49ers star George Kittle just joined NFL players Hunter Henry and Mohamed Sanu in investing in a startup making a robotic quarterback that its cofounders say could one day be akin to an automated coach

  • Once the coronavirus shuttered campuses and postponed major athletic events, demand for Monarc's robotic quarterback took off just months after it was released. 
  • Now, several NFL players have invested in the company — including San Francisco 49ers star George Kittle.
  • The goal is to create something akin to a robotic coach that can provide feedback on performance factors like acceleration, according to cofounders Bhargav Maganti and Igor Karlicic.
  • "But beyond that, for specific routes or plays or different drills, what we'd be able to do is give insight as to how they performed," Maganti told Business Insider.
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In December, Monarc co-founders Bhargav Maganti and Igor Karlicic released the latest version of "The Seeker" — a robotic quarterback designed to help football players train by themselves.

They anticipated low demand from individual consumers, but then the pandemic hit. The coronavirus spread quickly, shuttering campuses (and athletic departments) across the country and forcing sports leagues to postpone their respective seasons, and spurring a sudden surge in interest in Monarc's technology. Nearly two dozen professional NFL players are using "The Seeker" to train, and league stars Hunter Henry and Mohamed Sanu came onboard as investors.

Now, San Francisco 49ers tight-end George Kittle is the latest player to inject capital in Monarc, Business Insider can exclusively reveal. To-date, the company has raised just over $1.2 million in seed funding, though Maganti and Karlicic declined to release the valuation of the firm. 

Athletes "immediately understand our vision and they immediately understand the impact and value that it can and will have," said Karlicic. "It's also enormous validation to have players that really would be our end-user be entirely on-board."

The rise of the automated coach?

Prior to "The Seeker", it was largely impossible for players to train alone given the need for a human to physically throw the football. While there are some other products on the market that try to replicate that action, Maganti and Karlicic describe them as rudimentary, and not allowing for customization when it comes to specific plays or routes.

"It's like going from an abacus to a calculator," said Karlicic.

Alongside actually throwing the ball, "The Seeker" can also give players information on how many passes were thrown and Monarc is also working on an update that will provide more detailed feedback.  

It's part of a broader trend of robots that can perform a rudimentary function like cleaning, but also provide powerful insight into things like store inventory — effectively turning the machines into roaming data processors. 

The goal is to "create a system in which we would be able to get players performance information," Maganti told Business Insider. "We would be able to give metrics in terms of speed acceleration. But beyond that, for specific routes or plays or different drills, what we'd be able to do is give insight as to how they performed."

Ultimately, Monarc could provide something akin to an automated coach — a machine that provides real-time feedback to performance — for athletes that are unable to train with others or prefer to train alone. And Maganti and Karlicic hope to expand to other sports.

"What we're trying to do is provide a clear picture of what exactly has been done, what's been achieved, and how you improve upon that achievement," said Maganti. "We're able to create a uniform playing field to assess performance.

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