My last angel blogpost was months ago as I threw in the towel and announced I would only be investing passively. So after this and this and this and this on why and how, I outsourced all early stage investing. And I have been pleased so far.
But now I’ve gone and broken my new year’s resolution, because I…just…had to. I met the firm I couldn’t resist–and it’s Woosports (nee KinematIQ). You can’t find out much about them, and they don’t have an updated website. That is all ending soon, however, as tomorrow they step into the limelight at TechStars Boston DemoDay. I’m, however, calling it now–Woosports should be the best IRR investment out of any TechStars company this class because I smell a strategic bidding war to snap this up, and it won’t take long for people to discover the power of Woo. If I’m wrong and this doesn’t happen fast in a few months, even better–the absolute value should build and build.
So what is it that made me abandon my promise to only be a passive investor? I had promised myself that I would do not spend any brain cycles other than on my own startup. What pushed me back just this one time? Read on.
But first–What the Hell is a Woo?
The Woo is a tiny piece of hardware that attaches to a kiteboard, a snowboard, skis, a BMX bike, a luge, almost any piece of extreme sports gear you can think of, and blow your mind with data. Want to know how much air you got on that awesome trick in the halfpipe? How many G’s you pulled on your bobsled in that curve? How far over you were cranking on that GS course where you almost ate it? Turn on your woo, and it wirelessly stores the data, visible right after your run on your phone, tablet or laptop. I haven’t checked, but I’m guessing you could even tape a few on your body to check your rotational speed and alignment off of the high-dive or trampoline.
Now, today there are a lot of cool things you can do with your phone. But I wouldn’t take my phone in the water or tape it onto my skis. That needs some specialized gear. In the same way that active athletes use a GoPro instead of their standard phone or camera to film their exploits, those same people can use a Woo instead of any other makeshift gear to check out all of the other data–speed, rotation, g-forces, altitude, orientation, whatever. Hell, connect one to your dog’s tail and figure out how happy he is to see you!
Now, just imagine Olympic lugers having this attached to their sleds, perhaps in combination with a GoPro. Before Woo, all you had were split times, perhaps 4-5 over your run, to determine where you were gaining or losing speed. Was this line more effective than the previous run IN THAT CORNER? It is really hard to tell. With Woo, (granted, with a little programming,) it’s now possible to know, and compare acceleration from one line to another with surprising accuracy. I just cannot conceive of an X-Games where ESPN would not want this data superimposed when the athletes are, say, doing snowboard cross. How high, how far, and how fast? Check the Woo.
It’s Always the TEAM
But if I wasn’t going to distract myself looking at any companies, how did I get wooed by Woosports? Simple–I work next to them every day. My own company, BuysideFX (we’re HIRING, spread the word!), had to move our Boston office when our old lease expired, and our friends at PivotDesk hooked us up with some terrific co-location space. And guess who our neighbors are, working 25 feet away from my desk. You guessed it, Woosports. And that’s how I got reeled in.
I previously had met these guys a few months ago at a TechStars “Meet the Mentors” event, but I’m not actively mentoring this year–just too busy. But I sure noticed them. Amidst all of the typical engineers who make it into TechStars, the Woosies (yeah, I like that too) stood out like supermodels in a computer lab: everyone of them were tan, fit, and talking about kiteboarding. Leo from Germany, Kirk from the US, Sally from South Africa, Ytzen from Holland, Johnny from France. They were fun, but I didn’t them seriously. I didn’t realize that they were mostly all engineers, all with advance degrees, holding issued patents and coming from MIT Labs and General Dynamics and Adidas and Vertex Pharmaceuticals with pedigrees that you don’t associate with jocks. But I did see them at work when I got in early. And they were still cranking when I left at night. And it was those random meetings going by the kitchen, or stepping into the elevator which slowly started eroding my heretofore steely discipline against getting involved directly in more angel investments.
You can tell a lot about people watching them play pingpong. Not just who’s good (and these guys are way too good for most mortals), but who enjoys each other, who is humble enough to take it easy and be patient with a beginner, and who you begin to respect and like on a personal basis. For angel investors, it’s rare to be able to get that type of insight into teams, and I just lucked into it without even trying. In a way, this reminds me of the time I spent with EverTrue. “Hey Leo, I’m from VT, want an intro to Burton Snowboards?” (Too late–they were already on it.) “Hey Ytzen, you met any sports sponsors like Red Bull?” (Ditto.) “Kirk, can I help with some of my old Olympic connections?” (“Absolutely! By the way, do you this guy Tony that we’ve been talking to at the Olympic Training Center?”) Now THESE are my kind of people.
There are all sorts of neat monetization paths, and normal stuff. But it’s the team, always the team. Anyway, I’ve spent more time writing this than I spent all year thinking about angel investments. I’ve got to get back to work, but I’m so glad I have been fortunate enough to get to know these guys. WOOOOOOOOOOOO!