One of the first things Little League baseball fielders learn is the importance of backup responsibilities—pitchers behind catchers on throws to the plate, second basemen behind shortstops on steal plays and so on.
In an era marked by increasingly advanced analytics, major league teams are also now concerned about backing up their behind-the-scenes data. On Thursday, the Boston Red Sox announced a deal with HYCU (pronounced “haiku”) to do just that.
The Boston-based startup, which has raised $140 million to date, helps organizations secure and recover data that otherwise is stored across a variety of online apps and services.
“The business of baseball is very complex,” Red Sox SVP and CTO Brian Shield said in a statement. “The need to modernize our digital transformation strategy leveraging leading-edge cloud capabilities was a ‘top priority’ for our IT team. As our data protection needs continue to grow, we needed a more effective way to protect our mission-critical data, and HYCU has allowed us to do that.”
Baseball teams have received several reminders of the need for cybersecurity in recent years, from the 2016 hacking of the Astros’ player personnel database to a more recent ransomware attack against third party vendor Horizon Actuarial Services, which involved the theft of players’ personal information.
Other franchises—including the EPL’s Manchester United, the NBA’s Houston Rockets and the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers—have all reportedly been targeted by similar attacks.
“Ransomware attacks are off the charts; it’s one every 11 seconds,” HYCU founder Simon Taylor said. “You’re gonna get hit, you’re gonna get attacked. And when you do, you need to be able to recover your data faster than ever before.”
But, Taylor added, HYCU’s data recovery services are more often used in cases of unintentional damage, when data is accidentally deleted, for instance. And these days, there’s a lot of opportunity for that, too.
“There’s probably five or six apps that the baseball teams use today that are not used by anybody else—whether it’s for tracking the player, whether it’s for nutrition, whether it’s for managing medical records—they are for baseball teams,” Taylor said. “There are so many apps and we’ve fragmented our data into so many different places…. They needed an easy way that they could go in and they could set up a true enterprise grade data protection capability.”
Sports teams are not unique in that regard, and as HYCU seeks to expand its business further, its deal with the Red Sox also includes signage inside Fenway Park. Worldwide spending on security solutions is expected to grow 12% this year, one of several reasons cyber-focused companies are increasing their marketing budgets, including in sports. Overall, tech is now the sixth largest category in major pro sports sponsorships.
HYCU currently has 3,600 customers and roughly 300 employees.
“I think what you have to do is make sure that you get that message out there, and that doesn’t just mean getting the message out there to the IT buyers,” Taylor said. “It actually means general brand awareness and having people really connect the dots between HYCU as sort of a master in its field. And again, I think there’s nothing as powerful as sports marketing to do that.”