This week’s SBC Leader Profile features Sportradar AG CEO and Founder Carsten Koerl. In his twelve years service heading Sportradar operations and strategy, Koerl has led the company to become the world leader in sports data, analysis and insight provisions.
Koerl discusses with SBC how his company’s services have evolved during his CEO tenure and how Sportradar handles its complex operations which involve multiple stakeholders as the company aims to address new issues and client demands impacting world sport.
SBC: Carsten thanks for letting SBC profile you. Can you briefly summarise your journey as a founding member of Sportradar AG in 2003 and how your company has evolved?
CK: Thank you for your interest SBC, and it has been quite the journey! Once Betandwin (now named Bwin), the company that I had founded back in 1997, was listed on the stock exchange, many expected me to put my feet up and retire!
Instead, I met two very talented engineers in Norway and together we decided to develop products and solutions which the betting industry was crying out for. Using all the experience I had accumulated and understanding the daily operational needs of a betting operator, we set about putting together a technology-driven offering, focusing around accurate fixture provision and resulting, as well as betting market comparisons. This is where we started way back in 2003 as a three person venture. From there we have been driven by that same entrepreneurial spirit and to this day remain focused on solving problems, generating efficiencies and ensuring that all our betting operator clients have a full menu of data-driven solutions that can save them money and can draw in more customers. That mission remains the same even though Sportradar now has over 1,000 employees across four continents!
SBC: When creating Sportradar AG what market issues and conditions was your team trying to solve? How have these factors changed in the 12 years since you began operations?
CK: When we decided to set up Sportradar AG, our goal was to meet the needs of the market as it was then: that included a need for pre-match price comparison across betting operators, as well as accurate fixtures. The focus was on fast, accurate and reliable data. That still remains the core requirement of the betting market, but I don’t need to tell you that what those requirements now apply to and how we define fast has changed a lot!
Over the last 12 years, betting operators have looked to offer more products and our challenge has been to make sure that all the complexity and processing that goes into offering those products is not passed on to the end user. The offering to the punter must remain simple and intuitive. More products, more markets, faster with the same high level of accuracy. It is a tough set of requirements from an industry where competition is fierce and where there is a lot of money at stake. We pride ourselves on meeting and exceeding those requirements and that dedication is the reason we are trusted by so many of the key players worldwide.
SBC: Since its foundation what core values and corporate competencies do you believe your company has developed to become market leader is sports insight and data?
CK: When we started Sportradar, I came at the company with the experience of a market-leading betting operator. That perspective allowed me to understand and sympathise with the needs and pressures of the betting operator. As a B2B provider to this day, those clients remain our main focus and our deep understanding of the market remains our differentiator. We still recruit heavily from the betting industry so that the company remains attuned to the pulse and direction of the industry and its key players. We would not be able to meet and anticipate the needs of the market if we didn’t approach challenges and opportunities with that mindset.
Speed, accuracy, reliability and security remain priorities for us because they are the priorities of our clients. We will continue to take our lead from those priorities that drive our clients and we will apply our corporate creativity and entrepreneurship to ensure that our solutions really generate value.
SBC: When growing the Sportradar business, what has been the toughest period you have faced as a leader and furthermore what did you learn from this period?
CK: To be honest there has not been any one period of time where we went through difficulties or struggled. Ultimately, the industry we are all in is extremely competitive, demanding and innovative. You cannot take your eye off the ball or ease off the accelerator. Any company that does will lose market share pretty much immediately and reputations or confidence are difficult to rebuild. Our clients expect us to be ahead of the curve and to offer them tools and efficiencies that will let them develop their own businesses. So far we have done just that and our year on year revenue growth is testament to that. But we remain vigilant and creative, listening to our clients, spotting the needs and opportunities.
SBC: In its growth and through its relationship with multiple stakeholders, Sportradar has developed a complex operational structure. As leader how do you maintain effective planning and strategy development under these unique conditions?
CK: That is a good question, especially as we now move beyond the 1,000 employer mark. Our organisation is quite de-centralised with more than 30 offices across 25 countries. While the headquarters in Switzerland do provide central management and strategy development, I put a lot of stock in the local leaders and managers who drive the whole business forward. We balance our recruitment, thinking laterally where we can, but also identifying specific needs if that is what the role requires. And then I trust. I am an entrepreneur by nature and I am a strong believer in empowering locally-focused entrepreneurs who can think creatively and work in team structures. The final piece of the puzzle is the strong corporate identity that I have alluded to above. We all understand what we are working towards and so far the formula and corporate philosophy has worked for Sportradar!
SBC: Finally, looking ahead how do you feel that sports and its engagement will change, what should sports stakeholders be preparing for in terms of their customers?
CK: Passion and interest in sport doesn’t seem to show any sign of slowing down and so investment in sport will continue: whether financial or emotional. What this means is that fans and stakeholders will require more: more speed, more information, more sophistication. Everyone is becoming more analytical, looking for depth of understanding, breadth of analysis, complexity and accuracy of conclusions. At the root of all of that is data. Today’s stakeholders must grasp the power of data in every facet of the sports business. But not just the power, but also the demand.
What we have done at Sportradar is make sure that we are in pole position to meet that demand, no matter the type and no matter the source of that demand. I look forward to working with federations, leagues, clubs, sponsors, broadcasters and the whole range of sports stakeholders as data unlocks and feeds passion and engagement worldwide.
Carsten Koerl CEO & Founder Sportradar AG