Stretching the Boundaries of Fantasy Sports

Stretching the Boundaries of Fantasy Sports

We speak to Jennifer Lapoint about her startup COMPETE which is aiming to use artificial intelligence and augmented reality to gamify the sporting industry. Their vision to connect individuals across continents and sports to create the largest virtual fantasy league will be one to follow!

Tell us about your background

I have been in sports for 50 years. I have had the honour of being inducted into the Water Ski Hall of Fame and also played Basketball at GA Tech, so I am familiar with both individual and team sports. I have experienced sports from every aspect from little league to the senior’s tour. I believe this experience gives me a unique insight into what works in sports and what is not working right now.

Tell us about your COMPETE

In my own sport I believed that we needed to bridge the gap between the recreational person who goes boating and skis, boards or something else behind a boat and the world class elite competitors. It is a long road from one to the other and in my sport many people do not realise there has been world class competition for over 70 years in the sport.  I have created a way to get a score in the sport without paying an entry fee, joining a private club or travelling. COMPETE Water skiing will allow people to get a digital score in the sport, world rank, compete and get a coach in real time from their home lake and boat so everyone has the tools to join world competition and get elite coaching. 

We are currently virtually scoring water skiing and my bet is this kind of tool is needed in many sports, especially now that we are all stuck home and need to compete virtually.

How did you think of the idea?

Our family spent all our time and money water skiing in the summer. We all got very good from specializing. When the kids grew up and moved away Dad took up a new sport, snow skiing. He was quite good right away with all of his water ski experience. He and his wife went down a NASTAR snow ski racing course and got a snow ski score. A few months later he received a poster in the mail from Budweiser saying he and his wife were both in the top 10 in the State of West Virginia for their age group. He decided then that he was good at it and bought new equipment, got lessons and proceeded to ski all over the US for 15 years. 

I believed then that if I could let people measure their skills and give them a benchmark that said they are good at something, they would do more of it and spend more money in that sport helping it grow. 

Over 6 million skiers have measured their snow ski skills through NASTAR. I wanted to build this measuring tool for water sports. My first attempt 25 years ago was a mechanical device but this was not going to be easy to market, pre-amazon. Three years ago I realised the smart phone was the 21st century version of my virtual slalom skiing device. We are currently virtually scoring water skiing and my bet is this kind of tool is needed in many sports, especially now that we are all stuck home and need to compete virtually.

Tell us about the process from your idea to where you’re up to now. Do you have a launch date in mind? 

We have a virtual Slalom Skiing Beta out being tested with great reviews. We are planning to launch COMPETE Waterskiing 1.0 in the app store for iOS only this summer with virtual scoring system, a way to host a virtual event, get a coach for a video review in real time and build teams to compete.  In addition, we are beginning to focus on our second sport; Boxing. The pro boxing promoters want us to build COMPETE Boxing to allow virtual boxing competition and coaching as soon as we can build it. 

What have been some of the challenges you’ve had to deal with in the process of trying to launch a start-up?

It is a process, so everything you go through makes you smarter and better. Lack of funding is number one. Investors want it to be super obvious that it’s a good idea to fund the project, but the opportunity is to see the world changing idea before it is obvious to everyone.  If I had gotten people to invest when I started this 3 years ago, the world could be competing virtually in all sports while we are quarantining right now.  

Artifician Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) and sport seem like a really exciting combination. What are some of the networks and resources you’re hoping to leverage off? 

AI scoring is the key that unlocks this idea. I was talking about it three years ago but no one was able to build what I wanted. Now, they are. AR will eliminate to the need to be in a specific location with specific equipment to compete. This really enhances virtual sports and gives it a real video game like feel, however the eye wear needs to be more practical and water proof. When we have the funding to build AR the tech will be ready. I have heard that AR will someday be as simple as a contact lens. 

You’ve been a professional water skier for most of your life. On a personal level, how do you think a platform like COMPETE could’ve impacted your career? 

I believe that growing the grass roots level makes more people spend money in sport related products, want to find out who the stars are and perhaps watch it on TV or live stream. More players, more fans, more money in the sport. Without more fans we can’t put my sport back on TV because there is no one to watch a pro event. 

I also believe if water skiing is part of a project with more famous sports, we get elevated. When people can build a virtual team of their favourite sports athletes and I can be on a team with Lindsey Vonn and Laila Ali, water skiing gets more interest from main stream and we athletes have more interest in each other because we have to work together to win. 

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