In a startup and especially with a world-first technology, it requires a lot of storytelling and education to a target sector as you establish and generate traction. In our venture we call this work the missionary work and largely speaking, it’s a function of the position we are in. The missionary position. No surprises.
What is sometimes surprising is the diversity of responses to technology among the incredibly varied cross section of entities we come across in sport. In a sector well known for its love of marginal gains and operating at what is regularly referred to as the bleeding edge, it is fascinating to observe if and how these world-leading organisations apply those same performance philosophies when it comes to their approach to technology.
At GroundWOW, we are in dialogue with a wide range of organisations from all sectors and levels of sport and within that, we see an equally wide range of attitudes towards technology.
The first outing for our own company’s deep tech was in fact with the Jockey Club – an organisation founded in 1750. You might look from the outside and think that such a historical entity might be a bit stodgy in its attitude towards something new, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. What we met with was an organisation that revealed a keen interest in technology and an open-mindedness around how it might support its growing need for new sponsorship inventory. For some, going first and being first really matters.
In a related sense, we have met with organisations at scale with more disposable income than your average oligarch. Where resource isn’t the issue, you could be forgiven for assuming that you might walk into those environments and be surrounded by the best and latest technology that money can buy. But that assumption may be flawed.
Not in every case, but in some of the world’s wealthiest sporting entities, I have witnessed a widespread resistance to change across the entire operation and behaviours you might best describe as running to a standstill. In a disruptive technology venture like our own, we shook that mindset on day one. The harsh reality is that if you are not moving forward at great speed, you are in effect going backwards.
To some, maybe it’s just a case of technology being a tiny bit scary. It might be more comfortable to carry on doing something the way you always did because in an ironic sense, you are so busy there is no time to talk about efficiencies. You might be setting foot into a space you don’t fully understand, and the natural human instinct is to stay in a safe place where something new isn’t going to make you look stupid. Talking to my tech sector peers, I know that for anybody bringing a new product to market, the challenge is always the same. Hence the missionary work we all do.
With that lesson in hand and in all of our interactions, we work to tackle any assumption that tech is scary with an actual demonstration of how it’s not. Being around technology all day as well as tech events where other innovators pedal their wares to a target sector, it is hard to miss the fact that most technologies are developed with ease of use in mind.
Logically, something over-complicated isn’t going to gain rapid traction and in most lists of a breakthrough product’s best features, ease of use will normally feature somewhere near the top. I remember my first iPod and then iPhone where ease of use turned me into an evangelist overnight.
Ease of use informed our own venture’s development from day one, and it has been revisited whenever we’ve seen new ways to make the user experience even easier. For instance, deployment across sport places a heavy emphasis on rapid set up given that operational windows (especially around gameday) can be super tight. We had created a product offering that was operational in under ten minutes, but a constant iterative development cycle chopped that in half, borne of a desire to make what was already great even better.
One of the other differentiating factors we have seen in attitude to technology is geography. Certain territories are just more decisive, more receptive to change and generally quicker when it comes to a decision. The US is a great example. The prospect of adopting technologies that can make something a little bit better, faster or easier is just an obvious thing for that market to consider. It doesn’t matter if there is a change to the established method of doing something or effort required to train your team in something new, they will buy the dream if you can sell it to them.
In other parts of the world, processes are more drawn out and more people are involved. As such, our missionaries recognise this and present case studies of adventurous pioneers from other lands to convince the uncertain ones that it is now safe to travel boldly into the same space.
Above all and, regardless of where you start or might be based, sport is primarily a community where sector incumbents are always happy to help others. Sometimes at a client venue, an internal champion of your new technology emerges and a product gets better and better because of client input. And do you know what? Inventors absolutely love that. So, if you are an entity in sport engaged with a technology provider who has normally invested several years of their life to create something that makes your life easier, your offer to help make their “something” even better is normally well received.
Next on our own agenda will be the challenge and opportunity offered by scale. Our global roll-out continues at pace and in all of our target territories, our AdVizibility software will play a major part in enabling stadium commercial teams to convert all ground assets into potential advertising inventory.
The missionary work itself will continue with activations and events planned at iconic locations worldwide including our next foray into the US where we will build on previous discussions in sectors such as the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), plus some of the major soccer competitions including Major League Soccer (MLS) and United Soccer League (USL). After that, we have something very special planned in Australasia.
In summary, my words of encouragement to anybody either considering or actively purchasing new technology for a sport setting would be to do your homework and take the time to see what is out there. We know you’re busy. Tech vendors are busy too. Carve out some time in your calendar to have a look at the myriad incredible new technologies all pointing at your sector, created by companies that have brought amazing ideas through from proof of concept to prototype and production.
That is the thrill of technology which means you must channel your inner tech adventurer. Go where you might not have been before and keep moving. If you were meant to stay in one place, you’d have roots instead of feet.