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Former New Zealand cricketers, and CricHQ investors, Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming. Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Former New Zealand cricketers, and CricHQ investors, Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming. Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

BusinessFebruary 13, 2018

The rise and fall of CricHQ, the star-backed ‘Facebook for cricket’

Former New Zealand cricketers, and CricHQ investors, Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming. Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Former New Zealand cricketers, and CricHQ investors, Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming. Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

With Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum among its founders, CricHQ capitalised on global interest in both cricket and cloud-based internet startups. It attracted a star-studded lineup of investors and seemed hugely successful, at one point boasting that it could bring in as much as US $10 billion. Then, in October, it went into receivership. Rebecca Stevenson investigates CricHQ’s downfall.

The cash was running out. In mid-2014 technology company CricHQ was desperate for investment. The company’s grants from government agency Callaghan Innovation had been spent, and their income was just a trickle – not the flood of cash required to keep a technology startup with global ambitions going. 

Like all software startups it was hungry for one thing in particular: money, and lots of it. The cloud-based cricket platform received help from on high – the government’s international business agency New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) introduced CricHQ to Singaporean-based private equity firm Tembusu Partners in September 2014. It had a chance now, but the price would be dear.

Tembusu agreed to kick in about NZ$15 million through a convertible debt note (a short term loan that turns into shares), but CricHQ had to pay 12% annual interest for the first three years, and 8% from then on. 

Tembusu gained control of the purse strings; expenditure above $100,000 had to be approved, remuneration changes for directors or managers needed their say so, the firm had to sign off budgets. “They had to do that,” a source with intimate knowledge of the company’s history says of CricHQ’s Tembusu deal. “It probably hasn’t been too good for them … but at the time they had just run out of cash.” The company lived to fight another day, but the noose was slowly tightening.

If the investment fell over, the company was likely history. But for its largest shareholders – founder and CEO Simon Baker, former Black Caps captains Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum – the deal also put them at risk of losing everything anyway. If CricHQ defaulted on the terms of the agreement the bulk of their shares (held in a company called Moneybaker Holdings) would go to Tembusu. It appears now, with CricHQ’s receivership in October last year and subsequent sale, that its founders have lost control of a company which had at one point looked set to propel them into sports tech stardom.

CricHQ founder and former CEO Simon Baker. Screengrab

The company pushed a cloud-based application which allowed amateur cricketers to score games, but evolved into a competition management tool and had ambitions at one time to be the “Facebook for cricket”.

The first receiver’s report from December 18 hints at how much the new owners (led by businessman Erin Walshe) paid for the platform. Tembusu had advanced about $8m and “based on the sale price achieved for the assets,” the report says, “there will be a shortfall to Tembusu”. Sources put the sale price at about $3m – a catastrophic drop from the company’s $70m valuation touted throughout its last failed capital raising. Late in 2016, the company had boasted that its “ultimate revenue opportunity” amounted to US $10 billion.

The company had had assets valued at $4.2 million. It was almost all intellectual property. Two succinct sentences from the receiver’s report sum up the company’s woes. “The majority of the Company’s customers were non-fee paying for the services provided. Prior to receivership the Company was unable to secure funding to enable it to continue trading.”

“As an investor I have the courage to invest right at the beginning now. Because the returns are gonna be, I think, super high, if this goes right … I’m going to put more money in,” said former CricHQ chairman (and ex-Saatchi and Saatchi boss) Kevin Roberts in a slick video targeted at potential investors last year.

It is no overstatement to say the company attracted one of the most star-studded lineup of investors ever assembled for a New Zealand company. It has more than 200 shareholders, among them some of the biggest names in world cricket: South Africa’s Faf du Plessis and Albie Morkel; Australian Michael Hussey; Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan and of course former Black Caps – including Scott Styris, who has been a highly visible promoter of the company.

There are a lot of smaller names, too, many of them drawn from around the Wellington region where CricHQ was headquartered, and where both Baker and Fleming lived for many years. Karori, Mount Cook, Waikanae, Hataitai, Te Aro, Johnsonville – ordinary investors drawn to the company’s impeccable cricket credentials and the promise of a game-changing technology platform.

Cricket is infamously complex; the impenetrable terminology and strange rules can make it a tough sell for an outsider. But there are legions of cricket-mad followers – known as nuffies – and the amateur game relies on these enthusiasts for much of the unpaid work that goes into running the game, including scoring.

