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Crossing the Bridge to Innovation

Vision-based partnerships are driving innovation. That's great news for sport.


Stephen Smith


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As we saw last week, the industry has built an unparalleled data landscape from top to bottom, with concepts and tools exploding across elite teams and youth sports. Several stories from this week’s news highlight the role partnerships play in this innovation, especially when hitched to  powerful missions and visions .

Let’s start with the video and data analysis firm Metrica, which has a vision to spark a wave of innovation in sport by democratizing data for anyone with a camera. They enjoyed phenomenal success with their video analysis tech in elite football and now they want to offer their tools “to the masses” — for free. According to co-founder Ruben Saavedra, “By having these people in the shadows, you are stopping the development of football.” This is an ambitious vision with incredible potential for grassroots sport.

We find a similarly egalitarian impulse in the NHL’s partnership with North Carolina startup Pramana. They initially set out to simplify queries of massively large datasets, but realized more advanced player tracking would also be hugely valuable to fans. The NHL’s Russ Levine framed it as a question: “What are the things we can do statistically to help fans better understand what they’re seeing?” Now the NHL and Pramana are holding weekly product development meetings “with an eye now towards giving fans more access” and strengthening hockey’s online communities. Collaboration and partnership is at the core of this relationship, and it’s bringing technology up close and personal with the problem it is designed to solve.

This also shows part of the power of partnerships is the feedback loops they create. We’ve experienced this first hand at Kitman Labs, and over the last two years, we’ve actually changed how we work entirely, making each relationship a partnership so they’re never static, always improving, communicating, growing. 

But growing toward what? Partnerships provide the ‘how’ but vision gives the ‘why.’   Training Ground Guru’s interview of Dr. Robin Thorpe shows the beautiful interplay of both in Manchester United’s success during his time at the club. Importantly, Thorpe rarely speaks about just his impact; he talks about the impact of Sir Alex FergusonGary Walker, and Tony Strudwick, among others. Buy-in to Sir Alex’s vision unlocked a powerful collaboration. 

In our work with elite organizations, we find the best teams are also mission-driven. Possessing vision, they can look to solve more than just today’s problems; they can look to tomorrow, two years down the road, and beyond. With a spirit of partnering, people leave their agendas on the doorstep; they pursue their goals in context of the organization’s success. They’re eager to quantify and understand their role in that as well as those of others. 

Innovation doesn’t happen on an island, it happens together, and partnerships make the bridge. And while we’re not surprised to see the vision-driven partnerships between tech and industry taking place today, we are incredibly excited by them. This is how the magic happens, from the pitch to the boardroom to the stands, and it’s happening in all of those places at both the top and the bottom of sport. 

I’ll be sharing thoughts on sport’s most impactful developments and news on an ongoing basis. I welcome your feedback at



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  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen is Kitman Labs’ CEO and founder. He was previously Senior Injury Rehabilitation & Conditioning Coach at Leinster Rugby Club. Stephen holds a BSc in Sport & Exercise Rehab and MSc in Football Rehab from Edgehill University.

    CEO & Founder of Kitman Labs


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