Output Sports on a mission to make sports science scalable

Always keenly interested in why some triumph more than others, Mary Cummins sat down with entrepreneur Dr Martin O’Reilly, CEO and co-founder of Output Sports to discuss mission, vision, strategy and more.
Output Sports on a mission to make sports science scalable

Julian Eberle, CTO Output Sports; Dr Martin O'Reilly, co-founder and CEO Output Sports, and Darragh Whelan, COO Output Sports.

OUTPUT Sports mission is to make elite-level sports science data simple and scalable.

Athlete testing and tracking currently involves a range of cumbersome, bespoke equipment that measures a small subset of fitness attributes. At an elite level, this makes testing and tracking resource-intensive from a cost and time standpoint. At a sub-elite sports level, many of the existing technologies are prohibitively expensive and impractical, meaning practitioners become reliant on subjective analysis.

Output Sports is an end-to-end solution to not only test and track sporting performance with lab-grade accuracy but also integrate this data to allow for improved training programs, injury risk stratification, and talent identification.

Output Capture, consists of a single sensor solution capable of testing an athlete’s performance profile (strength, power, balance, speed, mobility, etc.) and track their strength training and rehabilitation. It is like a Swiss-army knife for strength and conditioning and physiotherapy. Output Hub amalgamates this data and allows for data visualisation.

Sophisticated machine learning algorithms are utilised in order to convert wearable sensor and phone camera signals into meaningful metrics for coaches such as jump height, mobility, and speed times. Furthermore, this data is leverageable using artificial intelligence to solve the most valuable problems in sports – key performance indicators, injury risk, and talent identification.

Where did the concept come from?

Initially, I started creating wearable sensor systems as a hobby project while on placement in Shimmer Sensing in 2012. This grew to be my final year project in NUI Galway, and I received PhD funding for further R&D from the Irish research council in 2013.

The idea was considerably refined and grown from the interdisciplinary PhD research completed by Darragh Whelan and me under Professor Caulfield between 2013 and 2018. This work involved investigating how wearable technology could be used to augment strength training and injury risk assessment and modification.

From 2018 and 2020 Julian Eberle joined us to accelerate our journey of tech development from the lab to the field.

Since then the system has been co-developed with our end-user base of athletes and coaches all around the world. Their feedback and suggestions inform product developments.

Who do you work with and what have you done for them?

Our predominant end-user base consists of practitioners who have been trained in strength and conditioning, rehabilitation, and/or sports science. We have currently divided this market into six key verticals:

Elite sport: This is the top level of sports where athletes compete for the highest prizes. We work with the English FA, multiple Premier League Clubs, and Olympic athletes.

Universities: We collaborate with Institutions involved in both teaching and research and compete in inter-varsity competitions. These include Sheffield Hallam and Imperial College London.

Grassroots sports: Sports completed at an amateur level. We work with Kilfenora GAA for example.

Rehab: These include clinics and healthcare groups dedicated to returning athletes to play. We work with the Beacon hospital and multiple rehab clinics.

Strength and conditioning: Single coaches or facilities who train athletes at all levels to improve performance. We work with Les Spellman (speed coach to top NFL draft picks) and multiple performance centres.

What is your business strategy?

First and foremost we focus on building a novel technology that improves the workflow and jobs of athletes and coaches. To then scale our technology we use a number of strategies:

Sales Strategy: We have a dual sales model, whereby our direct sales team targets potential high-value customers (both in terms of revenue and validation via association) through traditional B2B sales processes including direct contact, distributors, and demos. Where ticket sizes are smaller, we have incoming potential customers through our website and provide pricing guides/links to subscribe to the system direct via the website. Our marketing strategy drives the incoming potential customers to the same.

Marketing Strategy: Athlete/Team Ambassadors: Output have worked with several highly successful teams/athletes in regions and sports we are targeting. These include Leinster Rugby, Lauren Winfield, Koen Smet, Sarah Lavin, and Leanne Riley. We work closely with these athletes to create digital marketing content that can be utilised to create brand awareness.

Mary Cummins:  Career and executive coach, trainer, and proprietor of Careerchanger.ie.
Mary Cummins:  Career and executive coach, trainer, and proprietor of Careerchanger.ie.

Direct Digital Marketing: Targeted advertising campaigns have been employed on social media to reach sports practitioners. These include high-quality videos and photos of our product ambassadors using the system such as in this example  - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQm0M-t_Pq4

Referral: Referral is a highly effective mechanism to develop sales in the sports technology industry. As such we often incentivise referral via contract value adds and discounts and leverage networks from many of our end users who are happy to link us into their network.

Geography: We currently have paying customers in over 22 countries with the concentration of revenue at present being in Ireland/UK and the USA. A key focus of our planned investment is to expand our US operations by creating a presence in the region through the formation of a US entity and employing sales staff in the region.

Were there times when you thought.. was this a good idea…is this going to work?

Launching a start-up is always a challenge, especially in a global pandemic. However, we strongly believe in our team, our vision, and our ability to solve problems for our end-user base and this helps us through any tough periods.

What is your vision for Outputsports?

Our team mission is to make elite level sports-science data and scalable. This means helping athletes of any level achieve their training goals in an engaging, scientifically driven fashion with the measures that matter for their specific sport.

How did you fund your enterprise in the early days?

2013-2017: PhD Funding from Irish Research Council (IRC) and Science Foundation Ireland (UCD).

2018-2020: Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Funding (UCD).

2020-Now: Seed Investment Funding from Atlantic Bridge, Elkstone, EI, and angel investors including Dan Leavy (Leinster), Adam Byrne (Leinster), and John Hearne.

What advice would you give to any aspiring entrepreneurs?

Find co-founders who believe in a shared mission and build a great team where everyone is valued and has complimentary skills and passions.

Find mentors you can trust that can help you with all you need to learn about launching and growing a business.

Always be learning, particularly from your end-users.

Be flexible in your plan but ensure you have a clear long-term vision.

What motivates you in your work?

I see it as a privilege to be able to build and share technology to help people’s fitness and performance and in particular to have a growing team to do it with. Our motivation is to make as big an impact as possible on health and sports performance and athlete and coach experience with the unique blend of skills and shared vision we have.

What qualities do you look for in your employees?

Domain-specific technical skills which compliment our wider team’s skills; collaborative; keen learner; end-user focused.

Can you give me three or more skills or personal attributes that are necessary to become a successful entrepreneur?

Collaborative team player; driven and resilient and keen learner.

Interested in people’s experiences and relationships Anything else you would like to add?

Thanks to our team for powering the journey thus far.

Mary Cummins BSc, M.A. is a Career and Executive Coach, Trainer, and proprietor of Careerchanger.ie. She can be contacted on 087 8290207 or via her website Https://careerchanger.ie

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