There is a lot of focus in the Sports Technology world given to being a startup or making it as an entrepreneur. The Australian Sports Technologies network has been at the vanguard of much of this in Australia where we have had training from notables such as Jerry Engel and Steve Blank. One of the reasons for this focus is that Sports Technology is a comparatively new industry and if you look at most of the existing industries in sports they can be pretty traditional. A lot of the breakthroughs have come from fresh ideas, fresh thinking and the application of new and emerging technologies. Every week it seems we are contacted by startups keen to leverage our particular area of research expertise (wearable sensors) to get a potential product to market or we are contacted from near or far by an SME (small to medium enterprise) or garage inventor with a great idea or prototype. We love the ideas and passion!
Big established sports companies (and technology ones too) often look to acquisitions of such startup’s or develop in-house and that’s often an exit plan too.
Recently though a new term has come into vogue, the ‘intrapreneur’ and certainly that’s how we like to think about our own venture, SABEL Labs. As an intrapreneurial enterprise that’s embedded in Griffith University and right next door to the Queensland Academy Sport (who produce well over 50% of Australia gold medals)
Here we have to operate much like a startup (and I’ve had more employment contracts than I can count on a hexadecimal hand to prove it), but we also get the benefits of the resources of a large organisation (and inherit its processes as well). Many talk about needing to have an ecosystem to survive and we have that with access to mechanical, electrical workshops, world experts in a range of disciplines, a range of internal and external funding schemes, a steady stream(well a good-sized trickle anyway) of commercial contracts and wide collaborative networks (like the Queensland Sports Technology Cluster). We also have finance, HR and legal team resources and a business school where I can upskill one subject at a time too. On the downside, it’s sometimes difficult to remain agile and pivot as we follow standardised processes for signoff, appointments, ordering, billing, then there’s branding and the dilemma of the SOE (standard operating environments) for IT systems that we want to be innovative with too. Recently I’ve noticed quite a few companies from the big end of town have innovation (intrapreneurial?) departments as they seek to embrace change before some unseen disruptive technology makes their business as obsolete as Kodak, so there are more like teams out there too!