Leap 2024: Can Huupe fuel success of sports technology start-ups through AI?

Co-founders Paul Anton and Lyth Saeed of the smart basketball hoop company explain their vision at Leap tech conference in Riyadh

The Huupe is a smart basketball hoop that uses AI to track performance, with an option to challenge other players remotely around the world. Photo: Huupe
Powered by automated translation

Advancements in artificial intelligence will transform basketball and other sports, said the inventors and co-founders of Huupe, a sports-tech company, on the second day of Leap technology conference in Riyadh.

Huupe is a smart basketball hoop that can track, analyse and potentially improve player performance.

Co-founders Lyth Saeed, a Palestinian-American, and Paul Anton, a Greek-American, both from Milwaukee, took to the stage at Leap to talk about their goals for the product and the California-based company.

"We want to be the Fortnight of basketball," said Mr Anton, referring to the popular multiplayer online video game, noting that Huupe allows for a similar experience between players in various geographic locations.

Mr Saeed and Mr Anton said the genesis of their invention goes back to their childhood, both of them growing up as friends in the US state of Wisconsin, and both being long-time basketball fans.

They founded the start-up in 2015 but it took several years as they sought the right technology, tools and financing to implement their smart basketball vision.

"We thought, for sure, someone had come up with the idea to make the backboard a screen before, but we were the first," said Mr Saeed, noting that Huupe successfully secured a patent for their product.

"We're the first company to display that information on the backboard in real time."

As of 2023, they said Huupe had raised $11 million from investors.

The company's smart basketball hoop, unveiled in 2022, is currently available for $4,995 or $9,995, depending on the model.

Soon, the company hopes to introduce a Huupe 'mini', which it hopes will cost $499.

The company had not merely created a smart basketball hoop, but rather a basketball platform with an app that allows for users to sign up for various training sessions and features, the co-founders told the crowd at Leap.

So far, according to Huupe, more than 1,000 orders have been placed.

Mr Saeed said the company has installed its first Huupe in Saudi Arabia at one of Saudi Aramco's facilities.

They have also sold several in the UAE.

"We have investors in the UAE," said Mr Anton, who added that Huupe is currently pursuing a series A funding round.

Huupe's smart basketball hoop tracks shooting percentage, player location and speed, and offers advice from various athletes through video and the app.

It also allows for players to play various games remotely against one another, assuming both have a Huupe installed.

The company said purchases of the hoop were already available outside the US.

Mr Saeed and Mr Anton are not alone with their vision of a merger between technology, data and sport, especially at Leap, where hundreds of technology companies are laying out a plans for athletes, teams and fitness aficionados.

Mohamed Kamel, chief executive of Lumin Soft, an Egypt-based custom software and data science company, showed an AI-powered product, Pitch+, which can analyse football players through video camera and almost instantaneously provide analysis and trends.

“It could be a revolution for football,” Mr Kamel said. “It’s all done without GPS tracking,” he added, referring to similar products which rely on cumbersome devices players have to wear.

"If you're a coach and need to analyse the opposing team, you can show Pitch+ the team's game and analyse it," he added.

Lumin Soft is in the early stages of putting together a marketing plan to court football clubs to use Pitch+, while also working on overall fitness training technology to be used in homes.

Momentum surrounding AI shows no sign of slowing down, especially at Leap, where AI and large language models are being featured and promoted by various tech companies and start-ups throughout the large exhibition venue.

Updated: March 06, 2024, 3:46 AM