We talked to Mike Piha of HitCheck about the cognitive assessment aid and his passion for football.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mike Piha: We are doing great, working remote has its advantages, but I miss personal meetings and travel to meet customers.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded HitCheck.
Mike Piha: After playing 16 years of football (4 years in college) and entering the business world, my football passion continued as I started coaching youth aged 24. I coached youth football and over 1K kids for 25+ years. I also started a football league that now has over 25K participants, all while starting and leading a 40M business in the Silicon Valley and raising two boys with my wife Cheryl in Palo Alto, CA. My passion for football brought me to research why participation was declining rapidly, only to learn that the health & safety issues, mainly head injuries (concussions), were the number one concern of parents not allowing their child to play tackle football. This also was consistent in all contact sports, including soccer and baseball.
I pursued a solution to help this problem as I found there was no cognitive test or screening solution available for anyone under the age of 16. During my research, I met a sports medicine MD, Dr. Jake Benford, who had been working on developing a cognitive test on a mobile device with a focus on youth. After several months of discussions, Dr. Benford and I started HitCheck.
How does HitCheck innovate?
Mike Piha: We promote innovation to our employees, consultants, advisors, customers, and investors by creating a supportive atmosphere in which people feel free to express their ideas. We encourage risk-taking and experimentation and promote openness between individuals and teams. I look for imagination and creativity, and passion for our mission when recruiting new employees and consultants.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mike Piha: We are diversifying and expanding our reach through new customers in the DoD US Military and working on a new cognitive test for dementia. With COVID-19, many of our customers have had to place everything on hold while they have canceled or suspended their sport season, so we have had to seek new creative marketing strategies to find the active customers.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mike Piha: With any start-up, raising capital is what drives the development of the company. The space we are in, sports technology/healthcare, was not a focus for most investors, and we needed to raise $2 M to get the concept developed, tested, and marketed. We faced time over the first two years where we had zero $ in the bank… we had to make a choice to keep going, sell or close; the passion for solving this problem and the drive to make a difference provided the fuel to keep going, and we raised the needed funds. Lesson learned…NEVER GIVE UP ON A PASSION!
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and HitCheck in the future?
Mike Piha: I thrive on pressure and usually am at my best in stressful situations. You have to have the ability to “step away” and do something active like bike riding, walking, or play golf to be able to “reset