Output Sports is on a mission to make sports science scalable

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OUTPUT Sports’ mission is to make elite-level sports data science simple and scalable.

Athlete testing and tracking currently involves a range of bulky, custom-made equipment that measures a small subset of fitness attributes. At the elite level, this makes testing and monitoring resource intensive from a cost and time perspective. At a sub-elite level of sport, many existing technologies are prohibitively expensive and impractical, meaning practitioners become dependent on subjective analysis.

Output Sports is an end-to-end solution for not only testing and tracking sports performance with lab-level accuracy, but also integrating that data to enable improved training programs, injury risk stratification and talent identification.

Output Capture consists of a unique sensor solution capable of testing an athlete’s performance profile (strength, power, balance, speed, mobility, etc.) and tracking their strength training and rehabilitation. It’s like a Swiss army knife for strength, conditioning and physical therapy. Output Hub merges this data and enables data visualization.

Sophisticated machine learning algorithms are used to convert signals from wearable sensors and phone cameras into meaningful metrics for trainers, such as jump height, mobility and speed times. Additionally, this data can be mined using artificial intelligence to solve the most valuable problems in sport – key performance indicators, injury risk and talent identification.

Where does the concept come from?

I originally started creating wearable sensor systems as a hobby project during an internship at Shimmer Sensing in 2012. This became my final year project at NUI Galway, and I received funding PhD to pursue Irish Research Council R&D in 2013.

The idea was greatly refined and developed from interdisciplinary doctoral research carried out by Darragh Whelan and myself under the supervision of Professor Caulfield between 2013 and 2018. This work involved investigating how wearable technology could be used to increase the strength training and injury risk assessment and modification.

From 2018 to 2020, Julian Eberle joined us to accelerate our technology development journey from lab to field.

Since then, the system has been co-developed with our end-user base of athletes and coaches around the world. Their comments and suggestions inform product developments.

Who do you work with and what have you done for them?

Our predominant end-user base consists of practitioners who have been trained in strength and conditioning, rehabilitation, and/or sports science. We have currently divided this market into six key verticals:

Elite Sport: It is the highest level of sports where athletes compete for the highest prizes. We work with the English FA, several Premier League clubs and Olympic athletes.

Universities: We collaborate with institutions involved in teaching and research and participate in inter-university competitions. These include Sheffield Hallam and Imperial College London.

Basic sports: Sports practiced at the amateur level. We work with Kilfenora GAA for example.

Rehabilitation: These are clinics and health care groups dedicated to athletes returning to play. We work with Beacon Hospital and several rehabilitation clinics.

Strength and Conditioning: individual trainers or facilities that train athletes of all levels to improve their performance. We work with Les Spellman (speed coach for top NFL draft picks) and several performance centers.

What is your business strategy?

We are primarily focused on creating new technology that improves the workflow and work of athletes and coaches. To then evolve our technology, we use a number of strategies:

Sales Strategy: We have a dual sales model, where our direct sales team targets high value potential customers (both in terms of revenue and validation via association) through sales processes Traditional B2B including direct contact, distributors and demos. When ticket sizes are smaller, we have inbound leads through our website and provide pricing guides/links to subscribe to the system directly through the website. Our marketing strategy pushes inbound potential customers towards the same.

Marketing Strategy: Athletes/Team Ambassadors: Output has worked with several high performing teams/athletes in the regions and sports we target. These include Leinster Rugby, Lauren Winfield, Koen Smet, Sarah Lavin and Leanne Riley. We work closely with these athletes to create digital marketing content that can be used to increase brand awareness.

Mary Cummins: Career and executive coach, trainer and owner of Careerchanger.ie.

Direct digital marketing: Targeted advertising campaigns were used on social media to reach athletes. These include high-quality videos and photos of our Product Ambassadors using the system, like in this example – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQm0M-t_Pq4

Sponsorship: Sponsorship is a very effective mechanism for developing sales in the sports technology industry. As such, we often encourage referral via value-added contracts and discounts and leverage the networks of many of our end users who are happy to link us to their network.

Geography: We currently have paying customers in over 22 countries, with the revenue concentration currently in Ireland/UK and the US. A primary objective of our planned investment is to expand our operations in the United States by creating a presence in the region through the establishment of a US entity and employing sales personnel in the region.

Were there times when you thought…was this a good idea…is this going to work?

Launching a startup is always a challenge, especially in a global pandemic. However, we strongly believe in our team, our vision and our ability to solve problems for our end-user base, which helps us through difficult times.

What is your vision for Outputsports?

Our team’s mission is to make elite-level science and sports data scalable. This means helping athletes of any level achieve their training goals in an engaging and science-based way with the metrics that matter for their specific sport.

How did you finance your business in the beginning?

2013-2017: PhD funding from the Irish Research Council (IRC) and Science Foundation Ireland (UCD).

2018-2020: Commercialization funding from Enterprise Ireland (UCD).

2020-now: Seed investment funding from Atlantic Bridge, Elkstone, EI and angel investors including Dan Leavy (Leinster), Adam Byrne (Leinster) and John Hearne.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Find co-founders who believe in a common mission and build a great team where everyone is valued and has complementary skills and passions.

Find mentors you can trust who can help you with everything you need to learn about starting and growing a business.

Always learn, especially from your end users.

Be flexible in your plan, but make sure you have a clear long-term vision.

What motivates you in your work?

I consider it a privilege to be able to develop and share technology to help people’s fitness and performance and especially to have a growing team to do this with. Our motivation is to have the greatest possible impact on health and sports performance as well as the experience of athletes and coaches through the unique combination of skills and shared vision that we have.

What qualities do you look for in your employees?

Domain-specific technical skills that complement the skills of our extended team; collaborative; keen learner; end-user focused.

Can you give me at least three personal skills or attributes that are necessary to become a successful entrepreneur?

Collaborative team spirit; motivated and resilient and eager learner.

Interested in people’s experiences and relationships Would you like to add anything?

Thanks to our team for propelling the trip so far.

Mary Cummins BSc, MA is a career and leadership coach, trainer and owner of Careerchanger.ie. She can be contacted on 087 8290207 or via her website Https://careerchanger.ie

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