Sports data

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Interview with a Founder who turned Sports Data into a Successful Running Business.

Sports data

Fusion Sport develops, implements and supports a range of technologies to optimize performance and health. Using leading technologies to collect accurate and reliable sports data, to store and manage them securely and conveniently, and to then use that data to inform, educate and assist people to analyze the past and guide the future.

Q and A with Markus Deutsch – Founder/CEO of Fusion Sport with 61-bit

Sports data

Founder and CEO of Fusion Sport

Q)First of all congratulations on raising capital, $3 million is obviously a large amount of money to invest and allocate. How have you worked out where to invest? When you’re sitting down and allocating such a large amount of money, what goes into that?

A) Absolutely, every cent of it. We have been in business for 15 years and this is our first capital raise, so we have very well thought out needs and strategy. The process really involved stepping back and looking at the business and where it is constrained by cash. We’ve always been a very product-focused company, so in our case, the main constraint has been marketing and sales.

Q)You’re going through such rapid expansion, in Australia as well as the US. When you’re advising other businesses, what do you say to them in terms of, when does it become the right time to expand into another international market?

A) At least in the technology field, I think companies should look to international markets as soon as they can. The real scale is overseas, so you need to find out sooner rather than later if there is a market, and you need to start gaining an understanding of overseas markets as quickly as you can because it takes time.

Q)In the early days, for entrepreneurs who are trying to get in the door when they have limited connections, what do you think is the best way to meet investors, earlier on?

A) I can’t say I’m overly experienced in this, but for us, it was a matter of bringing experienced and connected people onto our Board of Directors. The investor market can be very difficult to walk into, and it certainly helped me to have people who had been there before to mentor me through it.

Q)You had just graduated with your PhD in exercise physiology at Otago in 2000 and was a lecturer till 2001. When you kind of had that moment and you decided to actually leave your research and go and sort of create this company, how scary was that?

A) To be honest for me it wasn’t scary – one thing just led to another. I think I was always leaning towards being my own boss and couldn’t imagine it any other way. You need to have confidence and belief to start a business because at some stage it’s going to be tough. So I think if someone is scared about a business they should at least find someone to partner with who has that confidence and can be the front person.

Q)Fusion Sport is all about data collection and how it can translate into sporting or athletic success. How is data, big or small, revolutionising sports in general and what are some of the risks when it comes to decision-driven data?

A) We deal mainly in the area of fairly small yet deep data – many data sources analyzed over time about individual athletes. This approach certainly is revolutionizing the sport, mainly by reducing time lost due to injuries and illness. The biggest risk we see is people trying to use “big data” techniques on that small data, and drawing false conclusions about cause and effect. The real key to success is actually using the “coach’s eye” (prior knowledge) and then augmenting it with targeted models.

Q)Before data entered sports, decisions about who to play, draft, coach or develop were being made with the “gut” feeling. With sports data analysis is it more descriptive, predictive or prescriptive? Or is it an amalgamation of all three?

A) We see different approaches, some of it valid, some of it not so much. I do think it’s ideally an amalgamation of all three, but at the end of the day doing a good job of describing what is happening and presenting it to coaches and athletes is the key. The coaches and athletes still need to make the decisions – “gut” will always play a role. Our job is to provide tangible insights to help guide those gut decisions.  

Q)Now that you’ve become the CEO of Fusion Sport, what are some advice you might have for people reading this who are wanting to develop their leadership skills within a business or elsewhere, what would you say to them?

  1. Be humble and admit that you will always have a lot to learn
  2. Read books – there are so many good resources out there to learn from.
  3. Seek out experiences people for your Board and/or as advisors, and listen to them.

Q) What would you say you personally is a mistake you’ve made in the past as a leader that now you’ve learnt so much from?

A) I think at times I have been too quick to trust people who turned out to not be trustworthy. So now I make an effort to really get to know people and whether they should be part of our journey or not.

Q) E-sports. Let’s talk about it. So in the same way that you watch stadiums of football players charging at one another you’re seeing these stadiums full of StarCraft players competing or League of Legends players, and that rise has been huge. However, it has been a huge debate and controversy surrounding it whether or not e-sports is truly a “sport”. What’s your stance on it and what sort of data would you be collecting from professional e-sports athletes? Obviously, you wouldn’t be monitoring how fast they can run or jump right?

A) Yes, it’s an interesting area for sure and something we are keen to get involved in. The methods for using data to drive their performance will actually be similar to what we do know – it’s just that the variables will be different. Whilst we won’t be looking at areas like physical injuries, monitoring aspects such as wellness, sleep, nutrition and psychology will no doubt have a strong effect on performance and success. And the nice thing is it’s a data-rich environment which is relatively controlled.

Q) What’s next for sports data;  what some of those emerging trends you think we might see in the future?

A) The technologies that generate the data will continue to change – change is constant. As computing power increases physical sensors will be replaced by video and other non-contact techniques. But I think the most important change will be in how the data is used by the athletes themselves, with athletes taking ownership of their data and using it for their own decision making, especially with respect to their habits outside of the training environment. Our industry is still in relative infancy, so the next few decades we will see changes which are hard to imagine now.

Sports data

Markus brainstorming with 2014 Australian Sport Scientist of the Year Dr Craig Duncan

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Interview with a Founder who turned Sports Data into a Successful Running Business.
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