Vivek Ranadive, TIBCO CEO and Sacramento Kings owner, is no stranger to beating the odds.
When he first moved from India to the US, he had less than $US100 in his pocket. Yet, he still managed to find his way through graduating MIT and Harvard with a master’s degree.
Coming out of school, Ranadive founded his first startup, Teknekron Software Systems, and created a real-time data processing software that gave Wall Street traders meaningful data in one place. Despite being a startup, Teknekron won contracts from Goldman Sachs and Solomon Brothers over industry giants like IBM and Reuters.
In 1997, Ranadive founded his next company called TIBCO, and introduced the same type of real-time data analysis software to other industries, like sports, manufacturing, and military. TIBCO now has more than a billion dollars in revenue and $US3 billion-plus in market cap.
But it’s not only his business where Ranadive has beat the odds.
In order to become the Kings’ owner, Ranadive had to overcome ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s bid, which cost him a record $US534 million. Before that, in 2010, Ranadive snatched the Golden State Warriors away from another tech tycoon, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, as part of an investor group that included Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Joe Lacob. He sold his ownership stake in the Warriors to become the Kings’ owner last year.
Now, Ranadive is on to another challenge: changing the way basketball teams are fundamentally run on and off the court.
Using TIBCO’s technology, Ranadive has applied the same big data-approach to the Kings’ player management. So instead of just drilling down box scores and regular stats, the Kings collect in-game data from six different overhead cameras, and analyse everything from player combination and spacing to shot clock usage and shot selection.
“We looked at 30 gigs of data last season, which is more than what existed in the entire history of NBA before that,” Ranadive told Business Insider.
And the impact is already starting to show. For example, when the Kings traded for Rudy Gay just 18 games into the season last year, he was shooting an awful 38% from the field. He was considered overrated with a bloated contract. But the Kings went through the past six years worth of data and analysed on all the stats collected from Gay’s performance. Just two months later, Gay was shooting 58%, with five less shot attempts, and still averaging more points per game. Gay even made it to this summer’s USA basketball team.
The Kings had the third worst-record in the Western Conference last season, but Ranadive says it’s only been a year since he took over, and the team is on the right track. For one, the Kings won this year’s Summer League and has a much improved lineup.
Off the court, the Kings pick up fan information in real time, across multiple data resources, like social media and its team app, tracking fan sentiment, purchase history, and behavioural patterns. For example, if someone tweets having cold pizza, they send information on how to get a free hot dog later. If you don’t have parking for the next game, it offers parking space in advance. “What we do is give fans exactly what they need even before they realise they need it,” Ranadive said.
The Kings, in fact, has one of the most technologically advanced arenas in all of sports. It was the first professional sports team to accept Bitcoin and offer live streams through Google Glass. Its Sacramento Kings app sends special offers based on location and past purchasing history. Its new arena, scheduled to open in two years, will even allow wireless charging, Ranadive says. “It will have more processing power and bandwidth than any arena in the history of sports,” he said.
Ranadive stressed the level of technology used across his team, both on and off the court, is worth billions of dollars, and is something hard for other teams to simply replicate.
“It’s the type of software that cancer researchers use to find what combinations of drugs will cure cancer,” he said. “We use it to find what combinations of players will best defend Lebron James, and what combinations of offers will get the fans the best experience possible.”