Tibco CEO Vivek Ranadive grew up in Mumbai, India, and had never touched a basketball in his life when he volunteered to coach his 12-year-old daughter’s team in 2009.
“I’m a single dad. I wanted to spend more time with my daughter, so I foolishly volunteered,”he told Business Insider with a laugh.
This would spark a love for the game that would eventually have him owning two major league teams, beating out both Steve Ballmer and Larry Ellison to buy the Sacramento Kings in May.
He would also create a whole new big-data, mathematical method to make money as an owner.
But before all that, he had to face crew of expectant 12 year old girls on the first day of practice. He had missed the draft pick so his team was composed of the least experienced girls not picked by other dads/coaches. Those other dads were “7-foot tall, ex-Standford players,” Ranadive recalls.
“That first day, I was terrified I was going to make a fool of myself. I didn’t know what to do. I never touched a basketball, didn’t know what a layup was. I made them run the whole first day and then I went and studied the game.”
He discovered basketball was a maths problem. “I’m a maths guy, a big data guy. I converted the game with a maths equation and came up with a way to win every single game,” he says.
Since his girls didn’t have the skills to compete by traditional methods, his formula was to have them grab possession of the ball as much as possible. They played “full-court press” and blocked passes, double-teamed the best players and blocked inbound balls.
They won all their games and went to the national championship.
And in 2010, he was a basketball fan and jumped at a chance to join a team of investors buying the Golden State Warriors. He became the team’s vice chairman. The investors paid a record $US450 million and Ranadive, the maths guy, wanted to make a return on that.
Using his big data skills, and a team of coders that worked for Tibco, he built a social networking app for fans. It let fans buy tickets and gear, but it also encouraged them to join a fan club, link it to their Twitter/Facebook accounts. He ran the app on Tibco’s network, a huge realtime business-to-business network used by banks, insurance companies, hospitals, airlines to send messages. “I move more information on our backbone in a day than Twitter moves in a month,” he says.
Once a fan signed up, “I own you, I know who you are, what you look like, what your household looks like, when you are sitting at game. And when you tweet that you had cold pizza, I know that.”
One time a fan tweeted about getting cold pizza, and the system promptly sent the guy info on how to get a free hot dog, Ranadive told us.
So when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and hedge fund magnate Chris Hansen wanted to buy another California NBL team, the Sacramento Kings, and move it to Seattle, the “the mayor called me” he said. He asked him to buy the team and leave it in Sacramento. That’s why he joined another investor group lead by business magnates Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle, who were trying to buy the Kings.
He had to sell his stake in the Warriors, and beat down a competing bid from Larry Ellison, but his investment team prevailed and bought the Kings for a new record of $US550 million, he said.
Now he’s 100% confident that big data will also turn that investment into a gold mine.
“We’re building a new arena, which I personally guaranteed, and we’re off to a great start. We went from last place to first place in new ticket sales. If you redefine the business as a social network, capture it, find ways to expand it, then you can always find ways to monetise it. And it’s worth many times more [than what we paid],” he says.