First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nikhil Patel: I believe COVID-19 has been difficult for many people. My wife was diagnosed with stage-3 lymphoma in 2018, but she is recovering well. Accordingly, COVID-19 was a bit scary due to her compromised immune system. Additionally, our son is on the spectrum and, as such, the cancelation of school and remote learning process has been a challenge. We believe the school systems are trying to figure things out as he needs extra help, but we try to remain positive.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded OmniView Sports
Nikhil Patel: I am the founder and CEO of OmniView Sports. I grew up in the Boston area, so I’m a die-hard fan of all our Boston/NE sports teams. In fact, I was on the front cover of the Boston Globe next to Tom Brady after he won his second Super Bowl. I was 22-23 at the time.
I graduated from Tufts with a Computer Science/Engineering degree and started my career in the Defense industry working on unmanned vehicle mapping systems. I didn’t really like sitting in a cubicle and knew I wanted to start a business at some point. I was weighing the option of either getting my MBA or JD. I decided to go to the JD route for a couple of reasons. My parents were immigrants, and neither finished high school. They had a tough time in the 70s, but worked hard, opened several boutique education toy stores, and were successful. However, along the way, they were taken advantage of several times and did not have the ability or knowledge to handle these situations legally. I decided that I could learn Business concepts on my own, and went to law school as I believed and still do, that the law opens more doors and will prevent companies/bad actors from any bullying tactics.
I graduated from law school in 2008 to pursue a job as a corporate attorney. Due to the recession, many firms were not hiring. In fact, many top tier firms were rescinding offers. Luckily, my engineering background enabled me to specialize in Intellectual Property Law, specifically patents. I spent the last 12 years working with innovative technologies in several different technology areas. During that time, I maintained a large list of ideas I had and would vet to see if I could pursue any of them.
When I came up with OmniView, it seemed to have the legs for me to take it the distance, so I quit the law firm life to focus on OmniView. The best part is that OmniView is focused on Sports technology, and I am a big sports fan.
Here is a link explaining how I came up with OmniView – https://ovszone.com/our-story/.
How does OmniView Sports innovate?
Establish an Innovative Corporate Culture
Nikhil Patel: I believe a company needs to establish a culture of innovation. Everyone says that, but they don’t really say how or show any actionable data/intelligence. In my opinion, a company can only establish an innovative corporate culture by doing at least some of the following:
1. Ensure that every team member feels like they can share their opinions.
a. How do you do that?
i. Recognize that people have different personalities. Some aren’t scared of speaking in groups or scared of saying something that is shot down, but others are.
1. We handle this by establishing small teams where each team member can express themselves with a colleague
2. We hold small meetings and 1:1, but require an actionable outcome
3. We provide a framework for inputting ideas and provide examples of methods to validate those ideas to get internal supporters.
4. I specifically ensure that I meet with every team member. Even as we get large, I won’t care if someone is an intern, janitor, or whatever. I care about my team and want them to feel appreciated.
ii. Provide incentives and feelings of ownerships
1. The reason franchise businesses are successful is because each franchisee not only has skin in the game, but they also have significant benefits on the upside.
2. We try to ensure that our team is able to get those rewards by innovating.
a. However, the one difficult thing is the skin in the game feeling. When someone has that type of investment, they work as hard as possible because the outcome affects their “skin.”
i. To that end, we are exploring methods by which innovation can include options of the innovator backing things up with their own “investment” (whether that be time or certain resources). If they opt for that, they can get a bigger stake in the outcome and have that “skin” in the game.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Nikhil Patel: COVID-19 did affect some of our development and anticipated launch date. However, we did use it to our advantage as well. Because we did not have the overhead as many established players, we focused on the R&D and feature development and establishing go to market distribution channels and partnerships. Due to corona, many companies were exploring any method to generate revenue. This gave us an opportunity to get on the phone with people we simply would not have had COVID-19 not occurred.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Nikhil Patel: I have had to make several difficult decisions along the road and made my share of mistakes. However, an entrepreneur must not let those occurrences prevent them from moving forward, but just see them as a real-world school. Let’s call it playground rules.
I learned that you can’t run before you learn to walk. Sometimes the turtle can beat the hare if you do the right things. Accordingly, focusing on establishing a strong foundation is the most important. Further, I learned better methods of utilizing resources and truly figuring methods to understand someone’s capabilities.
As a founder, many people will come to you saying they can do something and want a ton of equity and/or comp. They’ say things like this is what I usually make/take. Those are the ones that I now run away from. Essentially, if that person does not look at your company in the same way an investor would, then they are not worth your time.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and OmniView Sports in the future?
Nikhil Patel: Stress and anxiety are natural feelings, but I deal with that by ensuring I have a great team by my side. When you feel as if you are alone, that is when the stress gets to you. However, if you feel as though you have comrades in arms, you can face stress and anxiety head-on like a bull!
With respect to the future, you can’t predict it. What you can do, however, is ensure you have a team that can meet any challenge or obstacle head-on and deal with them. Further, I don’t see the company as “my” company; I want my team to feel and know that it is “OUR” company. That is what I want to project. The company won’t be successful if it is reliant on an I, me, or my. It will if it is an us, we, or our.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Nikhil Patel: Our competitors include live sports apps like ESPN, CBS Sports, etc.
We stay in the game by being innovative. Luckily, I’ve been a practicing patent attorney for the last 12 years. I know how to assess the IP landscape, deal with incoming threats of litigation, and instigate actions asserting our IP. Most startups don’t have the resources or expertise to do this. But we can do it with very little cost.
Additionally, it is about making sure you have a team that you can rely on or have the potential to be the best at what they do.
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