Getafe players celebrate their first goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC … [+] Barcelona and Getafe at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, April 22, 2021. Getafe is one of the teams that use Zone 7, an artificial intelligence platform to predict injury risks in players. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
For about two years, Tal Brown and Eyal Eliakim worked together at Salesforce.com Inc.
in the cloud-computing software company’s Tel Aviv, Israel office. Brown was a product manager and Eliakim was a data analyst, with both men focusing on developing what would become Salesforce’s Einstein artificial intelligence system.
In 2017, Brown and Eliakim struck out on their own and formed Zone7, an artificial intelligence and machine learning platform focused on helping sports organizations predict the risk of injuries in players and improve their performance.
The company recently secured $8 million in a Series A funding round to help expand its reach in sports as well as other industries. Blumberg Capital, a San Francisco early-stage venture capital firm, led the round. Other investors included Resolute Ventures, UpWest, PLG Ventures and Joyance Partners, each of whom had also participated in Zone7’s seed round through which the company raised $2.5 million in early 2019.
So far, Zone7 has worked with more 50 teams in numerous leagues in North America and Europe, including the English Premier League, Major League Soccer, National Football, La Liga, Serie A and Premiership Rugby.
“Industries like sports whose success relies on healthy, high-performing individuals have only scratched the surface when it comes to using data to improve human performance,” said Bruce Taragin, Blumberg Capital’s managing director. “Zone7 has the team and technology to take the data play in sports, among other industries, to a new level.”
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Zone7’s system analyzes data that teams collect on athletes when they’re practicing, playing in games, working out and even sleeping. It then produces reports on each player’s fitness and other variables, forecasts their injury risk and suggests ways in which so-called “operators” such as coaches and medical personnel can help.
“What we typically find is organizations already have a ton of data,” Brown said. “The need for a central brain to analyze all the data in context is really growing.”
He added: “Without Zone7, the job of the operator is really hard. We’re like the cloud engine that will collect everything and analyze it in context.”
Brown noted that some artificial intelligence systems such as those used in stock trading or on Amazon.com are intended to replace humans and eliminate any subjectivity when making decisions. But that’s not the case with Zone 7, according to Brown.
“We’re not creating an auto-pilot to get rid of coaches,” he said. “That’s exactly the opposite of what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to put out the best instrumentation in front of the most elite coaches and others out there.”
Zone7 plans on using the Series A funds to increase its staff from 10 to 25, hiring data scientists and engineers to improve the platform and sales and business development employees to complete deals with more organizations and leagues.
Although sports remains the focus of Zone7 and its largest vertical by far, the company is also looking to expand into other sectors, including health care, oil and gas companies and the military. Employees in those industries are also subject to injury risk or exhaustion and are valuable to their companies, so Brown envisions a future where employers and governments use Zone7 to make sure people are performing at their highest levels.
Brown, Zone 7’s chief executive, and Eliakim, its chief technology officer, are both former members of the Israel Defense Force’s Intelligence Corps, where they worked on cybersecurity and big data projects. They now want to use their experience with big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to help as many people as possible.
“I’m really passionate about this problem (of injuries and missed time) and the potential impact it can have on a person’s well-being,” Brown said. “Sure, we’re dealing with a lot of athletes right now. But the potential of impacting a lot of others, whether it’s doctors or line workers or first responders, that to me is a personal motivation to work on this problem.”