SELLING performance monitoring technology to the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, Coopers Plains-based Fusion Sport is now on the cusp of a major deal with Nike. Founder Mark Deutsch says a new product could double revenues in the next two years.
Fusion Sport has come a long way, but what are its origins?
I was a practising sports scientist and had used the performance monitoring computer systems available, but they weren’t wireless so you had a lot of cables out on the field, and it wasn’t a Windows environment so you had to write down the results.
My goal was to make a wireless multi-layered system that sends results straight to the computer and something that wasn’t just used three times a year for training but every day, testing specific aspects.
We were admitted to the ilab business incubator and sold our first smart speed systems mid-2004 to the All Blacks and Essendon Football Club.
Can you discuss the company’s move into the UK and how exports expanded from there?
I went there at the end of 2004 and went on the road for a year-and-a-half, knocking on doors and it wasn’t long before I had a few English Premier League teams. The first was Chelsea, and then Aston Villa, Bolton and Blackburn Rovers after that, and then the rest came on board like Manchester United and Arsenal. We started our first European distribution in France with rugby and soccer teams in 2006 and after we signed customers in Belgium and Netherlands in 2007 we had explosive growth.
We’ve averaged 40 per cent growth since we started and we estimate that we have probably 600 systems around the world in more than 20 countries. In addition to customers in Australia, New Zealand and Europe, we’ve had steady work in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan is had good growth this year.
What have been the best moments from your experience abroad with business?
There were great moments, like when we signed Manchester United. I was so excited walking out of Old Trafford Stadium in the carpark, but I had to be careful not to scratch any of the nice cars before getting into my bomb. I’ve been able to meet with leading people all over the world that are aiming for best practice, elite athletes, but I don’t want to drop names.
And the toughest?
There were days when I would leave home at 4am and get back at 2am the next day and see that I’d gone 1000km just for two presentations. There were times when I’d hit so close to the bottom, staying in really dodgy share houses in Manchester. Those were pretty dark days.
But the opportunities abroad surely don’t stop there, or in soccer?
We cover pretty much every sport you can imagine – all the Australian football codes, basketball, softball, volleyball, netball, cricket, ice hockey and the list goes on.
We have been talking to Nike for four years and we’re very close to getting our first deal with them, doing what’s called a ‘combine testing’ program Sparq. In the US there’s a huge culture of testing for potential elite athletes. It’s a big deal over there because of the system of college scholarships. We have a number of customers in the US, but we’re just getting going to be honest.
So the US has been a bit slower to embrace the technology?
Well, Nike using our product will have a strong effect on the market, because if they’re testing 2000 kids every weekend that’s a lot of exposure.
The US is a difficult place and it’s taken us years. We’ve just recently hired a full-time person and you have to do that to get anywhere. It’s difficult because football dominates their mindset and the group is very insular.
What is the outlook for Fusion?
We’ve just released a new product called Smarter Base in partnership with a New Zealand company called Profiler, which is a complete user configurable data solutions system. The interest has been overwhelming.
The problem before was that there’s nowhere to put the data so that it all relates together. I’ve heard of people spending six figures to build a data system and then they can’t even turn it on. This will be our
major product for the next 12 to 18 months.
I would hope that revenue will double in the next two years with all of our new products added, but especially the Smarter Base. It’s more profitable and we sell a lot more this way. Instead of giving a client a $15,000 system we can sell a $50,000 system.
What revenues does Fusion Sport bring in each year and what is the current distribution split?
Our turnover is about $2m at Fusion and 80 per cent is export. In terms of the market split, we sell 30 per cent to professional teams and the biggest customer is the universities at 40 per cent.
The other 10 or 15 per cent is in the talent identification market and Olympic committees. We’re now making a lot of progress in the schools market too in the UK and Australia, flowing down now that we have brand recognition, and we also sell a cheaper spec version of the system to schools.
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