Hudl CTO Brian Kaiser Discusses Leadership, Future of Tech in Starters AMA 

As part of a live AMA, Hudl co-founder and act­ing CTO Brian Kaiser answered ques­tions from the Starters com­mu­ni­ty – a col­lec­tion of thought lead­ers, experts and influ­encers in the #sport­stech and #sports­biz industries. 

Hudl CTO Brian Kaiser Discusses Leadership, Future of Tech in Starters AMA 

As part of a live AMA, Hudl co-founder and act­ing CTO Brian Kaiser answered ques­tions from the Starters com­mu­ni­ty – a col­lec­tion of thought lead­ers, experts and influ­encers in the #sport­stech and #sports­biz industries. 

The world of sports tech­nol­o­gy is flush with lead­ers and experts from across the globe all seek­ing to trans­form the indus­try for the bet­ter. Starters – an online com­mu­ni­ty of sports fanat­ics and tech enthu­si­asts – fos­ters con­ver­sa­tions between these like-mind­ed indus­try experts by pre­sent­ing the most preva­lent topics.

One way Starters con­nects their mem­bers with high-pro­file pro­fes­sion­als is to host AMAs (Ask Me Anything) fea­tur­ing top-lev­el exec­u­tives and indus­try lead­ers. The AMAs are open exclu­sive­ly to mem­bers of the Starters Slack com­mu­ni­ty and con­duct­ed in a con­ver­sa­tion­al ques­tion-and-answer format. 

Most recent­ly, Hudl co-founder and act­ing CTO Brian Kaiser was invit­ed to take part in a Starters AMA where he dis­cussed every­thing from the company’s his­to­ry to man­ag­ing a team com­posed of remote employees. 

Here are the high­lights from September’s AMA.

In your own words (as if address­ing a CEO or BoD), what does a CTO do and what is their respon­si­bil­i­ty?” – JR Charles, CEO of ParOneTV

First, I think it real­ly depends on the size of the com­pa­ny. When Hudl was young it was about being a peer with my co-founders, bal­anc­ing trade­offs, and ulti­mate­ly build­ing a great prod­uct. Now it is much more about lead­ing (through exam­ple when­ev­er pos­si­ble), men­tor­ing, and mak­ing sure the foun­da­tions of our tech are build to the best of my ability.

What’s been the coolest part of build­ing Hudl as a com­pa­ny? What new things are you guys work­ing on right now?” – Keirsten Sires, Founder of Locker Room Talk

For me it is the peo­ple. I know that is super cheesy, but it is the truth. When we start­ed Hudl I real­ly didn’t imag­ine I would be able to work with a group like this. People that real­ly push me to be bet­ter. I’m very proud of our growth and the impact we’ve had on sports, but it is just the begin­ning (for Hudl and sports tech in gen­er­al) so I know we have a long ways to go.

There are so many cool things we are work­ing on – from pret­ty aggres­sive inter­na­tion­al expan­sion, to in-game live video for coach­es, to pret­ty advanced neur­al net­works for dis­cov­er­ing under­ly­ing ten­den­cies in play­er move­ment in soccer.

What are some of the ben­e­fits and chal­lenges of man­ag­ing a dis­trib­uted team?” – John Potter, Co-Creator of Starters & Founder of Sportd​.com

Managing a dis­trib­uted team can be tough, hon­est­ly. Your hours get extend­ed through the day and some­times there is no replace­ment for face-to-face time. I spend the major­i­ty of my day on Skype/​Hangout/​etc., but it’s worth it. We are able to get the best peo­ple at what they do, regard­less of loca­tion, and there are some very tal­ent­ed peo­ple that work­ing from home (or anoth­er loca­tion) is a huge perk to them – and we can attract them to Hudl. 

Could you have ever imag­ined your job being what it is today? What do you like least about your cur­rent posi­tion? Day-to-day tasks or oth­er things you didn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly sign up’ for?” – Troy Ruediger, Co-Creator of Starters

I def­i­nite­ly nev­er imag­ined it like this. Honestly, I nev­er real­ly thought about Hudl as a long term’ play. I think I was just naive com­ing out of col­lege, but I’m so glad it worked out this way. How lucky am I that I am still in a job i love after 10 years — pret­ty crazy.

What do I like least? That is tough. I wish I could do even more devel­op­ment than I’m able to cur­rent­ly. Sometimes I get over­whelmed with the trav­el. There are a bunch of day-to-day tasks that aren’t super fun like bud­get­ing, inter­views, etc., but I don’t mind any of those too much.

How was Hudl seen by investors at the begin­ning?” – Khalil Zahar, Founder and CEO of Hykso

I think we were pret­ty lucky, hon­est­ly. Our first round was done by a local Nebraska angel group and while I think they saw the val­ue in Hudl, I think they also just want­ed to be involved in sports tech because foot­ball is so huge in Lincoln (hope­ful­ly they don’t regret it!). We also had pay­ing cus­tomers before our first raise, so I think that pre­sent­ed us as more sta­ble than many Series A companies. 

