“You can build a successful company in Niagara and live here. You get the best of both worlds." Meghan Chayka
Tech is growing in Niagara, and it’s companies like Stathletes that are leading the way to a more robust tech hub right here in our region.
Stathletes is a Niagara-based hockey analytics company, founded in 2010 by Niagara natives Meghan Chayka, John Chayka, Neil Lane and Brad Nauta. What was the inspiration behind starting the company? “We thought there was a gap in analytics at that point,” says Meghan Chayka.
Stathletes currently tracks data in 22 leagues worldwide and sells data to a wide variety of clients, including the highest professional leagues like the National Hockey League (NHL). “We want to provide the best data in the world in the sport of hockey. We’re working on new developments that increase our data set and make it more accurate,” said Chayka.
Chayka explained, “we were doing this for fun in graduate school. We did a couple business pitches and won.” Fast forward 10 years and Stathletes is bringing in more than two million in revenue providing data that is reliable and efficient for hockey leagues and teams to use to make critical decisions.
In 2013, the founders hired their first ten employees and have since then grown their roster to approximately 70 people, and while Stathletes also has offices in Toronto and Waterloo, the company remains headquartered in downtown St. Catharines where the majority of their team resides.
Stathletes has retained a lot of high-quality tech talent in Niagara. “We have a lot of good employees from Brock University and Niagara College. That’s been good to drive growth in our company,” says Chayka. “They have been living in Niagara, done internships with us and they want to stay here,” she adds.
“We’re also seeing a lot of people with great tech skills returning to Niagara,” says Chayka. “I feel like there’s a bit of a stigma with people who grew up in Niagara; they tend to feel like they have to move somewhere else to make it.” However, Stathletes demonstrates otherwise. “You can build a successful company in Niagara and live here. You get the best of both worlds,” she says.
There are no shortage of reasons Chayka and her partners happily keep their company at home in Niagara. “It’s affordable and close to the border; we can get to the U.S quickly and our proximity to the border has helped us understand the dynamics of exporting across the border,” she said. “Innovate Niagara has been instrumental in us wanting to stay here because otherwise, you feel like you’re alone. We feel like we’re being supported and thought of,” said Chayka.
“In downtown Toronto,” she adds, “rent is sky high, and you’re competing and overpaying for tech talent, so we thought Niagara was the best place in Canada to put a tech company. Plus, it’s quiet here. We can focus.”
Chayka, who is also a Data Scientist in Residence at the TD Data Lab at University of Toronto’s Rotman Business School, has had a tremendous year. In addition to continuing to build Stathletes’s revenue and client base, in 2019 alone, the humble entrepreneur has been the recipient of many prestigious awards and has been named one of the most influential people in the industry: Top Young Entrepreneur of the Year (Ontario Chamber of Commerce); Top 40 under 40 (The Athletic NHL); Top 100 of Power & Influence in the Hockey News; Top 10 Hockey Business Executive; and Top 5 to Watch Sport Business Professional at George Brown. Stathletes was also inducted into the City of St. Catharines’s Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Team of STC award.
Are you an entrepreneur? “Find your connection to community. Find people that can help you understand your environment,” suggests Chayka. Stathletes has looked to Innovate Niagara for support along their successful journey. “Innovate Niagara has supported us in so many different ways,” she says. “They are really good about keeping in touch and providing us the support we need, when we need it,” said Chayka.
Chayka acknowledges there are always new, exciting challenges associated with scaling a tech company. “Right now, we’re really focused on international expansion and more tech development,” said Chayka. This is great news for Niagara’s tech talent and ecosystem as a whole; tech is growing in Niagara.
Written by Catherine Rice.