Sixty-eight teams. Thirteen cities. Buzzer-beaters and surprising winners. The same things that make March Madness one of the most spectacular events in sports also make it a logistical nightmare.
Enter Teamworks. In 2005, Zach Maurides was an offensive lineman on the Duke University football team, struggling to juggle his class and practice schedules--plus meetings with coaches, advisors, trainers, nutritionists, and team doctors. "There were about 10 or 15 distinct parts of our program that were all trying to develop me in a different area," he says. "They didn't work together very cohesively, and they didn't communicate with me in any kind of streamlined fashion."
In a computer science class that year, Maurides's professor tasked students with building an app that could solve a problem in their lives. The sophomore designed a scheduling platform through which staffers could book time slots with student-athletes. When an appointment was reserved or changed, the student would be alerted via text.
Maurides showed the platform to his coaches. They were impressed--and agreed to have the entire football team adopt it. Other sports teams at Duke soon followed.
After graduating college, Maurides took a job with a cloud software company. Soon, though, he felt the entrepreneurial itch and decided to return to building his app. Through a mutual friend, he met an engineer named Shaun Powell, and the pair constructed a cleaner, more robust version of the Teamworks platform. It housed student-athletes' daily schedules and served as a messaging hub between them and coaches, trainers, and other staffers.
"The idea was that as an athlete, I should have one place to go every day to receive all the communications I need," he says. "Whether it's schedule info, or a file, or a video, or a document that I need to complete, it's all coming to me in a single channel."
Maurides soon started cold-calling other universities with Division I sports programs. Northwestern, North Carolina, and Minnesota signed on as paid customers. The entire Big Ten Conference followed.
Nine years later, the Durham-based upstart has raised $21 million and grown to 85 employees. Using a software-as-a-service model, it charges annual fees ranging from a few thousand dollars for smaller organizations to upwards of $100,000 for larger ones. Its clients include teams in the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB, plus corporations such as Adidas.
Still, the company's primary demo remains the college sphere. In 2016, the NCAA started using the app during the men's basketball tournament to handle everything from travel itineraries to practice schedules. Teamworks counts more than 1,800 Division I programs at 250 universities among its clients, including Duke's storied men's basketball team, a favorite to win this year's tournament. The team's practice and workout schedules are all stored on the app, and players get notified instantly of any changes. When freshman Blue Devils basketball players arrive on campus each July, they're onboarded onto the platform and given a quick tutorial.
"The biggest adjustment you have as a student-athlete when you get to college is learning how to manage your time," says Jon Scheyer, the starting point guard on Duke's 2010 national championship-winning squad and now the program's associate head coach. Duke players are expected to check the Teamworks app every morning. Star center Zion Williamson logs in an average of three times per day; the app is where the freshman keeps track of workouts, plus photo shoots, interviews, and other duties that come with being the consensus No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
"It helps us all stay on the same page," says Scheyer. "The players know where they have to be. There's no excuses, no 'I didn't hear it' or 'I didn't know.' It's always in their schedule."