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Scott Frederick: Automated Insights, Inc | Business

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Scott Frederick: Automated Insights, Inc
Scott Frederick: Automated Insights, Inc

Scott Frederick is the Chief Operating Officer of Automated Insights, Inc., a revolutionary new technology company that transforms raw data into surprisingly compelling narrative content, visual displays and interactive applications. Prior to joining Automated Insights, Scott was a venture capitalist, most recently co-founding Valhalla Partners, a company that has over $400 million under management. Scott was also a partner at FBR Technology Group, where he played a key role in the creation and management of one of the Mid-Atlantic’s most prolic venture groups. We spoke to Scott about Automated Insights, his past ventures and what his plans are for the future.

You went from being a very successful venture capitalist at Valhalla to being an entrepreneur. How has the transition been?
The transition has been great. It has been a lot of fun to roll up my sleeves and help build a business from the ground up. As a VC, I got to be involved in the creation of a number of great companies, but I always felt one step removed from the action. As a VC and board member, you get a front-row seat (and good VCs get to play an important role in helping to assemble the teams and get involved in the strategic play calling), but that is still different from playing the game itself. Th e thrill of actually getting to execute the plays as part of a team is quite different. And there is something special about the esprit decorps of a startup that can only be experienced from the inside.

What are some of the benefits of having a background such as yours when running a business?
There are a number of benefits to having a venture capital background when running a business, but the most important is probably the sheer breadth and depth of experience that one acquires when reviewing thousands of business plans and serving on multiple boards – in doing so, you get to learn where a lot of the most common entrepreneurial mistakes are made. There is an old saying, “If you know where all the stumps are, you can walk on water.” Well, I certainly can’t walk on water, but hopefully I can help keep us out of some of the deepest and roughest entrepreneurial waters.

WE WANT TO PROVIDE A TECHNOLOGY THAT CAN ALLOW WRITERS TO SPEND TIME ON THE STORIES THEY WANT TO SPEND TIME ON

What made you decide it was time to move on from venture capital?
It really wasn’t as much a move away from venture capital, as a move toward Automated Insights. Automated Insights was a company that I seed-financed while at Valhalla Partners. And while at Valhalla, I was able to invest in Automated Insights when it was just a one person company. Over the course of about nine months, I got to witness just how special the Founder and CEO (Robbie Allen) was and how broadly applicable and powerful the technology he had built could become. As a VC, I always counseled entrepreneurs that their job can either give them energy, or it can draw it out of them – and over the course of that first nine months, it became clear that being a part of Automated Insights was giving me tremendous energy.

What does Automated Insights offer the sports fan? What does it give the user that wasn’t already available through traditional sports media?
I think the depth and breadth of our coverage sets our content apart. We currently have over 400 web sites and over 450 team-centric mobile applications that provide everything from Game Previews and Game Recaps with individual grades assigned to every player for every game, as well as tools for fans to interact with our database of over three billion statistics in meaningful ways. So in many respects, by leveraging next generation technology, we are able to more fully democratize the coverage of sports. We can provide the same level of in-depth coverage to schools with smaller athletic programs like Towson (currently 1-31 and ranked #341 in our power rankings) as we provide to athletic powerhouses like Kentucky (currently 30-1 and ranked #1 in our power rankings). And what is particularly exciting about our technology is that there is no reason we need to stop there.

If we can get the data, we can provide similar coverage of women’s college athletics, high school athletics or even youth sports. The opportunities to scale out and democratize the coverage of sports are very exciting.

In addition, with some of our upcoming products, I think we can change the way sports fans consume sports. There is already a lot of discussion about the “Second Screen” opportunity in sports – more than 80% of sports fans are reportedly utilizing a second screen while watching sports on TV – but to make that experience compelling requires live, hyper-relevant, team-centric content that can be produced at scale. Th at plays into the strengths of our technology, and it is one of the reasons why we are in the process of building out what we believe will be the world’s first automated sports trivia engine (where we will be mining our database and leveraging our technology to create over 10,000 questions for every team in every league that we cover). I think the implications and use cases are exciting.

What’s next for the company?
It seems like there are limitless applications for this technology. The biggest recent change for the company was our re-branding from StatSheet to Automated Insights. Th is was done to underscore the broad applicability of our technology and drive our push into new markets like finance and real estate. Our technology is applicable anywhere there is a structured data. An article recently ran in a major publication that highlighted the author’s anxiety about being replaced by a computer program that does his job cheaper and quicker.

Is your service really going to put writers out of work?
We certainly have no interest in putting writers out of work but, instead, want to provide a technology that can allow writers to spend time on the stories they want to spend time on (e.g., opinion stories or those that are less quantitatively focused). No human wants to write a report every week about the changes in the real estate market for all 42,000 zip codes in the United States or about every change in institutional ownership for the more than 5,000 publicly traded companies – but those are the types of stories that our platform can automate. And we can do a better job with those types of stories because drawing out the relevant knowledge and insight requires the ability to identify patterns and trends across incredibly large − and sometimes diverse − data sets.

How does Automated Insights make money?
We have a hybrid model where we own and operate a network of content that we monetize with advertising and sponsorships.But we are moving aggressively into more of a B2B model where we license our existing content to others and/or produce original content for clients on a subscription basis. Our ideal client is someone who owns an enormous, but under-leveraged, proprietary data set. We can work with them to create new content and data assets that they can monetize in ways that would have previously been impossible.

Tell us more about the Twitter Fantasy Tracker. It seems very interesting for those of us obsessed with Fantasy Sports.

It is a fun product that leverages our ability to handle real-time data and automatically generate hyper-relevant content. We basically create fully automated Twitter feeds that allow fans to track teams and individual players so that they can get performance updates and insightful statistical analysis in real time. We already have over 1,000 of these accounts fully automated.

A related product that I love is our Upset Tracker that automatically creates Twitter alerts when upsets are underway. As a sports fan, I’ve found it has changed my TV watching behavior – which is a really powerful concept.

What’s next for Scott Frederick?
Right now I am focused on trying to bring a powerful new technology to market and maximize shareholder value for Automated Insights. And fortunately, I am having a lot of fun doing it – so that is plenty for me to focus on.

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