Interviews

Kairos: Andrew Trimble and Gareth Quinn combine sport and tech

  • Retired Ireland and Ulster rugby star Andrew Trimble teams up with Digital DNA founder Gareth Quinn, to build a new sports tech company Kairos.

    Having spent two years quietly working on the concept they have launched the first iteration of the product, closed investment, built out a cracking team based in the Ormeau Baths and are already working with the likes of Ulster Rugby, Manchester United, Sacramento Kings, Rugby United New York, Queen’s University and Down GAA.  The Kairos platform massively simplifies the various moving parts of an elite sports club while empowering the individual athlete to own and maximise their performance consistently. Andrew’s experience as a professional athlete allowed him to identify the need for elite sports teams to engineer and own their medical, athletic and skill requirements, and the platform includes three main features: scheduling, performance and analytics.

    We caught up with Kairos’ VP of Product and Business Development, Daniel Fearon, and Sales & Marketing Executive, Emilie Simmons, to dive a bit deeper into how Kairos works, and what their plans for the future hold...

    Sync NI: Can you tell us where the inspiration for Kairos came from, and how Andrew and Gareth brought it to fruition?

    Daniel: In the initial stages, Andrew conceived the idea to try and help Ulster Rugby players manage their weekly schedules and make them more efficient and cohesive, ultimately allowing them to focus more on their performance and less on the ‘noise’ around them. He and Gareth had got to know each other through their work with the international philanthropic organization, The Ireland Funds, where they started to discuss the idea and what a potential solution would look like. Gareth asked the simple question “what is everyone else using?” and after quite a bit of market engagement the lads realised there was a gap in the market and a significant opportunity.

    The market validation piece was hugely important to understand what exactly was the needs of the clubs and how Kairos could add significant value. One of the most telling discussions was following a visit to Manchester City’s training complex to meet some of Pep Guardiola’s senior team. You can imagine the amount of money they’ve spent on state-of-the-art equipment and facilities due to their seemingly unlimited resources. But still, they would put the plan together at the start of the week, before presenting in paper form for players like Sergio Aguero, Kevin DeBruyne, etc to take pictures on their phones. And because of course that’s a static picture that they’ve taken, it doesn’t account for the various changes and the noise and confusion that distracts those that should be focusing solely on making themselves better. At that moment in time, it was fully confirmed to Gareth and Andrew that Kairos was something that they should go full throttle on need to push.

    Sync NI: As it’s mainly a mobile app, what are the key design features that make Kairos stand out in the sports tech industry?

    Daniel: We’re all about enabling clarity, calm and simplicity which is in stark contrast to what is practiced at many elite clubs today. One of the many great things about having Andrew at the helm is the insight and experience he brings to the workings of professional sports teams, and this is clearly something that gives Kairos an edge over our competitors. Additionally, at both Ulster and Ireland Rugby, Andrew used some of these competitive solutions in the past and the players' view is that they were too complicated and too intrusive, with a huge amount of notifications coming through daily on phones. Our mantra is that we’re trying to take away the noise and clutter from athletes so that they can focus on what they really need to.

    We can open a communications channel which enables the right amount of information to be sent in one direction and if you do need to have a direct one-to-one chat, the capabilities are there but from a group point of view, it’s about removing all that additional information because it’s just not important to the overall goals of the team and importantly the individual athletes.

    Sync NI: Does the app’s format work well for all sports or does it need to be adapted for different sport domains?

    Daniel: When Gareth and Andrew started engaging with the market they focused on rugby and soccer for obvious reasons but since then we have learned that Kairos can not only deliver for the vast majority of team based sports but it also delivers for individual based sports like golf, tennis, diving, etc where that athlete has a number of stakeholders all contributing to their success. The application and the service itself are generic. We’re building a common platform with a single code base, which means it can scale very easily. We will have different sets of features, which we can turn on or off, depending on the level of services those clubs require. That’s a perfect model for us because it means from a business perspective, we can easily manage and predict our costs of running the solution to many clubs of different sizes and levels of professionalism.

    Sync NI: You’ve mentioned how you are working with some big names. Can you let us know about any more upcoming partnerships?

    Daniel: We are currently working with STATSports Technologies, who are based in Newry. They’ve been operating for about ten years and they have been very successful globally with a massive amount of big name clubs on their books. You’ve probably seen professional sports players wearing their GPS tracking equipment; almost like a cut off vest when training, which has a tracking device in it. It measures heart rate, accelerations, high metabolic load, distance covered, speed etc. It actually has 140 different data points which are recorded per player, per session. The success of STATsports has not come without a lot of hard work from an amazing team but also a lot of learning. The partnership with STATsports has been phenomenal as we have benefited from these learnings and the skills and knowledge they have. If you ever wanted an example of how Northern Irish companies can collaborate together it is hard to see a better example. We are actually working together on one very exciting project with an English Premier League team which could be massive for our growth plans if we execute effectively.

    Sync NI: In general, what does your typical customer look like? Is it primarily elite athletic organisations or is there potential for the platform to benefit individual athletes in a big way as you touched on earlier?

    Daniel: For us at the minute there’s no limit to where this goes to but for the early phase of our go to market strategy we need to stay focused on elite sports clubs and make an impact with that market segment. We are building Kairos in such a way that we can provide an amateur sports offering by providing baseline functionality for a fraction of the cost and this will be part of our considerations going forward.

    Sync NI: The Realtime analytics dashboard is the major feature of your platform – can you tell us how it works and how it helps athletes?

    Daniel: The Kairos platform collects quite an amount of data about both the performance of the team and importantly the individual. We collect this data and present insights to the club coaches and practitioners. However, the deep value comes from how we integrate with 3rd parties that are already working with clubs such as STATsports for example. In addition to GPS tracking, we have the ability to pull in data from heart rate monitors, nutritional feeds, and even glucose/lactose detection. We then aggregate that data so we can build up a picture of one player based not only on how they’ve performed physically but also how well prepared they are medically to perform. We’re also building in measurements of mental preparation and wellbeing. We’re very conscious that the psychological side of sport is vital yet probably still the least spoken about. Certainly in team sports there’s still a stigma, so we’re building in a solution to ensure the athletes are also measured in terms of mental preparation. This has been a strong requirement from many conversations we’ve had with elite colleges both in the US and closer to home at Queen’s University Belfast. Athletes on college scholarship programmes are faced with having to perform on two fronts, on the field and in the classroom. If they don’t get certain grades, they won’t be playing sports and there’s huge mental pressure on those kids.

    Sync NI: In terms of the Belfast-based office, do you have many tech job opportunities or room for expansion?

    Daniel: The Kairos team is already creeping into double digits after securing investment. In the next 12 months we have plans to hire in areas such as engineering, sales, marketing and account management. We have been very fortunate to bring together a hugely passionate and ambitious team who all, at worst, are all passionate about various sports. In fact, in our relatively small team we already have championship divers, scratch golfers, All-Ireland GAA winners and someone who had a bit of success on the rugby pitch… We are always on the lookout for super talented and ambitious people to join our team. Furthermore, with the success of companies like STATSports and the rise of new sports tech companies in Belfast and Northern Ireland, we are building quite an experienced pool of sports tech talent. This is being brilliantly supported by Invest NI who are helping to establish Northern Ireland as a global hub for sports tech, which will be really helpful for all of us, and hopefully plenty of new opportunities will come off the back of that.

    You can follow Kairos’ Belfast office at @KairosSportsHQ on Twitter, or head over to their website at www.kairostech.io for more information. 

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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