Kevin Roberts and Scott Styris in one of the company’s investor videos. Screengrab

It has been called the second most popular sport in the world, behind only football, with an estimated billion players and fans. With its reach into Asia, and particularly India, the cricket market is an attractive one to try and dominate; all these people around the world love cricket – surely there’s money to be made? ESPNcricinfo showed the way with its live scoring site for the top end of the game, but Cricinfo was only concerned with “about the top one percent of global cricket”, CricHQ’s former marketing manager Jarred Sewell said in 2013. CricHQ would be for everyone.

Cricketers also love stats: runs, wickets, economy rates, and comparing themselves to their peers. It is a team game, sure, but players are often more focused on their individual performances inside the wider game. Into this obsessive world, then still highly reliant on paper and pen as its data management system, came CricHQ in 2010. At first it was pitched as a player/management tool, but the development of a scoring application was where it first found real success (helped along in no small way by an early plug from Fleming while sitting in the commentary box for a Black Caps game).

Scoring a cricket match with paper and pen is as fun as it sounds. Time consuming and laborious. CricHQ’s scoring platform aimed to make it easier, and cut the admin time down by doing away with manually inputting data post-match into a central system; the CricHQ app means the data should already be there, ready to be harvested.

From the beginning the company had hype and ample media coverage, much of it thanks to Fleming and McCullum. Their involvement was priceless, opening the doors of world cricket to the ambitious startup. The company appeared to make rapid progress, at least in New Zealand, including support from the New Zealand Cricket Players Association (its boss Heath Mills is a shareholder and former director) and a deal with New Zealand Cricket.

Amateur clubs in New Zealand were early adopters of the scoring platform, but it was initially dogged by stability issues. Now cricket administrators say it outstrips anything else on the market.

The company signed a country-wide deal with New Zealand Cricket (NZC) in 2013. “New Zealand Cricket is a massive deal simply because it gets the entire country using CricHQ,” Sewell said at the time. “What that data capture leads to is fantastic – we wouldn’t be able to get the information we needed without them.” In 2015 it added Zimbabwe and more importantly, South Africa (test playing nations were always CricHQ’s holy grail customers, with South Africa, England, India and Australia the most desirable).

Fleming, McCullum and Styris were the Kiwi faces of the product: Fleming at a photo opp at the Basin Reserve with Muralitharan; McCullum with former prime minister John Key on an investment trip to India; Styris shooting aspirational investor videos with Roberts for the CricHQ website. “What we found … particularly when you go up to India, is when you take Stephen or Brendon into a meeting people are there to see Stephen and Brendon and we come secondary,” former CricHQ chairman Mike Loftus said in 2016.

CricHQ’s interface. Screengrab.

It said the app was being used to score about 200,000 cricket games each year, and was capturing one in every ten balls bowled in organised cricket matches. CricHQ was chipping away in the critical markets of India and England, where it had signed up a number of county cricket clubs. “We’re top-down based on connections in the cricketing world originally through Fleming and McCullum’s credibility, and bottom up through the mums and dads who were the early adopters of the technology,” Baker told media in happier days.

It has also been backed over the years by the New Zealand taxpayer to the tune of more than $2m in grants from Callaghan Innovation, the government’s business innovation agency – and the government funding was critical. A report prepared for CricHQ’s shareholders in 2015 showed that in 2012 money from government grants and advertising revenue were even at about $200,000. In the following year the money coming in increased dramatically to $1.8 million, but $1m of that was from Callaghan as a rebate for project development costs. In 2014 ‘revenue’ jumped again to $2.9m but again $1m was government grants. It became crystal clear in 2015 how crucial the grants were: without it revenue dropped away to $300,000, the report says, and the company booked a $5m loss.

But then Tembusu, with an assist from NZTE, came to the cash-burning startup’s aid.

The company also got off to a cracking start in cricket’s original heartland, England. It received endorsement from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) after it launched there in 2012, even though there was already a popular local incumbent Total Cricket Scorer (TCS). “[The endorsement] pissed a lot of people off,” a UK cricket administrator says.

But chief executive officer Baker got it, despite rumblings that his approach alienated the power brokers at the ECB. “[Baker] didn’t understand or care about the dress code,” the UK cricket administrator says by way of an example. Not a big deal to us antipodeans, but this is England and Baker was at Lords, the home of cricket. The Queen has her own entrance there, along with a green leather chair just for her in a grand room with a prime view of the hallowed ground. Baker, with his heavy smoking and unpolished communication style, didn’t impress the traditional guardians of the game.

