By: Adam White, @FOSAdam
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Molly Cernicek, Founder of SportXast. A seasoned technology professional, Molly made the switch to the tech side of sports three years ago. Although she was a newcomer to the sports tech world, she wasn’t a newcomer to sports as she has been playing and coaching soccer for a good portion of her life. She was gracious enough to offer up her time and insight into the tech side of sports, where the idea for SportXast came from and some steps you should take if you are looking to break into that side of the industry.
You have been working in the technology sector for 22 years, what has that journey been like for you?
The past 22 years has been a very exciting time to participate within the technology sector. I started my career looking at technology commercialization opportunities in nuclear weapons institutes in the former Soviet Union. I built a company with a Russian scientist in Russia that, in retrospect, was risky and challenging well beyond our expectations. Today, commercializing a technology and building a business is happening everywhere around the world as creative people are combining solutions with innovative research and technology. I see no slowdown in the pace of better solutions being implemented throughout industry.
Almost three years ago, you transitioned into the technology side of sports. What made you make this switch? How has that experience outside of the technology side of sports helped you in your current endeavor with SportXast?
After my experience with the Russian company, I was looking for something that would be more fun. One piece of advice that I think is critical is to do something that you are really passionate about. Sports fits that for me. In the past twenty years, the industry of sports has just exploded. Thirty years ago you could not make a living coaching kids; now many do. We’re currently seeing technology integrated in to sports at all levels. It is a great time to be in this industry.
Where did the idea for SportXast come from? What were the driving forces behind it?
At the time I thought of the idea of SporXast I was working as a consultant at Los Alamos National Laboratory and I was assigned to look at market opportunities for computer vision algorithms. I thought about how they could be applied into sports and about other possibilities within the sports industry, especially in amateur sports. I have coached soccer since I graduated from Cal, where I played. I have watched parents trying to film and photograph their children in action for years and I thought, ‘there has to be a better way to capture them playing at their best.
SportXast seems like a natural fit for parents and students looking to market themselves to coaches. What do you see as the future for the company? What are some of your goals?
We have a solution that makes it easy for parents, athletes and teams to take advantage of the device they already have in their pockets. We have made it simple to capture the best plays of a game and share these highlights without any editing. We have built highlight channels as a place for these highlights to transition from the app in real-time and be organized for teams, athletes, coaches and fans to view and share.
There is a big opportunity for us to connect local media affiliates with local sports teams to create and share content and for all to gain more fans and viewers. We started as an app. We are evolving into a media company.
The technology side of sports is a booming industry with all kinds of new training tools, injury prevention tool and even apps being created. What would be your advice for students looking to get into that side of the sports industry?
Get experience! Explore your local startup network and find a startup working on a sports-related opportunity. Become an intern. Identify a college, semi-pro or professional team that could use help and learn how these teams operate and what kinds of trends they are seeing. Work for a small, medium or large business in some aspect of the sports industry for enough years to gain insight that will fuel a startup idea or help you take the next step in your career. Every student has skills, experience and capabilities that startups and companies need.
I’m sure there have been bumps and bruises along the way with SportXast. Can you talk about how difficult at times it is to start and run a start up?
A startup life is like a student’s life — the semester starts out manageable, but by the time you hit midterms, you have lost all hope of being organized and timely. Deadlines and deliverable importance drive what time management still exists. For students, difficult times include others who are not reliable, a lack of money for tuition, room, board and fun, and professors who are not impressed with projects, papers and test results. It’s the same for entrepreneurs — people involved not getting things done well and on deadline, customers and investors wanting something more or different and the constant stress of not having enough money to do everything you think you need to do.
Finish this for me….”Technology is…”
Technology is going to change how we train, play, assess and treat injuries, coach, broadcast and communicate, promote and consume sports. Augmented reality, customized streaming and viewing experiences, health and training monitoring, tech clothing and regenerative medicine are just some of the areas where new technology will bring massive change to every sport.
Jump in and get experience and begin to build your network in whatever part of the sports industry interests you. The more you learn now about how a startup or company works, how a product is created and built, how a product/service is marketed will help you throughout your career. If you want to make an immediate impact, be that person who can identify and solve a problem in a timely manner. Be committed to learning more every day. You will be valued.
We would like to thank Molly for her time and insight and we wish her the best in her future endeavors!
This interview is the first edition of “Winning Edge Wednesday” in congruence with our partnership with the Winning Edge Leadership Academy. Every Wednesday we will be featuring the story of a woman or minority working in the sports business industry. If you know of a professional you would like featured, drop us a line at [email protected].