LOCKEPORT, N.S. – Lockeport native Shea Balish scored a touchdown in the third annual National Football League (NFL) 1st & Future pitch competition on Feb. 3, winning a cash prize of $50,000US and Super Bowl tickets for his entry in the contest category of Technology to Improve Athletic Performance.
A graduate of Lockeport Regional High School, 31-year-old Balish is co-founder and CEO of Toronto-based Curv.ai, “an athlete development platform that leverages patent-pending computer vision and augmented reality to transform the camera on any mobile device into a versatile tool that captures human motion, measures athletic abilities and evaluates injury risk.”
The 1st & Future pitch competition is an event designed to stimulate new technologies that promote athletic performance and safety in sport. The nine finalists in the three categories: Technology to Improve Athletic Performance, Advancements in Protective Equipment and New Therapies to Speed Recovery, were announced in January. Curv.ai was the only Canadian company in the competition.
“It’s kind of an amazing thing. I’m really, really proud of him,” said dad Kent Balish, Lockeport. “He’s done extremely well coming from a small town. He’s always been a hard worker and good to people, yah I’m proud.”
The younger Balish has racked up an impressive list of degrees since his high school days including Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the field of study, Sports and Exercise from Dalhousie, and a Master's of Kinesiology and Health Studies in the field of study, Developmental Sport Psychology. He is now a banting fellow at the University of Toronto.
“He has become one of the top three experts in AI in Canada which is artificial intelligence,” said Balish. He has been speaking all over North America in that field and seeking investors into his company. He’s had funding from San Diego, funding from Kansas City, he’s spoken to the Board of directors of RBC, he’s met with the owner of the Boston Red Sox for sponsorship and he has spoken by invitation to the top 30 billionaires in Canada, so he’s in the big leagues, the major leagues with one of the leading companies in the world on artificial intelligence and performance. He’s part of the new young generation who are entrepreneurs in the field of technology.”
In an interview, Shea Balish said Curv.ai hopes to have their computer vision software on the open market by mid-summer. “We’re testing over the next three to four months. By mid summer it will be fully available across Canada and the United States on apple phones and google phone or android phones.”
Taking top prize in their category at the 1st & Future pitch competition was a “nice early win,” said Balish. “It was interesting they chose us. It wasn’t a political decision because they really liked what we were proposing. When we went down there it was really good. We were so different than a lot of the other companies down there. We are really trying to do something innovative with computer visions. What we’re offering is 100 percent software and they liked that because it doesn’t force kids to buy something physical which can be quite expensive so in some ways we’re working against the rising cost of sports. We’re actually going in the opposite direction making it cheaper for the kids to use technology to improve their performance and minimize their injuries.
“It’s really a stamp of approval,” said Balish. “It recognizes the NFL supports us so a lot of other people want to get behind us now so our existing relationships are strengthened but also a lot of notable people especially NFL athletes have reached out to try to support us so that’s been really beneficial and interesting so hopefully we’ll be able to leverage the prestige of some notable professional players.
“When building a company what really matters is building a product that kids and people and customers actually want. We still have a lot of work ahead of ourselves. We have to be humble and hungry. We’ve had a couple of nice wins but we have a lot of work ahead of us.”