David Graff graduated from the University of Nebraska with an undergraduate degree and an MBA from the Raikes School for Computer Science and Management.
David who spent some of his time whilst studying at the University of Nebraska working for the University of Nebraska athletic department and for Huskers football coach Bill Callahan, a former Oakland Raiders coach during his time studying his MBA program at Raikes School for Computer Science and Management got his idea for Agile Sports when he realised that was no way for coaches to analyze game tape away from the team’s headquarters after Callahan wanted to adapt his offensive and defensive strategy for college football.
As soon as he finished his MBA program David started Hudl with his two friends, Brian Kaiser and John Wirtz.
The company now has over 3,000 teams paying for subscription on their softwares with prices ranging from $29 per month For high schools and colleges, packages range from $800 - $3,000. The company has over 18 employees.
This is the full story, Hope you Enjoy the interview.
Hi David, Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us, How are you doing today?
Great – thanks for asking.
Can you give us some background information about yourself and what you did before starting up Hudl?
Absolutely. I grew up in Omaha, Neb. and attended college at the University of Nebraska where I received an undergraduate degree and an MBA from the Raikes School for Computer Science and Management. Throughout college I worked for the University of Nebraska athletic department, and as soon as I finished my MBA work I started Hudl with my two co-founders, Brian Kaiser and John Wirtz.
Why this business? This industry? Are you a sports fan?
I am a huge sports fan, and that is a trait that is shared by almost everyone who works here. We love the industry because we love working with coaches. Most of us had our lives impacted by a coach somewhere along the way (in Little League or high school) and we felt it was time to give back and help make their lives easier. Plus, coaches are very success driven and have a no-BS attitude that we share.
So how did the idea of starting Hudl come from? What's the story behind it?
I worked for Coach Bill Callahan and his staff when he was the head coach for the University of Nebraska football team. Through my role with the team, I got to see firsthand some of the inefficiencies and pain points that had with their video processes. Although they had great systems for working with video on site, whenever they wanted to send video home with players or coaches they had to burn DVDs. The DVDs were time consuming to produce, clunky to watch, and lacked all of the data that the Husker coaches had spent hours adding to them. Also, there was no feedback loop – coaches and video staffs would send the DVDs back with players and have no idea if they were actually watched.
So tell us a bit what you do at Hudl and how it works? Break it down for the readers?
You bet. Hudl is online video analysis and coaching tools that help teams at all levels win, from high school to the NFL. We work hard to build software that saves coaches time and helps them win. Teams use our software to share video and scouting reports internally but also expose their highlights to parents and fans.
So let's say i contacted you as a representative of an interested school, what is the process?
Interested teams can sign up online at www.hudl.com/signup and get started right away. We offer free training sessions and have an entire team in our office devoted to helping coaches get up to speed and get value out of Hudl right away.
I did some research online which shows that your company makes over $2 Million in revenue and has over 2,000 schools paying for your softwares at a $800 Minimum price rate, Is that right?
Those numbers are a little dated, but they are close. We are actually up around 3,000 teams now.
What are the price ranges for the software?
For youth teams, Hudl is $29 per month. For high schools and colleges, packages range from $800 - $3,000 (www.hudl.com/signup) and we offer discount when multiple sports at a school sign up.
Lets go back a bit, how did you get your first 1-5 schools on the book, how were you able to convince them to come on board? How were you marketing your products during that time?
It was a lot of word of mouth. We were using our network and the networks of the coaches we worked with to spread the word. We also attended a few clinics and just traveled a ton demoing Hudl.
What are other avenues do you generate revenue through?
There are a lot of other revenue opportunities in the future, but right now we are focused on subscription revenue and growing our subscriber base.
I know it must have been pretty tough starting the business, I mean now looking at the money coming into the business, people might feel it was easy, were there any obstacles during the start-up phase that you faced and how did you deal with it?
Absolutely – it was a hard battle getting started and we stumbled a lot of times along the way. Initially we thought our sole market was going to be professional and high-end college teams with big budgets. We pictured a $100K+ solution that served only the elite. As we started marketing our product, though, we quickly realized how many more coaches lives we could impact with a lower-cost solution that could serve the entire spectrum, from youth to the NFL.
How did you get the investment for your company?
We bootstrapped for a little more than a year, paying ourselves nothing and covering our rent and payroll with some cash we each contributed and our winnings from business plan competitions around the country (about $100K total). We brought on our first angel round after we signed our first paying partner (the University of Nebraska football team). The money came from a group of local business leaders in Omaha/Lincoln and some of our contacts in Seattle, Wash.
Tell us about the initial idea and how that has that changed since starting the business? Did you notice any glitches in the plan?
Yeah – as I mentioned earlier, we initially envisioned Hudl as an enterprise software sale to only the upper-echelon of teams. After two years of slogging through these long contract negotiations that involved a lot of people, we decided that it was time to look down market and find a place where we could serve coaches even better, and much quicker.
What were the most valuable lessons learnt through your experience of start-up to this initial point?
Listen – to your customers, to the market, to your advisors, to your investors. And then know when to act. Get product in customers’ hands early and learn.
How have you been able to get paid-re-curring customers, i see a lot of people struggling to sell products/services and you seem to be doing very well? What tips can you give to everyone trying to start/introducing a subscription model to their business?
Thanks. We’re trying, but we have a long ways to go. Our model is to build addictive software that is fun to use and then provide amazing support to back it up. We focus on ease of use and try to provide real value to our coaches in the form of time savings and wins. My advice to anyone would be to focus on your customers and find ways to make them fall in love with your software, and then make sure that you build an awesome support team that answers the phone and has their back.
Why din't you start of giving it out for free? Why start with a subscription model from the start?
We actually did a small pilot when we introduced our high school offering. But we kept that very limited (only 12 teams) and then focused on gathering paying partners that were willing to make a financial commitment to us and that would force us to make a strong commitment to them. Everything gets a lot more real when customers are paying you to use your products.
What would you say has been your most effective marketing tactic or technique?
Good question. I would say our awesome coach support team. Any time we see our coaches spread the word about Hudl, they are always talking up the service that we provide.
What final advice would you give other entrepreneurs who are building their companies especially using a subscirption model?
Get started – now. Get product in customer hands. Learn and then iterate, fast. Find an industry where you can build a product that provides tangible value for your target customers and start building a customer-focused company around the space.
Thanks for your time David
Thank you, Joseph.
Don't forget to check out the website: http://www.hudl.com/