Startups Inside the Asia-Pacific Sports Analytics Conference 2016

We co-sponsored the APAC Sports Analytics Conference along with Oracle, KPMG and SAS. It seems a strange choice for an online wagering company, but I felt it was important to engage with the broader sports tech and innovation community. I believe the strongest way to accelerate innovation inside our company, and any company for that matter, is fully embrace open innovation. This is much harder than it looks in a competitive environment that moves really fast.

Engaging with intent

One way we've been doing this is to host events such as the Sports Analytics Meetup at our offices and support events like this one. When we were discussing the sponsorship with John and Johann from PSCL , it was important for me that the overriding Sportsbet message of the day is "if you're a start-up or early stage company looking to access customers and scale, we're happy to embrace some risk and iterate with you to growth'.

Easy to say, but unless you're pursuing this with integrity and the the right intent, it can quickly degenerate into innovation theatre, or worse, a huge time and resource suck for the entrepreneurs for whom both are scarce commodities. 

Taking more innovation risk with Startups

I hosted the startup pitch session, where we showcased 12 startups and one success story from last years pitch session, and I loved it. This is where the real innovation begins.

As I said in my closing remarks,

We’re engaging with startups because we understand they need customers and scale, therefore revenue, and we have that, and they have fresh thinking and innovation and we all really need more of that

I strongly encourage you to do the same where you can. Take more risk - you'll probably fail a lot, but you'll learn more than you lose.  This is not a shortcut to creating innovation in your company, it's one piece of the puzzle to connect to external innovation

If you're in the sports technology space, I encourage you to reach out to these innovators:

Scaling from 200 to 800+ attendees

Huge congratulations to PSCL for an event that started with 200 attendees last year and has grown to over 800 this year, with 77 speakers, opening remarks by Minister for Sport @ Victorian Government, John Eren MP and Laura Anderson, a Director & Board Member @ Australian Grand Prix Corp

With the quality of speakers, small improvements on this year and the massive growth in this area in Australia and the region, I'm sure we'll double the numbers again next year.

Virtual Reality F1 Racing Contest

To add a bit of fun to the day, our eSports experiment, Respawn, gave away a Playstation 4 to David Vitali for the best time set on the immersive HTC Vive and F1 game , Live for Speed. 

Mission accomplished

Based on anecdotal feedback during the day, a few follow-up chats with startups and people on the day, we've had a great outcome. Yes, we're a wagering company and that may or may not be your thing, but we're also a high growth, pure play online tech company and we have scope to learn, iterate and do really interesting things. One more piece of the puzzle in place.

And hit up those startups - you may learn something.

How to use the power of startup 'office hours' to stay connected and save time

Imagine how many times a week you would get ideas and opportunities pitched to you if you worked in a high-growth industry that was cash rich, reached millions of customers, are  a successful and respected brand and your role is 'Head of Innovation'.

This is the lucky challenge I was facing when I started in my new role six months ago. I was getting contacted for meetings, coffees and calls by startups, people with ideas, software vendors and more every day via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and phone. After building four startups and being on the other side of this relationship, and wanting to stay open to fresh ideas while respecting everybody's time, including mine, I needed a solution.

And the solution? Startup 'Office Hours'.

If you're not familiar with this, it's normally a 15 or 30 minute slot with a prominent investor, successful founder or subject matter expert run back-to-back to give random early founders access to a broader network and skills.
It's run with #nofilter and very efficient. I've done a few for Startup Victoria and they are rewarding for both parties.

So I decided to give it a test run. I updated my LinkedIn and Twitter profiles with a Calendly link and a note reading

Thanks for connecting. I get a lot of pitches for ideas, products, services, etc and would like to explore as many as possible for our business. Please set up time here
Thanks, Leslie"

I created three 15 minute slots each Wednesday and blocked out the time. It felt weird and a little arrogant, but I decided I needed to find a balance between creating often valuable, random inbound connections and not spending an hour twice a week having coffee with strangers ;-)

The result?

It works brilliantly. Within 48 hours I was booked out for 8 weeks. Most people are prepared to wait, are very well prepared to cut to the chase due to the 15 minute time constraint and we quickly agreed to explore further or not.

I've agreed no with 60% of the calls, which is good for both parties, had follow up meetings with 20% more, connected 20% to internal colleagues for follow up and are in active commercial conversations with the rest.

It's worth a go if you're looking for a way to keep your mind open and external radar working while controlling and managing your time. Each 15 minute meeting has saved me 45 minutes. That's 2.25 hours a week I get back.