Most sports fans likely know how Stephen Curry is breaking new ground on the court, with the Golden State Warriors star playing basketball this season at an insanely high level and in a way no one has seen before.
But Curry’s innovations don’t stop when the buzzer sounds — he’s also helping develop new technology that improves the way athletes and influencers communicate with fans on social media.
Curry is the co-founder of Slyce, a new Bay Area startup that wants to change how celebrities utilize social media tools and help them sort through all the noise in an efficient manner.
The NBA star teamed up with former Nike employees Bryant Barr and Jason Mayden to launch Slyce. Barr, the company’s CEO and a former teammate of Curry at Davidson (see the photo above), told GeekWire that the idea for Slyce came about after he noticed how Curry’s social media activity started to decline once he reached a certain number of followers.
“We started talking about why, and he said it was mostly just a pain in the butt,” Barr explained. “It was too much of a hassle and there were too many pain points to make it worth his time to actually engage with fans in unique and authentic ways.”
The long-time friends continued to talk about this problem and soon enough Barr recruited Mayden — who spent 13 years at Nike, serving as the Innovation Director for Digital Sport and Global Design lead for Jordan Brand — and fellow Stanford Business School classmate Jim Cai to help found Slyce last year.
The platform essentially acts as an intermediary between the athletes and fans, helping the former sift through inbound traffic and also allowing them to push out relevant content. The big idea is to help athletes and other influencers build their online brand with more control, somewhat similar to how The Players’ Tribune bridges the gap between athlete and fan.
For example, Slyce recently organized a question-and-answer session for Curry and showed him the most important or “best” questions, depending on what he values most. The startup went through more than 1,000 user-submitted questions and boiled them down to the best 35.
“We are providing the athlete with the most contextually-relevant and appropriate questions,” Barr noted.
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) February 27, 2016
Kent Bazemore, a small forward who plays for the Atlanta Hawks, told GeekWire that he’s a big fan of the Q&A product. He conducted a session last month and talked with fans about everything from basketball to the recent controversy surrounding the FBI and Apple.
“The Q&A is my favorite thing about social media,” Bazemore said.
Barr noted that Bazemore used his Q&A session as a chance to talk with fans about more than just his performance during last night’s game. The CEO explained how something like Slyce helps athletes better control their narrative outside of what’s being talked about or written up in traditional media.
“They are super talented on the court or field, but when they come off, they are just a normal person looking to have a normal conversation,” Barr said. “These conversations aren’t happening anywhere else.”
Slyce’s technology development is still in its early stages. There are plans to use big data and machine learning to make the Q&A process more automated, for example.
The company’s app also lets athletes easily post content to a bevy of social platforms from one place. Barr noted that Slyce wants to develop a way for big brands to deliver content to their sponsored athletes, who can then share it with social media followers in a manner they choose. Brands would also be able to get insights and analytics on how fans engage with said content.
Mayden, who serves as the company’s chief product officer, added that one of the problems he noticed while at Nike was the fragmented work flow of how brands communicate with their athletes.
“There are always moving pieces and a lot of details are lost,” he said. “We can automate this workflow and make it more simple, while creating value for every single person in the chain.”
Slyce certainly has competition, from other startups to tech giants like Facebook with its Facebook Mentions product. While its technology may be innovative, the company’s secret sauce seems to be its knowledge of the sports world and its relationships with athletes.
“A lot of this is about trust and authenticity,” Mayden said. “Our background allows us to be the trusted partner and collaborator to push out the stuff that athletes want to get out in the world.”
Barr noted that there are about ten athletes currently using Slyce, many of whom are in constant contact with the co-founders, offering feedback on what they like or dislike.
“We view ourselves as working directly with athletes and not just creating something for them,” Barr said.
Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett said Slyce is “truly something special.”
“I choose Slyce because I don’t feel like just another number or profile,” Forsett told GeekWire. “I feel like I’m actually a part of a movement and family. The platform that Slyce provides me gives me a sense of empowerment that I don’t feel with other apps that are out there.”
Slyce has raised $900,000 to date and employs five at its Bay Area office. Curry, also an investor, is not involved in the day-to-day processes but Barr called him a “huge thought partner.” Curry is involved in other technology-related endeavors, as are a few of his teammates.