Spalk has developed and patented virtual studio software that enables global sports leagues, broadcasters and rights holders to offer multiple commentary options on live sports content. Co-founded by CEO Ben Reynolds and CTO Michael Prendergast, the business is based within The Icehouse’s coworking space in central Auckland.
Location: Parnell, Auckland
Business Type: Technology
Number of Employees: 8 Full time, 6 Part time
Relationship with The Icehouse: Coworking Tenant
‘The Icehouse has been a fantastic place to base our team so far along the Spalk journey. We have met some great friends, awesome supporters and learned a lot from being members of the vibrant community cultivated here.’ Michael Prendergast, CTO
How did Spalk come about?
MP: Spalk was born in a university apartment and a frustration with ‘one-size-fits-all’ sports broadcast commentary. Being a sports fan we just thought, ‘there must be a way to do things better?’ Whether you want to support your home team or watch and listen in your native language, at its core, Spalk is all about empowering the world’s leading sports rights holders and broadcasters to tell their stories better.
Basically, sports organisations’ entire business model is about being as popular as they can be, and then selling those rights to broadcasters and making money through that. We work with hundreds of professional sports journalists around the world. Our technology makes it cost-effective to grow audiences and reduce commentary production costs, and our rights and distribution team helps broadcasters get in front of as many people as possible.
What's your role?
I’m the CTO and co-founder. I manage our product and engineering teams here in Auckland, all of whom are based out of The Icehouse’s coworking space. We currently have a team of five, and we're looking to double the team this year as we expand.
How does 2021 look for you compared to 2020?
2021 is a year of scale for Spalk. We have so many exciting engineering challenges related to scaling up to meet customer demand as well as growing our customer base.
Our future plans are all about moving up the value chain from a customer perspective. We also plan to build on our relationships with the larger established broadcasters, and take advantage of the streaming revolution that’s happening right now. We've got customers on every continent, so we're not really moving into new markets at present, but we're currently focusing on Asia, North America and Europe in particular.
What are currently your biggest challenges?
Generally, it’s related to scaling the business; hiring good talent, growing our team, managing our product requests and customer requirements while continuing to deliver a high-quality service.
The whole Covid situation really helped us because the industry was always heading in this direction - we just needed the industry to embrace that. Covid accelerated their thinking to see that our model works, to embrace our technology and change attitudes and we’re where we hoped to be in a few months, rather than a few years.
We've always felt we've been building ahead of the curve and now, all of a sudden, the wave has caught up with us, so that’s very exciting. We’ve built the technology and service, the broadcasters like and understand what we do and want to work with us. More and more we’re working alongside broadcasters; doing professional commentary, helping them grow their audiences while reducing their production costs.
How did you get to know The Icehouse?
Spalk has been a part of The Icehouse community since its inception. Ben was an Icehouse intern way back when, and Spalk has received an aggregate of $1million in investment from Icehouse Ventures and vast support from the Ice Angel network in various forms since 2015.
Being part of that community has contributed to the success of the business. We've been involved in the coworking space for quite some time, which has been a joy.
It’s certainly a great motivator to be working in the same building as your investors! The Icehouse Ventures team sit only a few feet away from us, so you’ve got to bring your a-game with you at all times – but then it's always awesome when you're succeeding because you can share that success.
What are the benefits of being a coworking tenant?
We revel in the ambience of the place – it feels like there’s a big company vibe here even though we’re not a big company. Cross pollination is also important because we get to make friends with smart people from other businesses, which contributes to that community feel.
On the back of that, if something’s not working or you have a problem or an idea, you can invariably find someone to bounce it off – in a useful way that focuses your thinking talking with someone who's done it before.
Then, of course, there’s the practical side – working in a managed space removes all the hassles about worrying about security, kitchen facilities, wi-fi issues and so on. There are plenty of things you just don’t have to worry about, which is a big benefit for us.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about coworking?
If you’re not sure about coworking, just try it on a trial basis at first. It won’t take long to appreciate the benefits.
Follow this link for more information about Spalk and its range of products and services.