Professional baseball scouting is a frantic space.
Games are played almost year-round, so professional scouts are constantly traveling to keep an eye on upcoming players.
To put it in perspective, there are 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs, and each one has just under 10 minor league teams. Across those “farm teams,” each has up to 40 different players on the roster at any given time.
That’s thousands of baseball players — almost 10,000 of them — within the minor league system that scouts need to cover. And that’s just pro scouting. Amateur scouting is responsible for all college and high school players. Well over 50,000 players are considered each year for the draft.
To evaluate talent effectively, scouts spend the majority of their time traveling to watch games. More importantly, scouts need to know which games are the most pertinent to maximize their efficiency.
Parts of the scouting process are now digitized, like online databases of game and player statistics. Yet the travel process of scouting remains very manual, like keeping schedules, data, and notes on games and players of interest across Excel files or on old, clunky software.
While these systems are technically digital, using them across team devices — computers, phones, and tables — opens an organization up to potential issues. Excel files are flat out not made for collaboration.
That’s where ONIT, a software product from Professional Scouting Solutions (PSS), comes in.
“We help scouts — pro, amateur and international scouts — know without a doubt what ballpark they should be at on any given day based on data points like weather, prospect rotations, matchups and scout coverage,” says Tyler Baker, co-founder of PSS.
The ONIT app — on web and mobile — aggregates and summarizes this data into an easily understandable format. It also integrates with famous “Money Ball” type analytics platforms that each club develops internally.
The value driver is that it allows scouts to pull in information from any internal or external source to optimize their schedules.
Since starting PSS in 2015, the company has attracted 19 of the 30 MLB teams to their platform and hopes to grow to 25 clubs by the end of 2018.
Tim Layer (left) and Baker (right) are natural entrepreneurs, and — despite being early into their careers — they are already two companies into their serial entrepreneurial journey, both of which they bootstrapped. They built PSS and ONIT based on a need they heard about while working with a scout from the Miami Marlins at their last company, TeamSynced.
“We always take incoming requests to meet, talk, etc., because you never know when someone is going to bring you your next problem to solve,” Baker says.
Layer and Baker became friends while playing basketball at Liberty University. In the few moments of down time between practices and classes, the two relaxed by playing online poker and talking about businesses and new ideas.
The idea to start TeamSynced resulted from their desire to build an app for their former team’s coaching staff — specifically the director of operations — to distribute the team’s consolidated daily schedule in one simple text message every morning.
They focused on, first and foremost, building something that worked, but they really just wanted to build something that people wanted.
“We’re value guys. What’s the most value we can drive for the least amount of price to make it a no brainer for everyone? That was our strategy, but we did it because that’s what we thought we would want if we were the customer,” says Baker.
TeamSynced grew steadily — from 11 teams across different universities in 2013, to 58 in 2014 to 160 in 2015.
Eventually large organizations such as the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks were using the platform.
Around this time, Baker and Layer were approached by a scout from the Miami Marlins who wanted to use their tool to solve some communication problems within his scouting department. His persistence led to conversations, and the ambitious duo decided to take on an additional project of building a solution to the problem.
“We thought we could knock it out in a few months” Layer says.
“This was our first lesson on ‘scope creep,’” Baker adds.
They started to tinker on PSS on the side, and as things started to progress outside of TeamSynced, Layer and Baker took a step back. They looked at both opportunities and decided to solve the baseball scouting problem as a separate venture.
The two decided to sell TeamSynced to Teamworks — out of Durham, N.C. — in November 2016 to focus on building ONIT.
Since selling TeamSynced, they spent a year consulting with Teamworks to transition the company’s technology and operations, all the while building ONIT to 19 clubs in 2017.
“We’re now 100 percent focused on serving MLB scouting departments through the ONIT platform. Who knows what the future holds,” Baker says.
Their advice for other entrepreneurs is to find and define your “why” — the drive behind your vision — then surround yourself with people who have bought in to that “why.” This way, when the going gets tough — and it will — everyone can return to that “why” for continued motivation.
To learn more, check out the ONIT site.