Take one scroll through Twitter. If you happen to come across a high school student-athlete, chances are they have a Hudl link in their bio.
The company, which traces its roots back to the University of Nebraska, has gone from what could be considered a niche product to the dominant player in how coaches and athletes prepare for games.
Solely a software company for most of the last decade or so, the company took its first stab at hardware when it launched Hudl Sideline. Now, the company is going deeper into hardware with Hudl Focus, a smart camera that turns on automatically, follows the play from multiple different angles, and uploads the video directly to the appropriate Hudl account.
As Brian Kaiser, CTO for Hudl puts it, “There’s no more running around at the last second looking for someone to film the game.”
As Hudl has grown, all of the products or services it has launched have been about improving the user experience.
Jeff Clark, a senior project manager at Hudl, sees Focus as a way to bring everything together in one efficient package, allowing coaches to spend more time coaching and less time worrying about how their video may turn out.
“It gives us a really interesting platform to keep enabling more useful functionalities that will save time. This is kind of our first giant leap for the space, but you can kinda start to see where it’s headed.”
In development for a year and a half, Focus was built from the ground up inside of Hudl’s HQs in Lincoln, Nebraska and abroad on the back of many nights filled with creative brainstorming sessions and the occasional celebratory moon pie.
Even though the hardware is already sold out for 2018, Hudl isn’t in a rush to build more units, instead waiting to get feedback from the initial users about the product and making sure that they are able to adjust and improve the product from there.
“The reality is, this is our first product,” said Kaiser. “We wanted to take this slow to make sure we would be able to provide our customers with the level of service they have come to know and expect from Hudl. Luckily, the response we got from the market has been positive.”
With a presence in most schools across the United States and a user base growing steadily abroad, Hudl saw now as the right time to develop such a product thanks to the technical advances made with camera technology in the last year or so.
“In our position, where we have to be able to service thousands and thousands of teams broadly, the technology wasn’t where we wanted it to be last year,” said Clark. “The technology we have today allowed us to make the product something that could be installed by the school, making it more cost and time efficient.”
For a company that has been mostly software focused throughout its lifespan, taking the time to build a hardware product brought about a whole slew of new challenges.
From finding a reliable supply chain and acquiring all of the correct pieces to going out to the locations of the early beta testers to review and make sure everything was working, the team that is spread across five time zones was able to figure out something that it had never done before.
“The biggest thing was just being able to get the physical product built,” mentioned Clark as he reminisced on what it took to get it all together. “Not only did you have to throw in the complexity of industrial design, but also the fact that the team was spread out over multiple time zones. Not many companies could do this, but luckily we have the people here at Hudl who made it happen.”
Now that they’ve built the product, what does a success look like?
Teams never having to worry about recording anything again.