Chad Langager is a co-founder of Sporting Charts, a company that is "changing the way people view sports statistics. After working for Investopedia for 6+ years, Chad transitioned to the sports world and started Sporting Charts. Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Sporting Charts launched in September 2011 and features engaging visuals similar to stock market charts. In this Q&A, Chad talks about his transition from finance to sports, entrepreneurship, the importance of graphics and charts, and advice on breaking into sports.
You spent a lot of time working at Investopedia, a website focused on financial investments. What made you transition to sports?
In hindsight, the transition to sports was fairly natural. There are a lot of connections between the world of sports and the world of finance. In both fields, there are a lot of numbers and a need for analysis and decision-making. Not to mention they’re both big parts of the news cycle which draw massive audiences.
And with the increasing focus on sports analytics from both an organizational level (sports teams) and from an increasingly more informed fan base, the time felt right.
Not to mention, I get to work on sports all day every day.
Can you give a brief description of your new company, Sporting Charts? What inspired you to start this company?
At SportingCharts, we are focused on creating tools and resources that arm everyone from the casual fan to the fantasy junkie, to the sports better with a greater understanding of their favorite sports, teams and/or players to make more informed decisions when settling debates, evaluating players, deciding who to draft, or just whether or not the Bears will cover the spread.
For example, on our player pages you can compare any statistic of your favorite player to any other player (Eli Manning vs. Aaron Rodgers - Passing Yards). You can also do this on our team pages. And this is just the start; we have a lot of cool things coming out over the next few months.
Our goal is not to be the next Nate Silver but to provide tools, data, and resources to our visitors so they can be (or at least move a lot closer to that level of analysis). And with the tools and systems we are building, we can be pretty agnostic to the actual data (economic, population, etc.) we are using, which is another exciting aspect.
As to what inspired us, the company was really formulated out of an idea which Cory Wagner had been stewing about for a few years - why can’t we bring the stock market chart and visualization tools to sports? And can we arm people with these tools to help them better understand their favorite players, teams and the world of sports? We believe we can.
What’s it like being an entrepreneur? What are some of the positives and negatives that come with starting your own company?
I’d say being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone. There is a fairly large risk component and it often requires making some meaningful sacrifices in your life (stability, steady pay check, personal time, etc.). You definitely need to understand and plan what you are getting yourself into - especially if you are going at it full-time. And unlike most people, you will rarely utter the phrase, “Thank Goodness It’s Friday”.
It has a lot of amazing positives however - it affords you a lot of creative ability, experimentation and the chance to make hard decisions. You are the one pushing your company forward and if you don’t, no one else will.
For me, I’m fortunate to have started this company with two insanely smart people - Cory Wagner and Mike Berg - who made this not only a lot more enjoyable, but also much easier. The team you surround yourself with is, if not more important than the idea you’re working on.
Much of Sporting Charts is focused on visually-appealing graphics. What are your thoughts on charts and graphics? Why are they so important to complement data?
At the core, I think visualizations play such a pivotal role in expressing complex or intimidating amounts of data in an easy to digest form.
For example, in the finance space, if I were to show you a giant grid of stock prices you might be able to quickly figure out the price of a stock at the start and at the end. But you couldn’t as easily explain how it has acted or trended between these two points. However, a simple line chart of a stocks price over time becomes a powerful information tool.
This is what we are essentially doing at SportingCharts. We are taking the traditional box score/grid look of sports statistics and adding a visualization layer on top of the data.
By doing this, you can take any player or team and any statistic , and get a much better understanding on the performance of that player or team over a series of games or seasons. Are the Raiders trending in the right direction? How has Lebron James evolved as a player? With our tools, we feel you can answer these types of questions much faster and more accurately.
What’s your favorite part about working in sports?
I’ve always enjoyed working in a constantly evolving space with big challenges. To me, that is what the environment is like in sports at the moment - at no other time in sports have there been so many incredibly smart people, working in so many facets of the game. And fans have never been more passionate and informed.
Plus, how awesome is it to be sitting at a bar with friends, watching a game and being able to say with a straight face, “I’m working.”
Favorite sports teams, go.
The only team I’m really a die-hard fan of, where I need to check my biases, is the Edmonton Oilers. I was born and raised in Edmonton, played hockey growing up, and watched the Oilers.
One of my greatest memories as a sports fan came to a painful end when the Oilers lost Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals. The run the Oilers had that summer created an energy in the city I’d never felt before, and have never felt since - it was inescapable. I’ve never seen my hometown so alive.
Every single game was so intense, with the Oilers just sneaking into the playoffs and being underdogs the whole way through, including numerous 2+ overtime games and playoff heroics from the likes of Fernando Pisani and Dwayne Roloson. I still love watching the highlights.
I’d love to recapture that feeling and see the Oilers lift the cup this time.
What advice would you give to students and young professionals who want to work in sports, specifically with sports statistics?
Look to add value in everything you do - is what you’re doing increasing the understanding of others, allowing them to make better decisions or making their lives easier? Additionally, find a niche in the world of sports and become the leader in that area.
It isn’t all about just sports though. It’s important to increase your understanding of areas outside of the scope of sports including statistics, finance, behavioral economics and writing.
I don’t think I can stress this enough - improve your writing skills - one of the most difficult aspects in sports analytics is taking a complex idea or series of numbers and boiling it down into an easy, digestible format which provides the reader with a clear understanding of how you came to your conclusion, and the insight they should gain from it. This is still one of my greatest weaknesses.
Oh, and have fun, it’s sports after all.
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