Queen Elizabeth at Lord’s Cricket Ground. Getty Images

Baker’s approach to doing business echoed his leadership style on the cricket pitch, sources say. But unlike the overwhelming positive coverage the company received, his exploits on the field earned him unfavourable press. The Karori club captain denied he was a “villain” after infamously running out two cricketers (including a schoolboy) at the non-striker’s end while preparing to bowl (a “mankad”), breaching a long-standing gentleman’s agreement. “At the end of the day if the batsman doesn’t break the law by leaving his ground early then he won’t be run out,” Baker said at the time.

He’s been known to take pot-shots at selectors and is unusually brash for the secretive and controlled cricket world (the Spinoff interviewed dozens of people close to CricHQ or with influence within the cricket community for this story, but only a handful would go on the record for fear of being ostracised or cut out of future business opportunities). He’s the tough-guy stalwart of the Karori club, beloved by those on his team for dragging it out of the doldrums and nabbing club cricket silverware. A former player at the club says Baker – in his thirties at the time – seemed cool because he played hard and “smoked darts” with the boys. But as the years wound on, they moved on. Baker, they say, did not. At Karori he also found loyal staff for CricHQ, including Sewell and former chief operating officer Neil Martin.

In January of 2016 CricHQ appeared to be on track to dominate the all-important England market, and nail a critical $1m KPI for Tembusu ($1m, per country, was to be paid out when it signed up the national cricket bodies in Australia, England, South Africa and India). But somewhere in 2016 the relationship between the cricket software company and the ECB broke down irrevocably. The board had decided to build its own platform with another technology company.

Perhaps strangely, given the stakes, CricHQ said it had chosen not to pitch. “CricHQ was invited to respond to the ECB scoring app tender in Q3 last year,” Baker wrote in an email to UK-based CricHQ users in 2017. “At that time we communicated to the ECB that CricHQ had serious concerns with the tender requirements and we would not be formally responding … In addition to the difficulties with the technical specification and timeframes of the tender, the ECB’s commercial terms were unacceptable to CricHQ.”

The fall-out with the ECB was highly damaging, and saw CricHQ’s head-start nullified. The stalemate between the company and the national cricket body prompted a slanging match (conducted via emails sent to CricHQ users), with the board accusing the Kiwi company of “holding users to ransom” by not allowing data captured through CricHQ to flow through to the ECB’s systems.

CricHQ screengrab

The email from Baker claimed CricHQ had invested deeply in its relationship with the cricket body for no financial gain, and suggested the ECB had pulled the rug out from underneath it. “The reality is that the ECB has not accepted any of our multiple and reasonable commercial options, nor responded to our invitation to suggest an alternate commercial agreement,” Baker wrote. “The ECB has quite simply demanded that CricHQ provide everything totally free of charge (£0).”

CricHQ director Loftus, who stepped down as chairman in early 2017, admits the relationship with the ECB had deteriorated. But he still defends Baker, saying there is blame on both sides. “Simon has a certain personality, he is very polarising,” Loftus says. “He is an absolute visionary …  [but] other management echelons of the game didn’t share that same vision.”

A source with first-hand knowledge of events said the ECB were “very wary” of allowing any company to own their data. “I didn’t think they would ever get England, or Australia, the two nations they were after. It is very difficult to get in.” He points to Cricinfo as the reason why – the website was originally started by scorers, and then sold to ESPN, but the source says as the ECB saw it no-one had ever approved a company to “officially” score their matches let alone then profit from them.

Meanwhile India, characterised by Baker as the “heart” if not the home of cricket, proved an even harder ask. “India is a cricket-crazy nation. It has a huge following for the game and we see India as the biggest growth market,” Baker said in 2014. Despite having the Tembusu funds to boost its presence and expand on the sub-continent, the big fish, the national body the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), eluded Baker. CricHQ had some Indian state cricket boards sign up, but regardless of the company’s star power the BCCI didn’t seem keen to play ball. CricHQ’s issue in India is easy to see with a quick Google: there are multiple apps now for live cricket scoring, and none of them is lumbered with CricHQ’s debt baggage.

The company received unflattering reviews from staff in India. “Sinking ship”, one posted on anonymous employee assessment site Glassdoor in June 2017. Another listed a under pros “Good Salary… Some great names were associated”, but under cons “Very Rude management has no planning, just throwing money like peanuts”. Others accuse the company of wasting investor money on “booz and parties”, although other former staff highlighted “parties” as a pro rather than a con. But most damagingly, the former employees said management was directionless, and despite “BIG CLAIMS BY THE NZ TEAM – THE GROUND REALITY IS BIG ZERO”.

