Entrepreneur

YouCommentate aims to democratize sports commentary — and maybe the news

YouCommentate was one of the most interesting startups I ran into earlier this month at SXSW. It’s a mobile app that you use to broadcast live commentary about sports events to your friends in real time as the events are happening.

What really caught my attention is that it has potential far beyond sports commentary. While that’s an obvious and potentially lucrative market, YouCommentate also could play a role in real-time news — and even in movements for social change.

I sat down with the founder and chief executive, Steve Bealing, for a short video interview (see below).

“Sports commentary is one of the last monopolies out there,” Bealing said, explaining the market opportunity. “You pay your ESPN subscription [as part of your cable bill], and you’re forced to listen to the guys in the broadcast box. We want to democratize that platform, to let any fan get on board and share their passion.”

It’s a pretty simple app: While an event is happening, you simply tap a button and you can start streaming your own audio commentary to all your friends. They can watch the event on their own TVs and — if your commentary is good enough — turn off the sound and just listen to your play-by-play.

Some sophisticated technology enables the app’s real-time streaming with almost zero latency, Bealing says. That tech was made possible through a research grant from the Singapore government.

The app launched a little a week ago in San Francisco, but the company is based in Singapore. It has just four employees so far. The company is currently working hard to line up trials with content creators in both mainstream and alternative sports media. It’s also prepping its servers for a more full-blown rollout later — a work in progress.

“One of our commentators used the app to stream live commentary for the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens final last weekend,” Bealing told me today. “We had almost 1,000 users hit the service to listen into the live stream before the servers blew up. We didn’t anticipate that kind of heavy usage so quickly after launch — as they say, its a good problem to have.”

As for the market opportunity, “There are enormous sports markets out there,” Bealing said, referring to international markets around the world, not just in the U.S. And, he said, because of the company’s global orientation, Singapore is an ideal location.

“It’s a fantastic place to start a business, it’s one of the thriving parts of the world, and we literally set up our company within a day and we were off and running,” Bealing said. “The govt makes every effort to remove the red tape, so entrepreneurs don’t have to worry about that.”

Sports is just the first step, for Bealing, and it’s a logical one, because it’s such a big market. But down the line, he envisions people using YouCommentate to offer real-time audio commentary on all kinds of events, from TV shows to street protests.

Imagine if informed people could have offered real-time commentary on the video streams coming out of the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt a couple years ago. Activists could offer commentary, pro and con, on the Supreme Court arguments on gay marriage. Political pundits could comment on sessions of Congress or Parliament.

The possibilities are intriguing, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Bealing takes this company next.

Check out the video we shot with Bealing at SXSW, below.


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