Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, right, with Jason LeeKeenan, CEO of Tally, in Seattle in 2018. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) When the Seattle Seahawks take on the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 3 this season, fans might want to predict how many touchdowns quarterback Russell Wilson will throw against his division rival on that day. The best way to do so could be through a new mobile experience from the NFL team that is powered by , the startup that was founded by Wilson. The Rams launched “Pick’em” for use during a pre-season game against the Oakland Raiders. The intention is to engage fans to make real-time predictions as the action unfolds on the field. Fans, playing on the web or through the Rams’ mobile app, earn points for every correct prediction and those over 18 can compete for prizes such as game tickets, field passes and autographed merchandise. Tally is a free-to-play predictions platform, not a gambling app. But the move by the Rams, along with a , signals what’s ahead with the eventual spread of legalized sports betting in the wake of a 2018 that overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. It’s all poised to change how we watch and interact with live events. Seattle-based Tally, which employees 14 people now, is an , the company Wilson helped launch in 2017 as a celebrity content app. TraceMe shut down in 2018 and the business pivoted to the sports prediction model. Wilson was touting Tally in February. “We believe that real-time predictive gaming experiences are going to be the critical components of engaging in live sports in the years to come,” Tally CEO Jason LeeKeenan told GeekWire. “We are positioning Tally to be the leading technology provider behind this evolution.” The Tally app, showing, from left, phone authentication, dynamic odds, and a real-time leaderboard. (Tally screen shots) According to its website, Tally white labels its user interface, custom branding it for any property looking to create such content. The Rams are the first NFL team to partner with Tally. LeeKeenan said other partnerships are in the works, but he wasn’t ready to announce whether the Seahawks might be one of those teams. reported that Tally worked with the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and the NHL’s St. Louis Blues on similar games earlier this year. The Rams plan to use the mobile experience to present a mix of game-specific questions and micro-outcomes, according to the team’s news release. “Which team completes a passing play of 30+ yards in the opening half?” or “Which of these players racks up 10+ rushing yards first?” are example of questions posed to fans. Those playing can can track their success throughout a game and rankings are updated in real time as results are tallied live. Point values increase as the game progresses. “We are thrilled to bring our fans closer to the action with an engaging second-screen experience,” Marissa Daly, Rams VP of media, said in a statement. “We feel that our free-to-play predictions game will be a fun way for fans to compete against one another while watching their Rams compete on the field.” The Rams have leapfrogged the San Francisco 49ers to emerge as the Seahawks’ most heated division rival over the past couple seasons. Surely Seattle’s star QB will be more engaged with winning games on the field than worrying about predictions being generated in an app built by his company. Regardless, LeeKeenan makes it sound like Wilson has already won. “What can I say? Russell is a great entrepreneur and we hope all sports teams will be using our technology one day,” LeeKeenan said.
The Kaskada leadership team, from left to right: Davor Bonaci, Ben Chambers, and Emily Kruger. (Kaskada Photo) After spending several years working at Google Cloud, and saw an opportunity to help companies take better advantage of machine learning technology. Their idea turned into , a Seattle-based startup that is launching out of stealth mode and unveiling its software that uses real-time, event-based data to bolster machine learning features. Davor Bonaci. (Kaskada Photo) More and more companies are implementing machine learning capabilities into their workflows to serve up better recommendations, detect fraud, and other related applications that use the burgeoning technology. But Kaskada contends that these models aren’t using the most up-to-date information, resulting in stale data and poor predictions that don’t accurately reflect the needs of a given user. The startup’s tools let companies implement machine learning features that fully take advantage of up-to-date streaming data. “There is lots of evidence that this is not done as well as it could be done,” Bonaci said of using real-time data. “Companies are leaving money on the table.” Kaskada has raised $1.8 million from investors including Voyager Capital; NextGen Venture Partners; Founders’ Co-op; and Bessemer Venture Partners. The company, founded in January 2018, employs four people and expects to grow. In March it hired , a veteran of Amazon Web Services, as vice president of product. We caught up with Bonaci for this , a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire. What does your company do? Kaskada is a machine learning studio that uses event-based data to compute feature vectors for machine learning in real time. Kaskada empowers data scientists by allowing them to discover, test, and deploy features from event-based data sources in a collaborative, version-controlled environment. By empowering data scientists we help organizations make better predictions and drive more impact from machine learning. Inspiration hit us when: All the time — we’re inspired by progress. Every conversation with data scientists and data leaders helps us refine our vision and make a better, more impactful product. VC, Angel, or Bootstrap: VC. We’ve been incredibly lucky with our investors so far, which include Voyager Capital, NextGen Venture Partners, Founders’ Co-op, and Bessemer Venture Partners. We are also supported by a group of angels that includes directors and senior vice presidents of companies like Google, Twitter and Yelp. Not only have they provided the working capital, but they are also meaningfully helping build the company. Their insight, personal networks, and day-to-day support have been instrumental in getting where we are today. The value we have gotten from our investors is as important — if not more important — than the funding itself. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Streaming data of course! Our team has deep experience in building distributed systems for data streams and data processing and believe we can fundamentally change how ML is practiced by helping companies harness the power of real-time data. The smartest move we’ve made so far: We came to the startup world with a lot of experience in the data space which also meant we had many existing opinions and biases about it. It can be hard to listen carefully, probe, and ask the right questions if you think you already know the answer. It was important for us to forget what we thought we knew and look at the space with fresh eyes. We also had to be willing to admit when we were wrong and refocus our direction based on what we heard from customers. Putting the customer stories first allowed us to learn and ultimately make much better decisions about product and company direction than we would have made in a vacuum. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Gauging time it will take to get to major milestones. Everything takes longer than you expect that it will — particularly if you’re an optimistic person! Sometimes those same delays can end up ultimately being positive, though, as you realize a much better way of achieving the same goal. Which leading entrepreneur would you most want working in your corner? Success doesn’t depend on a single individual. We believe that building a strong team that can work together toward a common vision is more important than any single individual. Our favorite team building activity is: Game night! We have a weekly team game night and (optional) whiskey tasting. We typically play various cooperative board games, which makes it more about winning together. Our current favorite is Hanabi. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Culture fit. Building a company is a journey requiring significant growth — both personally and as a group. We’re looking for people who want to be part of that journey and actively participate in that growth. We’re looking for people who would have fun participating in lively discussions as we seek to push each other and the company to be the best we can be. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Pick your team and supporters wisely. They will make you or break you. No other early decision is more important than that one. When you start a new company, there are many people seeking to be involved. Regardless of the role, you’ll hear how much they can help you. But, there are no shortcuts; you and your team will have to solve the hard problems. Always focus on the team and the people who are committed to the long-term success of the company.