HK-born tech entrepreneur David Lee slam-dunks with HomeCourt

October 08, 2018 16:09
David Lee, CEO and co-founder of NEX Team, presents HomeCourt, a new iPhone app that uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality to track and analyze basketball shots. Photo: Apple

When Apple introduced iPhone XS and iPhone XR during an event in September, the company also brought to the stage former NBA star point guard Steve Nash and David Lee, CEO and co-founder of HomeCourt maker NEX Team, to unveil an app that helps basketball players improve their skills.

David Lee and Phillip Lam, co-founders of NEX Team, recently sat down with the Hong Kong Economic Journal to talk about their entrepreneurial journey and how HomeCourt was born.

Powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) technologies developed by NEX Team, the mobile app can track a basketball shot and draw real-time information including kinematics, trajectory, and the number of shots made.

“HomeCourt is ready to use everywhere you bring your iPhone. Just set up a tripod with a clear view of the court and hit start for real-time shot tracking and analysis,” the app developer said.

Asked about the inspiration for the app, Lee said: “I have a weekly pickup game with friends. One night, my wife and daughter had stopped by to cheer me on, but I couldn’t make a single shot with them watching."

"I thought: I wish they could see a short highlight reel of how I normally play when they’re not around." 

That inspired him to create an app-based tool to record his performance on the court, automatically edit and produce video clips, and track and analyze the real-time data in order to improve his skills.

The former Apple senior engineering manager built the HomeCourt app with the support of Apple’s AI tools, known as Core ML, which help developers deploy machine learning algorithms on the technology giant's mobile devices and personal computers.

HomeCourt is now used by players and teams in 100 countries around the world, including NBA teams Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and Houston Rockets, NEX Team said.

Headquartered in San Jose, California with another office in Hong Kong, NEX Team has already raised US$4 million in seed funding. Investors include NBA team Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban, NBA basketball Hall of Famer Steve Nash, Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeremy Lin, and Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie.

NEX Team intends to combine cutting-edge mobile, AI, and computer vision technologies with deep community engagement experiences to create apps for athletes and sports communities worldwide.

Hong Kong-born Lee said he hopes the technology can be extended to other sports in the future.

Lee previously led a 20-member team to build EditGrid, a leading online spreadsheet service. With over 500,000 monthly active users, EditGrid was able to raise US$1.25 million in a Series A funding, and was acquired by Apple in 2008.

Lee then joined Apple and led the engineering team behind the development of Apple’s iWork for iCloud, the web app version of Apple’s productivity suite.

Both Lee and Lam now live in San Francisco. They are all praises for the entrepreneurial environment in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there are plenty of tech talents with entrepreneurial dreams, who are willing to support each other and share their ideas.

“As long as you have something that is unprecedented in the world, which can bring a wonderful experience to users, people here [in the Bay Area] will spot you, and they will even express their interest in joining the project, which can be in the form of an investment or by simply buying the products you create," Lee told HKEJ in the interview.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 8

Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HomeCourt uses an iPhone camera to record a player's jump shots and come up with complete statistical breakdowns to help him improve his performance. Photo: HomeCourt

Hong Kong Economic Journal