Former prime minister John Key and Stephen Fleming in New Delhi. Getty Images

“They didn’t need all those people in India,” a CricHQ insider says (the company claimed in late 2016 had about 70 staff there, 30 in Wellington). Loftus says the India team, led for a time by COO Martin, had “mixed results”. “India is a very different market,” he says, “it’s very political … You have to be in for the long haul.” While Fleming’s name opened doors, opportunists seeking a meeting with the Kiwi star were often waiting on the other side.

In Australia another incumbent, InteractSport, was in the way and with a heavyweight backer – national body Cricket Australia. Multiple sources confirmed the company had been interested at one time in buying CricHQ, as were a number of private equity firms. A deal with an Australian-based wealth management company came very close, Loftus says. A rumoured condition of any buyout from the private equity firm was Baker’s exit. “I wouldn’t go that far,” Loftus says, “the relationship broke down … It wasn’t as warm or as good as it could have been.”

Back at home, a number of workplace disputes had resulted in settlements to former staff. Loftus says no “ex gratia” payments were ever made and any payouts were for shares; but he acknowledged there are “a couple” of non-disclosure agreements “floating around”. Company insiders pinpoint the conflict to Baker’s strong Karori cricket ties; inexperienced staff close to Baker were promoted into critical senior roles, a source with intimate knowledge of the company’s affairs says.

“At a different stage of the business they were the right people for the business,” Loftus says. “It was a true startup, some of the people from [Karori Cricket Club] worked for the passion of it, and certainly added value … Everyone would like to hire the best staff, sometimes circumstances don’t allow that, and the team doesn’t allow that.”

The stoush with the ECB continued to play out throughout 2017, while in the background – but looming ever larger for CricHQ – was another capital raising that had been dragging on. It was aiming to raise another $10m, based on valuing the company at $70m for more staff, new features including a fantasy league and even a payment platform, with the end goal to “offer more features than any of its competitors”. Despite cold call emails (one landed in the inbox of NBR publisher Todd Scott), and a fresh gush of media coverage when ad-man Roberts came on board, time was running out, regardless of the company’s leadership continuing to make the right noises.

“We’ve still got realistically between 15 and 24 months runway before we need money,” Loftus told New Zealand media in September 2016.

On September 28 of 2017 the walls were closing in, and CricHQ was taken on a last ditch trip by New Zealand stock exchange operator NZX and sharebroker Woodward Partners for an investor roadshow to Sydney. (NZX spokeswoman Hannah Lynch initially denied the stock exchange was involved with the roadshow, but later in an emailed statement said “as an exchange operator NZX has an important role to play in facilitating increased access to the local market, and promoting the advantages of listing, hence our [involvement] in the NZ Spotlight Sydney, Investor Day”.)

Why did CricHQ fail to gain the investment it needed? The company came up against an issue plaguing many technology startups. It’s all very well to build a popular platform or app and get people to use it; getting them to pay for it is another thing. CricHQ had made steps towards monetising its platform; clubs and associations paid fees to use its software (about US$200 for a club, associations paid US$2000 per year), national cricketing bodies paid for its services (but not that much: the South African deal was reportedly only worth $100,000 per year) and it had revenue from ad banners on the site.

Where it had been open slather access for the public, in 2017 it had started restricting site access before closing it off completely, making the software signup and login only. Premium products were on their way, and a monthly subscription for administrators was introduced. A source with first-hand knowledge of events says it was a mistake not to charge. “The product itself is great. It was entirely free and they thought they could make money from advertising. Well, advertising couldn’t save the day. People were only paying $2.49 per month for live scoring. That’s nothing.”

Wellington-based PR man Mark Blackham became a CricHQ shareholder after he (along with two business partners) sold a statistical tool that could analyse cricket data, and predict results, to the company in 2014 (each received shares worth about $65,000). He says CricHQ had a great idea, that had been executed – but the idea wasn’t being sold, and the platform was failing to gain traction with participants. “People who tried to use the platform would have difficulty with it.”

Blackham says the value of the deals the company announced were unclear. “Shareholders would get emails occasionally talking about this deal with x club internationally or locally, but it was never clear what the deals were actually for. It was always a bit of a mystery to me about what actually was really making a difference, what actually was real about the organisation… which of the actions was going to impact income, what was delivering for the business? I don’t think I ever spotted a number of users.”

