Business

Durham startup Teamworks to help athletes boost their valuable social media accounts

Duke quarterback Quentin Harris (18) and running back Deon Jackson (25) celebrate at the conclusion of an NCAA college football game against Virginia Tech, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, in Blacksburg, Va. Duke won 45-10.
Duke quarterback Quentin Harris (18) and running back Deon Jackson (25) celebrate at the conclusion of an NCAA college football game against Virginia Tech, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, in Blacksburg, Va. Duke won 45-10. AP

With a new California law on the books that could potentially allow student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness, Teamworks, the Durham-based scheduling platform aimed at student athletes, is expanding its reach into social media.

The software startup said Monday that it has taken an ownership stake in INFLCR, another startup that helps athletes boost their social media presence by giving them real-time access to photos and videos taken of them during games.

Zach Maurides — a former offensive lineman for Duke University’s football team — founded Teamworks in 2004 to simplify the lives of athletes.

The Teamworks software platform is used to connect and coordinate the complex schedules and competing interests involved in college and professional sports and other organizations. Its app can maintain schedules, remind athletes about doctors’ appointments and study halls and track their performance and body measurements.

The platform was quickly adopted by a host of teams across college and professional sports world. More than 2,500 teams around the world use the company’s services now, including more than 2,000 division-one college teams, a third of National Football League and National Basketball Association teams and teams in foreign leagues.

Its customers include the University of Alabama, Green Bay Packers, Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Bulls. Maurides’ alma mater, Duke, is also a client.

That client list has helped it grow by leaps and bounds. The company has raised $21.3 million since it was founded — its last round of fundraising coming in 2018 — and employs more than 100 people in its downtown Durham headquarters.

But the firm said it kept hearing from athletes about another pressing need: managing their social media presence.

For many athletes, who attract large followings on social media, it can sometimes be a struggle to share photos of them actually playing the games that make them famous.

They have the ability to easily share photos from every facet of their lives in real time — except for when they are on the court or field. Oftentimes, they have to resort to posting photos marred by watermarks, screen shots of broadcasts or photos that sometimes are copyrighted by a professional photographer.

Maurides-Cavale3.jpg
Jim Cavale, founder of INFLCR, left and Zach Maurides, the CEO of Teamworks, right, pose for a photo in downtown Durham. Teamworks said that it has taken an ownership stake in INFLCR. Courtesy of Teamworks

“We heard it over and over again,” Maurides said in a phone interview. “Athletes feel like they can’t share that aspect of their lives.”

Enter INFLCR — pronounced like the word “influencer” — an app that is attempting to streamline that process.

Take Duke basketball for example, Maurides said. They have photographers and videographers at every practice and game. The photos and videos they create can be uploaded to the INFLCR app 30 minutes after the game, with the app creating unique galleries for each individual athlete so they don’t have to sift through photos that don’t include them.

“If I am Zion Williamson,” Maurides said in a hypothetical, “and I am walking out of the locker room, all these images are available and I can post them.”

Quick access to photos and highlights, like a Williamson dunk, attracts hundreds of thousands of eyeballs. By the end of his run at Duke, Williamson had more than three million followers on Instagram alone.

The acquisition comes as those athletes could potentially start harnessing those photos and videos for profit.

Current NCAA rules do not allow student-athletes to generate any outside income related to their status as college athletes. But if the California law sparks a wave of similar laws, athletes could conceivably start using their social media platforms, with their tens of thousands of followers, as potential money makers.

Even people with just a few thousand followers these days are using their following to sell advertisements, The News & Observer reported. And some athletes at large schools dwarf those followings.

“I don’t have a crystal ball where things are going to land,” Maurides said. “But everyone is fully aware that everything is going to change and that athletes are going to be able to leverage their name and likeness.

“It is inevitable that social media is going to play a massive role in that.”

Teamworks hopes to expand INFLCR’s reach now that it is part of its stable of offerings for sports teams. Right now, INFLCR is used by 350 collegiate and sports teams, which gives it plenty of room to grow.

Maurides declined to say how much the stake in INFLCR cost Teamworks. The INFLCR team will remain based in Alabama following the acquisition.

“In terms of how we integrate the technology (of INFLCR) … the athletes are going to lead that,” he said. “We are going to ask them and really study the use of the two systems and how they come together. I believe (INFLCR) is incredibly complementary to ours.”

This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work. Learn more; go to bit.ly/newsinnovate

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Zachery Eanes is the Innovate Raleigh reporter for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He covers technology, startups and main street businesses, biotechnology, and education issues related to those areas.
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