— -- Each sports season keeps Barbie Nonte of Aurora, Illinois, busy as she tries to follow the games of her three children. Luckily, she has found a way to follow the kids' games even during those times when she can't be in multiple places at once.
Just as fans of professional sports teams can read news articles that describe a game's highlights after it takes place, Nonte can read summaries of the kids' baseball games that were created by a computer program.
"I can see what went on without being there. It’s hard to be in three different places at once," Nonte said. "Then you can fool your kids when they ask, 'Did you know I did this?' Sure, I did. I saw it on GameChanger."
A substitute teacher, Nonte said it's not a crutch that allows her to skip moments in her children's lives, but supplements her parenting.
"Because I am a single parent, I tend to feel very guilty when I can’t be at all three games at one time. It at least makes me feel a little less guilty because I can watch it on GameChanger while I’m sitting at another game or I had something else to do,” she said. “You can still talk to them about what happened at the game without being there. Any way it can help me be somewhere I’m not, I’m all for it."
One time the service was particularly helpful was when her oldest son hit a grand slam in May of last year, when Nonte nor the boy’s father could attend.
Here’s how it works: A coach, manager, or parent inputs each play, such as a ball, strike, out or hit. Then once the app has a full game's worth of data and the game is concluded, it converts it into a game recap.
After Nonte's children's teams signed up for the service for free, she pays a $7 monthly subscription to a company called GameChanger that allows her to read the recaps. Her children can search stats, rosters or scout a team.
GameChanger provides real-time live game content for parents and fans. The company has 120,000 team communities as customers and its "sweet spot" is high school sports. The company also serves some college teams and some semi-professional and adult recreational leagues.
Ted Sullivan, co-founder and CEO of GameChanger, started the business in 2009 and launched the first product in 2010. He said GameChanger solves two specific problems.
First, coaches of amateur teams have archaic tools for managing one of the most "painful" parts of their jobs: data. That includes score keeping and the team's records.
Second, parents and fans also have trouble following their favorite players, "typically their kids and grandkids, with incredible passion; but they have nowhere close to the same tools that you and I have to follow our favorite professional teams."
"I felt that the market was really underserved, particularly in amateur sports," Sullivan said.
The company serves baseball, softball and basketball teams, with a lacrosse product being tested, and they are located in dense population areas like Dallas, San Diego, Atlanta, New York City, Chicago and their suburbs.
Parents like Nonte can receive game recap headlines for free, but the complete story is why she pays the monthly premium subscription.
GameChanger is using technology created by a company called Narrative Science.
Narrative Science started as a research project in artificial intelligence at Northwestern University, now with more than 50 customers including USAA, MasterCard, Deloitte, Credit Suisse and members of U.S. intelligence community. The company was founded in 2010 and has more than 75 employees.
The firm has raised more than $32 million from investors Battery Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, In-Q-Tel, Jump Capital and USAA.
Stuart Frankel, CEO of Narrative Science, said the company developed an advanced "natural language generation" technology platform called Quill, which takes structured data, analyzes it and generates a plain English document that highlights the most important insights.
"The reports read like they are written by a person," Frankel said. "Quill is a very flexible technology that can be configured to write any kind of narrative ranging from a Tweet about a sporting event to a personalized investment portfolio performance report."
Frankel said the company has expanded and offers stand-alone applications that compliment services like Google Analytics and Twitter. And Nonte is benefiting from GameChanger's use of the Narrative Science technology.