Loftus says user numbers were a “frustration”. “The way [active users] were categorised changed from time to time,” making it difficult for the board to track growth. “We pulled them up on it,” he says.

Trying too many things is a common complaint about CricHQ. In its first iteration it was to help clubs and coaches track and improve player performance, but it became a hit through scoring cricket games, so that became the bedrock of the business. Then it was a tool for administrators to run competitions. Then it wanted to be the “Facebook for cricket”, a place where cricketers – including professionals – would build online profiles based from the live scoring data and this would bring in the fans.

The NZ player’s association had seen potential for players here to link to sponsors and make money from the platform that way, but it never took off and there was disquiet from some that the association was too closely aligned with the company. There was also a well-established competition within and without of the game: Facebook, Twitter and of course, Cricinfo.

The company was tracking towards a data play; cricket bodies, clubs and players would freely hand over all their stats and information which the company would somehow make money from by providing insights, predictions, analysis. But unlike cloud accounting app Xero’s move towards harvesting small business data, with CricHQ how it would work was less obvious, and Cricinfo already had the elite side of cricket locked up.

“Content is the first component of the company’s strategy in as far as its digital platform provides benefits to cricketing organisations (such as Cricket New Zealand) through to individual leagues and tournaments,” an investor report into the company said. “This enables CricHQ to gain usage for unique cricket content such as statistics and scorecards. The more clients the Company secures the more unique content it gains and the closer it gets to critical mass.”

A source close to the company agrees. “They have great data, they know when people are playing, when they are looking. That must be worth something.”

My Action Replay’s founder Emily Kent and sales manager Stewart Reynolds (right) receiving an award in 2017. Screengrab

It had also charged headlong into video with a deal to purchase video highlight provider My Action Replay announced with fanfare in early 2017. This would allow clubs and teams to broadcast their games – all linked with CricHQ live scoring and data. “By enabling fans and players to see video of cricket at all levels, we’ll get to enjoy cricket in a whole new way,” chairman and director Roberts said, “effectively CricHQ intends on becoming the world’s largest broadcaster of cricket.”

Grand ambitions, but an inglorious end was looming. Just prior to the receivership came what might be the most ignominious moment in the company’s history. Documents lodged with the Companies Office show CricHQ allocated 57,326 new shares on October 13, with the paperwork uploaded on October 16 – a single day before receiver KordaMentha was appointed by Tembusu to take over.

Among those who ponied up were My Food Bag founder Cecilia Robinson and her husband, James. The Robinsons increased their holding by more than 1,500 shares, from 10,606 shares to 12,401. Vector chairman and former KordaMentha partner Michael Stiassny, along with Grant Graham, also got some of the new shares in the company. Chairman Roberts increased his shareholding in the company too at this time, as did Baker and Loftus (Loftus is involved with cricket video content venture Behind the Seams with cricketer Mitchell McClenaghan), but it was common for CricHQ to reward staff with shares so it’s likely these were sweat equity rather than purchased.

Among these investors who put in money days before the receivership, there is a sense of grievance against CricHQ, Baker, and Fleming. “You should ask Simon Baker and Stephen Fleming,” one investor from that final round says. Another says they are “totally unhappy” with Baker, and want nothing to do with his “roguish” ways. “And [the receivership] warns of the dangers of celebrity endorsement,” they add. (Fleming did not respond to a request for an interview).

Loftus sees a company simply continuing to hustle, just like it had from the beginning. “Right up until it when it was collapsed they were looking to secure funds. We needed a major investment or new client to come on board, that’s all it needed.” Tembusu, with two seats on the board, were the ones who put CricHQ into receivership, he says.

It was the allure of the former Black Caps captains that proved irresistible to many investors. “In my opinion a lot of investment was made by Joe Bloggs so they can ‘be in business with my mates Flem and Baz’,” a source says. The duo were not involved in the day-to-day running of the business (Fleming served as a director from 2012 until 2015; McCullum was a director for about six months in 2012). “The unfortunate thing about all of this, particularly for Stephen, [is] he got a lot of cricket players as shareholders,” an insider says. “He is one of the nice guys. Probably too nice, and put too much money in … You can’t blame Stephen or Brendon, there’s nothing those guys didn’t do for the company, including fronting up with lots of cash.”