We hadn’t got­ten to prof­itabil­i­ty by our sec­ond raise – in fact things weren’t going great on the sales side – so I think at that point the investors real­ly need­ed to buy into the three of us and a larg­er vision, which luck­i­ly they did.

As you were grow­ing, what was a tough peri­od of time that you now look back upon and see a ton of growth and learn­ing from?” – Curt Baker, Co-Founder of Tap In Design

So many. These last 1 – 2 years have been very try­ing because we have been grow­ing so quick­ly, and in areas out­side my com­fort zone (non-tech in many cas­es). Our head count has increased dra­mat­i­cal­ly. The busi­ness is more com­plex. More mov­ing parts. More offices. More every­thing. But we feel like this is nec­es­sary to get where we want to be in anoth­er 10 years.

What issues/​thoughts keep you awake at night?” – Edgar Walker, Co-Founder & CEO of Surge4 Marketing

Haha. Not much since I love sleep. But truth­ful­ly a lot. I want to make sure as we expand, espe­cial­ly inter­na­tion­al­ly, that we main­tain our cul­ture and our high lev­el of sup­port. We take that very seri­ous inter­nal­ly and both aren’t some­thing you can force. They have to be nur­tured organ­i­cal­ly and by exam­ple, which gets tougher with acqui­si­tions and scale. 

Please tell us more about the fron­tier tech Hudl is work­ing on, what does the future look like for not only Hudl, but the sports tech indus­try as a whole?” – Troy Ruediger 

That is such a fun ques­tion, and you know I love talk­ing about it. Some things are pret­ty obvi­ous — delayed data (post-game) is going to become less rel­e­vant. The trend is cer­tain­ly to real time, and while the basic stats are still fun­da­men­tal (down, dis­tance, run/​pass, for­ma­tion, etc..) and still very impor­tant, there will be a next tier of data avail­able to teams that the best coach­es will be able to lever­age to a huge advan­tage. The chal­lenge emerg­ing isn’t get­ting the data, it is under­stand­ing the data and being able to make time­ly, informed decisions

Data like play­er posi­tion­al data is a great exam­ple. Knowing the posi­tions and move­ment of soc­cer play­ers by itself pro­vides some val­ue, but hon­est­ly min­i­mal in my mind. But real­ly under­stand­ing weak­ness­es in motion and how sub­tle shifts are effect­ing the game (live in-game) changes everything.

Do you think that being a sports city like Lincoln gave Hudl an advan­tage? What can we take away from this for sports tech in Kansas City?” – Ilya Tabakh, Edge Up Sports

I def­i­nite­ly think so. We have amaz­ing com­mu­ni­ty sup­port in Lincoln and that can’t be under­stat­ed. From orig­i­nal investors, to advis­ers, to even things like busi­ness loans, Lincoln is very sup­port­ive of us. I think their love of sports def­i­nite­ly con­tributes to that.

I think KC is the same way. (I am actu­al­ly from KC)

As a com­mu­ni­ty we have a huge advan­tage – peo­ple love sports. Use that to your advan­tage in regards to fundrais­ing and advisers.

Many of us are build­ing sports tech com­pa­nies, so one of the big ques­tions is what is Hudl look­ing for in terms of part­ners or acqui­si­tion tar­gets? How does Hudl decide when to acquire a com­pa­ny or when to build the tech­nol­o­gy your­self?” – John Potter

That is a good but com­pli­cat­ed ques­tion. Certainly one require­ment is it aligns with our vision and fills a gap in our skill set/​market/​talent. Culture fit is huge for us. We’ve thor­ough­ly vet­ted every com­pa­ny before an acqui­si­tion to make sure it won’t sink’ the com­pa­ny after the integration.

Partnerships are tough for us because we would like to think we are going to take over the world. 

But seri­ous­ly, we’ve done a num­ber (of acqui­si­tions) but it is often tough to find a rela­tion­ship that is tru­ly mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial. Often it is a non-finan­cial part­ner­ship –co-mar­ket­ing, inte­gra­tion, etc.

We have a ton of peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ty who are build­ing com­pa­nies, look­ing for fund­ing, try­ing to acquire more users, etc. All the stress­es that come along with build­ing a com­pa­ny and try­ing to take over the world’. With all of your suc­cess there has to be some insight you can pro­vide on bal­anc­ing main­tain­ing your san­i­ty and con­tin­u­ing to grow your busi­ness?” – Troy Ruediger

You bet. I have a great sup­port sys­tem around me, and that is first and fore­most. People I trust and they trust me, and they give it to me straight. From my fam­i­ly, to wife, to biz part­ners, to every­one at Hudl, hon­est­ly. Second — take vaca­tion. It can be tough when you are grind­ing, but it’s impor­tant. I don’t com­plete­ly dis­con­nect when I’m gone, but I most­ly do. And I take sev­er­al weeks a year.

Any last words you can leave us with as we go out and try to shape the future of sports?” – Troy Ruediger

I’m not known for my last words, but maybe some­thing like Go dominate”. 

Interested in hav­ing Brian Kaiser or any of the Hudl founders take part in your next speak­ing engage­ment? Send all inquiries to press@​hudl.​com.

To learn more about the Starters com­mu­ni­ty, vis­it their web­site.