INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Edinburgh Based Tech Wearables Startup Thriving Inspite of Uncertain Times
Roy Hotrabhvanon of PlayerData tells us how they bring athletes together to make the most of their data.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded PlayerData, and how does PlayerData innovates?
Roy Hotrabhvanon: Both Hayden (Co-Founder/CTO) and I conceived PlayerData over a revision session at my kitchen table when we were both at Edinburgh University. I had been developing my own sensors to help advance my archery performance, whilst Hayden had a big interest in cardiovascular monitoring and how this could be investigated with software. I guess it was just a bit of a eureka moment when we realized we could pull together and create something for athletes. It was really important to me that whatever we made was accessible to athletes at all stages of their development as I’d come into archery as a complete beginner and had to teach myself with my own technology. To be able to create a product that anyone from amateur to professional could use was and remains our goal.
Progression is one of our core values internally and externally, constantly finding ways to improve ourselves and learn new things so that we are in a better place to innovate for our customers. We spend a lot of time on R&D – the first 2 years after conception were all R&D – and we now have an active and loyal customer base that are always willing to try out our latest concepts; providing us with valuable feedback that we can iterate on, ensuring we’re always innovating.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Roy Hotrabhvanon: It’s been a learning curve. We’ve made a choice to temporarily freeze all of our client contracts, leaving us vulnerable income-wise, but we managed to complete two funding rounds over the course of the pandemic, and this gave us the opportunity to speed up the development of our services. The hardware side was upgraded a year earlier than planned and is now being rolled out to clubs as they come back to training, and without customers, we were able to really speed up the development of the software too. It means we’ll be coming back with more features than ever, just in time for pre-season!
We’d never be in the position we are in today without the consistent dedication of our team, who have increased their productivity, particularly on the engineering side. We are fortunate to have an intel-strong Board that keeps us laser-focused on company deliverables.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Roy Hotrabhvanon: I look at it as different choices rather than difficult. We are growing, and we need to employ people to support that growth. Both Hayden (Co-Founder/CTO) and I have had to interview people throughout both Lockdown’s, ensuring we look for characteristics in people that complement self-motivation, self-regulation and the ability to add value remotely. You are always going to want to hire well, but the pandemic has meant we have to really hone in on those qualities. The lesson learnt has been a positive one: the opportunity to develop company hiring practices that align with our culture and company mission.
What specific tools, software and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Roy Hotrabhvanon: Like other companies, we’ve had to adjust to remote working. We use Discord and Slack for our company video interaction and document sharing, respectively. It’s important that our team is motivated every day, and so we schedule a 9 am company ‘stand up’ meeting without fail so that everyone can share their achievements, pressure points and plans for the day. We have set company bonding time – 3 pm every Wednesday – where we get together in a virtual room and talk about anything but work. Some team members joined during Lockdown’s and have never met their colleagues or me in person, so it’s crucial to me that virtual morale is high. Remote working is a different experience for each of our employees, so we operate on trust; work hard, work smart, but if you need to dip out for whatever reason, no problem.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Roy Hotrabhvanon: For many of our customers, it’s the choice between PlayerData or spending the money elsewhere, not necessarily on another GPS provider, but on other club requirements. Our subscription model means we can continue giving our clubs the highest level of service but keep our prices competitive. Clubs who on-board with us aren’t facing a massive setup cost; instead, they pay a small subscription fee each month to get full access to their data and support from our in-house team. This model allows us to stay current and adapt our service as needed.
Your final thoughts?
Roy Hotrabhvanon: Uncertain times like these are great at “defluffing” startups. The environment cuts straight to the core of what makes companies successful: Looking after your customers, building a strong team culture and the ever-persistent drive to execute.
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