A Companies Office spokesperson says there is no restriction on issuing shares prior to a receiver being appointed in the Companies Act 1993, or the Receiverships Act 1993. “Issuing shares is usually a way for a company to raise further funds. In some cases, the board of directors may receive a demand from secured parties or creditors without knowing a receiver is to be appointed on a particular day.”

One investor who put money in days before the company was tipped into receivership says the company was asking $30 a share, but insists they paid nothing like that. Based on the 2015 price investors could be out of pocket by about $500,000 for the new shares. In a short phone call last year Baker said he “didn’t know much about [the new shares] I’m afraid”. Baker said he had no message for disgruntled investors, and suggested we ask the receiver “why these shares were allocated”. CricHQ receiver Brendon Gibson said he had no knowledge of the new shares. Several attempts to talk further with Baker about the company’s demise more recently were rebuffed. He agreed to talk at first, but then further efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.

Screengrab CricHQ Twitter, September 20, 2017

Some early investors say they wrote their money off long ago. One reportedly only found out about the company’s troubles after a friend saw it in the news. “I thought that was really terrible,” a source says, “as one of the first guys, that’s fucked.”

Blackham says he hasn’t heard from the company since the receivership. “I thought, ‘well there you go. There’s an opportunity that’s gone away’… I didn’t expect to be kept informed, I wasn’t in the inner circle of shareholders, the in crowd.”

Wellington real estate agent David Platt bought into CricHQ through a “personal contact” but says he was a “fairly small investor”. “You win some, you lose some. It was something that didn’t work out. What I’m most concerned about is the people grafting away trying to make something of it … From my point of view in the tech business there are no guarantees.”

The investors’ future shareholdings in the company are uncertain – a number of them are former staff who were part-compensated in shares. McCullum and Fleming are among the largest shareholders, and will likely lose a significant amount of money. It is rumoured Baker had everything tied up in the company. “I’m not sure but he’s probably lost his house,” a New Zealand source says.

Platt says he’s heard existing shareholders will still be involved in the company. It would make little sense for the new owners to burn off the cricketers who invested and played such a pivotal role in building up the company. “It was obviously helpful to give cachet and credibility to the business to have cricketers involved,” Blackham says. “Existing shareholders will be carried over in some way,” another source confirms. “There’s a lot of cricket people.”

Du Plessis, Hussey, Morkel, Styris, Franklin, Chris Martin – all their investments have likely diminished substantially. So too the money invested by Cecilia and James Robinson. Roberts, who reportedly pumped seven figures into the company (but it’s rumoured much of it is again is sweat equity) is also likely to have lost money. But the majority, some 140 or so, are ordinary investors who just wanted to be part of a Kiwi company involved in the game they love, with players they loved watching.

Was Baker a risk-taking businessman who simply ran out of cash? In Loftus’ eyes the company just needed more time. “We got to that stage where Simon had met with people around the world, and they had made a decision about CricHQ [based] on those meetings. But, we gained NZC, we got some interest out of India and various other places. If we had more time, and more cash in the bank the business would have been on the right track.”

Loftus says had the company secured more money Baker would have been hailed as a national hero. Instead, insiders say Baker’s failure to let go of his company secured his downfall. Baker had contemplated stepping down, Loftus says; a role on the product side of the business was discussed. But he didn’t.

“There’s a level of balls you need as an entrepreneur, arrogance even. But when that arrogance becomes too much and you think you’re Mark Zuckerberg and you’re not,” a source with first-hand knowledge of events says. “He wanted to build a cricket social network … He became obsessed with the thrill of trying to raise investment cash and lost touch with the day-to-day running of his business.”

“CricHQ would not exist without Simon Baker,” a New Zealand cricket administrator says. “He made CricHQ, he was the heart and soul. But was he the right guy to be CEO? Probably not.”

A source who has remained close to CricHQ agrees. “The people who were running it before had no focus, and would just lurch from side to side.” But he sees a strong future for the new owners, and CricHQ under its new leadership of former Park Road Production head Cameron Harland. “The idea is great. I think it’s one of those things where it needs a little bit of focus perhaps, that and execution … I know the new guy pretty well, the guy who is going to run it. He is awesome.”

The site went offline for three days when unpaid staff were let go, but a deal was hashed out and it has continued on as before, though without the man who started it all. Simon Baker quit as CEO before the receivership. But he stayed involved in at least one way: late last year he recorded a 47-ball hundred for Karori on the CricHQ app.

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