First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
David Geddes: We are well, thanks for asking, sir! Well done for being so considerate.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ISTA
David Geddes: I have a strong curiosity for science and human behavior, so I never felt entrenched in one industry. I am a generalist, not a specialist, which is a distinction that celebrates adaptability and multi-disciplinary. Basically, I have worked in numerous industries.
I founded the International Sports Technology Association with my friend Victor, who agreed to merge his social media group with mine. Of course, we were both working in sports technology startups too. We leveraged our massive networks, and to be honest, I had no clue what to do after that!
BUT – here we are changing the way the sports industry sees technology.
How does ISTA innovate?
David Geddes: We’re a mash-up for a traditional online trade association representing technology vendors selling into the sport. And, we have an internal educational institute.
From a product innovation perspective, we educate professionals on how to use technologies applied to sport with sport-specific use cases. BUT – we also set up our own accrediting program to begin the process of defining professional standards for technology utilization. Today, Sports Technologists work at elite Olympic organizations. Our innovative vision is simply to democratize those skills for the betterment of the sports industry. We are facilitating a new high technology career path.
I must tell you that we did not invent the title. Sports Technologists are growing in their importance. 1% more from your team or athlete greatly increases the chance of a medal or trophy; to measure that requires technology. (data, devices, software, etc..)
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
David Geddes: We were well-positioned for the calamity that occurred.
We dodged a bullet in some respects. As a small team, we were already remote from coffee shops and kitchen tables. BUT – I can say that the rest of the sports industry is still in a dire position.
From an industry perspective, sport is slowly reopening, but it may never be the same experience. I hope we can find a new normal. For sure, technology is once again being applied to sport in efforts to make things more stable and healthier.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
David Geddes: For an entrepreneur, important choices can be hourly. That is one of the downsides of being an entrepreneur. All the decisions and tasks looming over your success – much of which is your job. You must conduct market research, follow best practices, understand legal stuff, assemble the team, build the technology, and develop the process – UGH! Most people see that as an oppressive shadow of work. Entrepreneurs read people and situations to make good enough (not great!) decisions or choices to squeak forward. Making it happen requires you to win more than 50% of the time.
An important lesson for me was my inability to fully vet potential investors, which actually happened in a different startup. And another mistake, I let my friends run with a business idea, only to find out I had unintentionally and legally withdrawn my control in doing so. They failed, and we no longer talk. My advice on decisions: Never choose money over a critical problem to solve. If you cannot make enough money solving important problems, look somewhere else, i.e., pivot.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and ISTA in the future?
David Geddes: There are social considerations and professional manners that cannot be ignored when you feel stressed or anxious in your startup. Mental health is an important factor for maintaining sanity during the roller coaster periods. I am sure I will have many roller coaster rides ahead. I’m used to it; in fact, I enjoy the adrenaline rush.
BUT – to maintain my sanity, I play first-person shooter games to blow off (pun!) some steam. Also, I find that I write better after playing my guitar. I am sure there is a neuroscience reason. Of course, there is the gym. Sunlight helps too!
Everyone wants their startup to be a future star. The future pitch for us is simple: what is happening in sport has already happened in numerous other industries. It is now time to address technology skills in the sport for education is the solution for the sports-tech sector.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
David Geddes: Well, we have no direct competitor, but we do have indirect competitors. Other industry groups have changed their strategies slightly in an attempt to edge into our space. These are mostly regional hubs or loose networks confined to a geo-location or a specific segment. We contacted all of the organizations we thought might be a competitor – and offered them to be stakeholders with us. Some might think they are competitors, but we do not.
We will continue growth through collaboration if we can maintain a low-cost hub experience while giving authentic control of decentralized groups to other industry partners. We are not a fast exit for a venture capital fund – we are a lifestyle investment for those that want to be a sports-tech influencer.
Think about fast growth investments vs. an investment in an F1 team. Does that team generate profit, or does it power other strategies? Ask Gene Haas!
Your final thoughts?
David Geddes: Hey, Innovators! The world needs experts at finding weaknesses in business who are capable and willing to fill the weakness with powerful ideas. There are no mistakes when starting a company, only lessons. The complexity and speed at which business moves today is nearly impossible to cope with, so do not fight it, try to harmonize with it. Low hanging fruit? Toss that phrase in the trash. There is no low hanging anything, so you will have to find ways to climb that invisible ladder, then stretch your mind to see that tiny flower, which may or may not turn into a beautiful apple.
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