History of CyberSports, Inc.
By Larry Lindgren
In a discussion with Rick Strunk, Associate Executive Director
of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, I was asked
how CyberSports Inc. was formed. Rick thought it was an interesting
story, so maybe some of our customers would like to know about it
too. There are many, many people who have contributed to our efforts
over the years and have helped us arrive to this stage in our development.
Most of those people will not be mentioned here but are not forgotten.
In 1994 I was working as a Software Applications Manager of a multi-national corporation that will remain unnamed but youíve heard of it and itís outspoken founder who was no longer with the company when I came on board. Letís go back to the early 80ís for a moment. Prior to 1994, I spent over ten years with the Boeing Company in Seattle and had the good fortune to be involved in the development of some incredible research in CAD/CAM/CAE. We were designing some very sophisticated software for Engineering & Manufacturing that promised to revolutionize that industry. The most rewarding aspect of this work was working with the talented people recruited from around the world and from within the company by our Manager, Ed Edwards.
Many of the people who worked on this project have gone on to fame and some with fortune. Jeremy Jaech left to become one of the founders of Aldus (acquired in 1994 by Adobe), to work on some crazy concept called ďDesktop PublishingĒ. Jeremy sat in front of me and worked in the Graphics group with Jim Stephens, another founder of CyberSports, Inc. Later Jeremy went on to become the Founder and CEO of Visio, Inc. Another co-worker, Loren Carpenter left to join LucasFilm, Ltd. and worked on Star Trek and Star Wars movies, after receiving a standing ovation at Siggraph, (ACMís Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics) for a computer generated movie using Fractals. George Lucas happened to be in the audience at the time. Loren labored on for many months, if not years, on this movie which lasted only two or three minutes. I was attending school during the day at the University of Washington, picking up my second degree, this one in Numerical Analysis. I would work late at night to make up for the time I was at school. Loren was always there after work, cranking out another frame of his movie on the mainframe computer we used. While the computer was working, Loren would travel from desk to desk. Heíd sit down and pick up a journal on Physics, Computer Science, Mathematics or whatever was available and read it.
This Boeing CAD/CAM/CAE project struggled to make the transition
from R&D to a commercial product and while it came close, was never
quite able to arrive. People began to leave rapidly. There was a
core group that hung on, hoping to keep the project alive in some
form or another. My buddy, Marv Bettes and I had a plan. We talked
with Susan Gartner, one of the sales people who had moved on, about
making a deal with another aerospace company to help fund a startup.
We would hire the key people from this group and build a suite of
commercial products that they would be able to use throughout their
company. We came very close to pulling this off. We met with local
Venture Captialists who agreed to fund half of the development costs
with the other half funded by the Aerospace company. Executives
and Lawyers from this other company were scheduled to fly in to
town and work out the details. Then, Ed Edwards pulled off the unlikely
deal that would end our startup before it started. Ed and the Boeing
Company found a buyer of the project. The software and about 30
of the key people quickly agreed to leave Boeing for this latest
hope to keep the project alive. Marv and I gave up our plan and
went along with the group to our new employer.
Fast-forward to 1994. After a long struggle with upper management
over how to utilize the talent in our organization (I wanted to
take risks to support our customers and they didnít like risks)
I was asked to relocate to Los Angeles. Thatís when the door opened,
allowing CyberSports, Inc. to begin.
Jim Stephens and I worked on a couple of projects together after I was ďlaid offĒ. My daughter Brenda was starting High School at Holy Names Academy and Anna Jesse, the Varsity coach at her school, asked me to keep stats that year. I read some books on Basketball because I didnít know anything about it. I had been a pretty good High School football player but never played basketball. I read everything I could find about stats, which wasnít much. I would capture the stats on paper with the help of my other daughter, Sasha. Then I would go home and enter all of this stuff into my PCís spreadsheet and worked to develop tools to assist the coach. I wanted graphical reports that the coach could use to help the kids visualize different aspects of the game that they needed to work on. I wanted to create individual reports for the kids so that they would be able to study their own performance and would spend a little extra time thinking about what theyíve done well and what they needed to work on.
After a couple of months, I was spending too much time compiling reports after each game. I decided that Iíd better find a good software program that would do the work for me. The only products I found were DOS based which required you to memorize keystrokes or Windows products that cost $1,000 or more. Sports are very complex but itís not Rocket Science. I couldnít see paying this much money for a software program for Basketball which didnít look like it could do everything I was doing. I talked to Jim, a former college basketball player from South Dakota, and we began working on a visual interface to a Basketball Statistics software program that would be based in Windows because we figured that every team could find a Windows computer if they tried.
I started talking with basketball people in the area about what I was doing and Steve Gordon, of the Pro Club directed me straight to Ernie Woods, the Menís Coach at Bellevue Community College. Steve tried to talk me out of doing this because ďitís already been done, but if youíre going to go ahead with it then you have to get Ernie Woods involved. Heís the man!Ē. Jim and I knocked on Ernies door and showed him what we had done. Ernie was interested enough to share his ideas but I knew he didnít think it would go anywhere. I brought along a tape recorder to capture every word Ernie said. We had hours of lecture from Ernie that we recorded. I then translated it to text, shared it with Jim who worked his magic as CyberSports for Basketball was beginning to take shape. When we took the result back to show Ernie, I could see his eyes light up. I donít think Iíve ever seen him more excited than at that moment. Jim and I knew we were on to something special. After almost 30 years of coaching at BCC, using calculators, hand-me-down computers and whatever resources he could find, Ernie had always dreamed of finding a programmer somewhere that would listen to him but I doubt he thought it would happen.
Living in Redmond, Washington has itís benefits. When Iíd go to watch Sashaís volleyball games in grade school, Iíd often sit with Orlando Ayala of Microsoft whose daughter played with Sasha. While we watched the games, Iíd visit with Orlando about the PC industry and the software ideas that Jim and I were forming and heíd give me plenty of information. At that time Orlando was responsible for Microsoft Sales in Spanish-speaking countries. Since that time heís moved up the ladder about as high as you can go without replacing Bill Gates. When CyberSports, Inc. began, Orlando got the software for us that Jim and I couldnít afford. With that software we were able to do the job right.
Since Iíve mentioned part of my family, Iíd better mention the
rest. My son Norberto works at Verizon, graduated from the University
of Washington, keeps us all laughing at home and makes award-winning
beer. My wife Maria Concepciůn teaches Spanish at Forest Ridge High
School, has been very tolerant of me.
Well, thatís my short version of how we started CyberSports, Inc.
Here we are, 10 years later in 2004 with nearly 3,000 High Schools,
Colleges and Professional teams that rely on CyberSports, Inc. Nearly
160 professional teams from 14 countries use our software. Several
hundred colleges depend on CyberSports to save them time and to
provide the information they need. Nearly 1200 High Schools rely
on CyberSports, Inc. to deliver the information that gives them
a competitive advantage and to assist their athletes in understanding
what they need to work on to create a better team. There are some
very exciting changes taking place as CyberSports, Inc. continues
the transition from that of a Software Company to a true Internet
Company. After ten years, weíre continuing with new and exciting
ideas for our customers and their fans. Stay tuned!
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