© Nick Wass, ap

Start-up
05/07/2012

Insposo: Austrian Software for US Pro Sports

The Austrian start-up Individual Sports Solutions is planning on shaking up the international sports market with software that lets you individualize training programs and makes talent-management more assessable. Now the founder, Alexander Pinter, is setting his sights on the U.S.

"We have been fully bootstrapped up to now", says Alexander Pinter, "but once you try to get venture capital from Silicon Valley, you have to incorporate a US entity." Pinter is the CEO and co-founder of the start-up Individual Sports Solutions and is well acquainted with the slang used in the Silicon Valley. A total of 35 team members, 7 of which make up the core, have been working for five years on the company's web-based software, which is intended to help coaches guide athletes more individually. The past five years have been hard at times, with countless all-nighters and "zero cash" – the typical ups and downs of a start-up company, he adds. Pinter calls the result his pet project. At the moment, the product named "Insposo" (an abbreviation of the company's name) is still a beta version. However, prominent interest has already been drawn, including that of the National Hockey League (NHL): "As soon as this software is launched, 35 clients will say – let's go", he explains.

 

Training Programs Within One Hour
Coaches in competitive sports are faced with the challenge of developing individualized training programs in as little time as possible. "The training is subdivided into cycles. We distinguish between yearly, monthly, and weekly planning, thus at least three levels, which of course is complex and time-consuming in terms of content." In order to create a customized one-year-plan for each of the 25 players of a hockey team, up to two days would be necessary for each athlete, Pinter says. "For a hockey team, that would be 50 work days – deducting the synergies would still leave around 30 work days – without having planned a single sub-cycle", he calculates. Since most strength and conditioning coaches don't have that time, training, in reality, has become slightly standardized. Pinter wants to solve that problem: "With our software, creating a yearly plan for an entire team takes hours, not days or weeks." Insposo lists different content streams which coaches use as the basis for their planning: how should maximum strength and speed strength be trained, how can endurance be improved? Subsequently, the software aligns the concept with the athletes' performance data and generates a personalized training plan. "We have systemized the training science according to practical relevance",explains Pinter. Bridging the gap between theory and practice should also give access to scientific knowledge to those who haven't dared to tackle such issues.

Algorithm for Talent Management
This is Pinter's second time at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, both times coming by way of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber's Initiative "Go Silicon Valley". During his first stay in 2010, he came up with a new business idea, which has since been technically implemented as a spin-off in a subsidiary. In the U.S., rights to junior players, for example in hockey, are determined by a draft lottery after each season. Typically, players are drafted who are 18 years old; it usually takes a few years until they get called up to the professional team. "I basically pick a player who I've watched for a year, but who isn't physically ready just yet", Pinter explains. This is when long-term planning comes into the mix: the development of the player over the next two to three years. This affects around 80 players per franchise, across all levels. "There's lots of money to be made, but the risk is also high", adds Pinter. The team has developed an algorithm that helps to better assess a young prospect's potential. Just like in the movie Moneyball? "That's somewhat the direction it's headed", says Pinter. The project "Inscouts" sits right behind "Insposo" in the pipeline. Currently, a few teams are testing out scenarios on a prototype.

Trojan Marketing
The crucial phase for the start-up will start this summer and the first official release of Insposo is scheduled for September. The timing is essential, as the NHL starts the new season with training camps. Pinter is confident: The current software is actually not a prototype anymore, because it has been developed under wraps with partners and validated plenty of times. As regards software-start-ups, Individual Sports Solutions has taken an unusual path. As soon as companies are in possession of a prototype, the industry standard suggests that the product has to be made public. "However, we have a Trojan marketing strategy: We will arrive overnight", says Pinter.

Over 30 teams are awaiting Insposo's final version, including "Hockey-Colleges" from the East and Mid-West of the U.S. such as the Universities of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Pinter is trying to convince some universities to collaborate on the scientific sourcing of the software: "We have been in constant talks with Stanford University, but nothing has been signed yet".

First Contacts with NHL Teams
With the help of Austrian hockey players Michael Grabner and Thomas Vanek, contacts have been established with the NHL teams of the New York Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres, as well as the Philadelphia Flyers, the former team of Andreas Nödl, who is from Vienna. The team from Silicon Valley, the San José Sharks, might be the first reference client. In total, the start-up company is currently in talks with almost half of the 30 NHL teams. The hockey associations 'USA Hockey' and 'Hockey Canada' have also been approached, along with the United States Olympic Committee, the Swiss Hockey National Team, and FC Chelsea. Without any doubt, the U.S. is the most important market for Insposo, according to Pinter. "If you find a certain traction within the market and it makes sense to swing for the fences, then I see only one option: Pack your bags and head to the U.S." A scalable product contributes to success. Insposo will serve any type of sport at any level, even recreational sports: "And that's where this journey is going", says Pinter.