you make along the way in your journey are unlike any other as they understand your woes, your highs and the journey itself.”

She believes that joining the NDRC programme has been critical for Profile 90.

“Being part of NDRC has given us a solid foundation to grow our start-up, and the support has been immense. NDRC is a fantastic hub and the support they offer is second to none. Having access to the team in NDRC extends your own team as they have insights and experience with most of the challenges that arise.

“Being part of the female start-up scene here has also been such an inspiring experience as the support, guidance and assistance you get cannot be underestimated. Start-up life is a tough journey, and a female’s perspective and experience is different.

“I would say to anyone who has an idea for a start-up that no idea comes to fruition without the hard work and the hours.

“There is no guarantee that it will be successful, but to watch your own idea grow from a concept to a functioning product, there is no substitute to that feeling of personal accomplishment.”

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years