Advanced Sport Instruments — The Spot 2018

ASI develops tracking solutions to analyze the movement of athletes in different sports. They developed FieldWiz, a tracker dedicated to team sports used to generate heat maps and other physical statistics of the players in the field. 
Julien Moix, CEO at ASI, tells us more about the challenges of working for the football industry.

Bruno Cheval, left, and Julien Moix, right, CFO and CEO at ASI

The Swiss Unicorn: Can you tell us more about the early days of ASI?

Julien Moix: ASI was founded 5 years ago by my business partner who has an extensive knowledge in sensors electronics and has a passion for sports. He is a great paraglider and therefore created a sensor that would allow paragliders to fly for longer periods of time. 
He did a very good work both in the technical aspect and in the business aspect. However, paragliding is a small market niche.

We know each other for a long time. We used to go ski touring together and that leaves a lot of time to talk. We have a common passion for entrepreneurship. I joined him to help him open his technology to team sports. 
I have always played football as a hobby and I saw that there was a gap in the market. Everybody at that time was used to track everything, from jogging to sleeping performances. However, a sport as popular as football had no tracking solution to offer to regular clubs. We wanted to democratize tracking technologies to other people that the elite without making concessions on the overall precision. This how we developed the project FieldWiz.

So, there were already some solutions for elite clubs but you decided to target clubs with less budget.
How do you position yourselves?

We target the mid-market with a high precision product which is affordable and easy to use. The existing solutions were reserved for people with a very large budget. We are talking FC Barcelona, Real Madrid. These products were complicated and required a whole staff to operate. 
We are touching professionals but also semi-pros, football academia, and serious individual players. These people are ambitious and performance driven. They want to work with solid data. In Switzerland for example, we have clubs from the super league, but we go down to the 6th level with the very same technology.

What is your growth strategy?

We first did our own experiences in terms of sales, but we soon adopted a distributor model. We are in a highly fragmented market. Our goal was to identify people who are specialist in team sports and to leverage their client portfolio and complementary products. This allows us to accelerate our growth in countries where we never went. This is, for example, the case of Japan where we have a strong traction thanks to our local partner. 
Today, we are present in about 20 countries.

Do you think that the importance of networking and direct contact in sports is higher than in other industries?

It is important in all industries but people in the sports industry are very solicited because of the great mediatization in this field. Therefore, they create barriers. It requires a lot of energy to approach them frontally. Working with people who have the network allows to facilitate and speed up things.

Football is a conservative sport. 
Do you think it is ready to accept small technical revolutions?

There are two elements that I would like to point out.
On one side, you have the athletes and the clubs. They want to win, and they are always looking for that little thing that might make them progress. From this point of view, I am sure that a lot of people are interested in this type of solution.
On the other side, you have the sport in general where you are restricted by the rule of the game. The FIFA and its new president are now pushing technology forward. This is a completely new paradigm in this sport.

Your product portfolio already covers different sports: paragliding, mountain and football. 
Are you going to target other sports in the future?

We are already offering our technology as a white-label solution. We worked for example on ski and moto racing applications. With FieldWiz, we would like to become multi-sport. We are now integrating impact computation capabilities to be able to offer the product to the rugby and American football. We are also working on our indoor performance to bring the solution to other sports such as basketball and handball.

How can you manage the R&D and sales & marketing in parallel on different sports applications? There is a risk to lose focus.

It is a challenge. There are lots of opportunities and it is, therefore, tempting to be present everywhere. But it would not be wise. In some cases, we will have to delegate some tasks to partners and concentrate our effort in few sports where we can have the biggest impact.
However, I would like to highlight the fact that today we are using the same tracker and the same supply chain for all sports. The software is 90% the same in all applications. That allows us to remain focused.

Why are you present today at the Spot?

We are currently in a fund-raising phase and it is therefore mandatory for us to be present at such events. Moreover, it is a good opportunity to meet future partners in this ecosystem. It is a pity that we must wait for an event such as this one to meet the other players in the region. There are so many commercial synergies to find!

There are a lot of things going on in the startup world in other domains such as Fintech or MedTech.
Is the situation also evolving for sports startups?

We see that things are moving. Many countries have now their own sports tech incubator. There are some in Paris, in Berlin, and in other European cities. I remember that the first time I pitched for a sports incubator, I had to fly to St Louis in the United States!

We are lucky to be here. When I am going to a FIFA event, I am the only one to take the train. All the others are coming by plane from far away. We should make more use of these opportunities.

What do you like in your leadership role at ASI?

There is a constant challenge. As a sports enthusiast, I have many opportunities to meet inspiring people and making interesting contacts. It is an extraordinary journey.

Is there something that surprised you in this adventure?

I must say that I had a very romantic vision of football before. It is not the case anymore. The business aspect of it is tough.

The Swiss Unicorn is an online startup media which focuses on Swiss startups. We publish interviews of different actors of the Swiss startup ecosystem.