On a late summer afternoon in 2001, 23-year-old Gordon Daily stepped into a St. Louis batter’s box, hoping to impress scouts and latch on with the River City Rascals of the independent Frontier League.
The speedy center fielder had advanced through running and fielding drills and was one of only three selected to pick up a bat. He’d hit .463 during his junior season at Case Western Reserve University, but after only one swing — a miss — he was asked to go home.
“I had to be real with myself,” recalls Daily. “I’d exhausted all options.”
His baseball dreams were over, but his career was just getting on track. He’d earned a master’s degree in computer engineering from CWRU and scored a job on the leadership track at Rockwell Automation in 2002. He became an all-star there, heading up a $60 million industrial automotive product line.
In 2012, while still at Rockwell, Daily and some fellow Case grads were designing websites on the side when a funeral home asked him to create a tool that would allow family members to watch funerals they couldn’t attend in person.
He saw more potential for the technology, a low-cost tool to stream sporting events, church services, special events or even weddings to individual users who can’t be there in person.
Rockwell gave Daily a paid leave of absence to explore his innovation’s potential, supporting him with use of intellectual property and the safety net of his old job if things didn’t work out.
With their blessing, Daily launched his startup, BoxCast
, to manufacture and sell the technology he created. The BoxCaster is a half-pound plug-and-play broadcast box that beams live, high-definition video to smartphones, tablets and computers. These broadcasts are also captured in the cloud for on-demand access.
Once upon a time, Daily says, these live-streaming tools cost upwards of six figures. Now, for less than $1,000, the BoxCaster can mix six different high-definition video channels and incoming cameras at once.
The BoxCaster resembles Nintendo game cartridges of yore, outfitted with HDMI and audio ports. Its circuit board is encased in bulletproof-strength plastic to withstand use on athletic fields.
“You’d be surprised how rough-and-tumble some of these high school football games can get,” Daily says.
TV station chips in the BoxCaster’s circuit boards compress sounds and images of roaring crowds and beaming brides to the cloud, allowing users to watch live from their own devices.
This year, Daily formally left Rockwell — on good terms.
“There’s almost no better place to work than Rockwell,” says Daily, adding slyly, “maybe BoxCast.”
Daily’s startup got its big break in May when it signed a partnership with ESPN Cleveland to broadcast live local high school football games. It syncs with stadium scoreboards to display the score, downs and game clock in traditional ESPN graphics. Viewers can access free game highlights or pay $9.99 a month for unlimited access.
“It’s kind of like DirecTV’s NFL [Sunday] Ticket,” says Keith Williams, vice president of ESPN Cleveland. The station broadcasts half a dozen games online on Friday and Saturday nights during the season. “It is a really cool technology that increases our coverage and offers more content to our fans.”
ESPN Cleveland promotes BoxCast to its 70,000 Twitter followers and other ESPN affiliates across the country. In just one week in mid-September, BoxCast logged 1 million minutes watched.
In addition to Rockwell’s help securing patents, Daily also received $250,000 in seed capital from JumpStart in 2013.
“While this is huge for athletics and other venues, it has huge potential for business owners,” says Amy Martin, principal of marketing at JumpStart. “It truly can redefine event management and allow businesses to open up their content to anyone and archive it for later viewing.”
So far, BoxCast has manufactured more than 1,000 of its BoxCasters, many constructed locally in Medina and Wooster.
Daily doubts a service such as BoxCast could have made his dreams of a pro baseball career come true. But he does like the thought that it could help scouts judge future players on more than just a single swing.
“What we’ve done is level the playing field for anyone who wants to broadcast,” he says.