Marion company branches into the sports' app market

With help of Cedar Rapids developer, Breakthrough Basketball LLC to release player stat app

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Jeff Haefner has been selling basketball education tools to coaches worldwide since 2007 but found there was a gap in the services he provided coaches for when the game was under way.

Too frequently coaches were using paper and pencil for keeping track of the performance of players. This practice was important, but it's time consuming and limited the detail of analysis coaches could provide.

I need stats as a coach, it just makes me a better coach, Haefner said. It saves you time so you can put more time into character building.

This need Haefner identified led to a partnership between his company, Breakthrough Basketball LLC of Marion, and Karl Becker Productions, a Cedar Rapids freelance iPhone application development company.

The application Breakthrough Stats is a comprehensive in-game stat tracking application for the iPad that will allow coaches to tally in real time the happenings on the court and receive detailed reports after.

The application is slated to be available in a few weeks and will retail for $9.99.

But while Haefner said it was a natural progression for his company to move from providing before-game education to including in-game services, he admitted there's risk involved with building an application from the ground up.

It is always a gamble. We did a little bit of market research on how many people are looking for these things. We even looked at buying some other companies, he said.

We just feel like we will be able to make it profitable in a fairly short amount of time.

Haefner said he will be able to tap into the established network of coaches who already trust his educational materials to boost initial sales, which in turn will raise the prominence of the application within the app store, and ultimately will lead to first-time customers.

However, he did say they would need to sell hundreds, if not thousands each month to see a financial return on investment.

That initial investment was made locally, and Becker, who was the lead programmer on the project, said the decision to develop in close proximity streamlines both the production process as well as the end product.

You could outsource to someone outside of the U.S. You will get it cheaper, but you will have a lot of headaches, Becker said.

It is a nontrivial change in ones thinking to communicate across an ocean the variety of software ideas you have swimming around in your head.

Haefner said he chose to stay local because the application needed to reflect someone with a high basketball IQ. And if the product had been developed simply based on specifications he had handed off to a developer, there would be a risk the end product would not function well during in-game situations, he added.

If you are serious about development, you do have to do a strong initial investment, Becker said. A lot of people downplay the need to have a good-looking and well-developed application.

"Well, that is the recipe to sell like 10 of them.

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