If you play Yahoo! Fantasy Football, you've probably noticed those little recaps after each week's match-up. Complete with a story, comments on the "game," and graphs, it's almost as if an ESPN sportswriter is analyzing your game.
Nope. It's all computerized, thanks to a Durham startup called Automated Insights. This year, the data visualization company near RTP brought their services to Yahoo!, turning raw statistics into informative analysis of fantasy matchups. More amazing is that they can create these personalized stories for several million games over the course of three hours.
Check out a recap from week one. The recap talked about my stunning victory, but it also highlighted my late comeback against my opponent, with Ray Rice scoring 24.3 points to secure the W. Also included are a "Smooth Moves" and "Regret Tracker" column, which break down factors in each team's victory or defeat. (Sorry but my editor, whose fake football team, Beavis Island, now stands at 5-0, insisted I also include this line from his recap this week: "Beavis Island has proven they are for real and remains undefeated." Ed. Note: Booyah!)
Reception to the service has been positive. Automated Insights founder and CEO Robbie Allen says he gets tons of email from fantasy football users praising the stories and graphs.
Starting as an extensive college basketball statistics website called StatSheet.com, Allen realized he could present the data collected by his service for more than just numbers.
"Sports writing is fairly formulaic," Allen said, "and I thought that I could automate what sports writers do."
Allen chose to bring his company to Durham for the comfort of living and lower operating costs. Though raising money here was more difficult than doing so in Silicon Valley, Automated Insights has collected $5.3 million from investors.
The company, which employs 14, was also named a "Best Place to Work For in the Triangle" by the Triangle Business Journal in August. Allen, who has had experience with larger companies, says this comes from his efforts to create a positive culture. Activities such as hackathons and table tennis (the Automated Insights team actually went to the Olympic trials in Cary to see "what real ping pong players look like") have successfully kept spirits high and ideas fresh.
If you don't use Yahoo! Fantasy Football but are intrigued by the service, don't fret. Allen said Automated Insights is in talks with "all the major fantasy football platforms" for next year.