Vokalo gets football coaches and players on the same audio wavelength
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The shortest elevator pitch in the world: “We are introducing communication as a performance optimizer in sports.”
Company: Vokalo. “Since we’re focused on communication, it’s about being vocal.”
Location: Aarhus, Denmark
Year of foundation: 2019
Funding cycle to date: “Pre-seed. We did what I would call a pre-seed round with some investors, and we have public funding in Denmark. The next round will be defined as a selection round.
Who are your investors? “Brian Moller and Kalle Hvidt Nielsen. Kalle Hvidt Nelson is a senior executive in the audio industry in Denmark. He held various CEO positions in audio companies such as B&O, DPA Microphones. Brian Moller also been working in the audio industry for quite some time. He founded several companies. He now works for Roku. Both bring a lot of expertise within the audio industry.
Looking for more investment? “Yes.”
Tell us about yourself, co-founder Jens Knudsen: “I am 33 years old and have a Masters in Supply Chain Management from Aarhus University in Denmark. I was a management consultant for Ernst and Young on their consulting team within
Vokalo co-founder, 33, Jens Knudsen
supply chain management, but have various projects in all sectors and fields. I played football on a somewhat professional level and coached the top football academy here in Denmark with EGF. It’s my experience to know something about the industry, especially in football. I have never started a business before. This is my first full-time startup experience.
Who are your co-founders/partners? “Jakob Hjort Nygaard is my brother and co-founder. Jakob has a background in teaching. He was educated at the highest level of the Danish Ski Association, where he trains others to become ski instructors. It really focuses on learning and feedback, that whole area, which our product supports as well. We started together, and soon grew to five full-time employees. We have a few part-time students who help us. We have another partner in Jon Fogh. Jakob and I started the company in 2019 and in the summer of 2021 Jon joined as Chief Technology Officer. He brings extensive experience in software development. For 20 years, he has also worked within what is called NLP. This is language processing in software.
How does your service work? “We have a set of material. We are not yet in a launch phase, so it is a prototype, a pre-launch phase, but we have test customers who pay for their rental of this equipment. When they rent this equipment, they can purchase additional services on top of that. The product facilitates direct communication between coach and player, regardless of distance. Thus, the athletes wear this device, the vest, and the coach can activate the lines of communication with the athletes despite this distance. This means the coach can provide feedback in better timing. They don’t need to be close to the athletes to provide feedback. They may provide feedback differently than normal. So, for example, when asking questions, they may speak to the athlete in a voice like (in this interview) instead of shouting, which can come across as aggressive and sometimes the message is blown away and noise, etc. This is the first part of our product. We also plan to use communication as a performance indicator.
What problem does your business solve? “Coaching is now often limited by poor feedback conditions. So the distance between a coach and an athlete, the noise of the wind, multiple athletes shouting together, that’s a problem we solve.
How much does your product cost and who are your target customers? “We haven’t launched yet, so we don’t have fixed costs yet. Right now we are focused on acquiring test customers who get the product at a great price, and they will provide us with valuable feedback on what should be adjusted, etc., and help us gather data. We are slowly acquiring more customers, this is part of our plan with our current solution. Our target customers are elite sports and at the moment it is only for football teams in elite sports.
Coach Niels Frederiksen of Danish club Broendby is trying to get a message across to his players, which Vokalo could simplify.
How do you market your product? “At the moment we don’t have huge marketing efforts as we have been focused on product development and getting customer feedback.”
How are you evolving and what is your targeted level of growth? “We are not focused on scaling at the current stage. By 2027, we are aiming for 2,400 teams.
Who are your competitors and what sets you apart? “Right now with pure communication, some of the competitors are AXIWI, VokKero and Armony (Ltd.). Only Armony sports offers coach-player communication. We have a flexible and dynamic user interface that makes it easy to contact with players versus other sports. We have huge plans on how we can use communication as a performance enhancer, while the companies I just mentioned are just focused on live communication.
What is the unfair advantage that separates your company? “Going in the long-term direction, we will not only focus on live communication, but also use communication as valuable insight into communication performance.”
The product facilitates direct communication between coach and player, regardless of distance. Thus, the athletes wear this device, the vest, and the coach can activate the lines of communication with the athletes despite this distance. This means the coach can provide feedback in better timing.
What milestone have you recently taken or will you take soon? “We have received multiple investments, both from investors and from self-funded organizations in Denmark. We have acquired three elite clubs in Denmark as test customers, which is an important step. Regarding the products, we have confirmed that we can deliver what we really want to do in the future.
How have you adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic? “Fortunately, to be honest, we haven’t had so many problems due to the COVID pandemic. We are not yet in a commercial launch phase, so we have not encountered any problems with the sale and supply of components. To be honest, the COVID pandemic hasn’t hit us very hard. »
Beyond the pandemic, what obstacles has your business had to overcome? “One of the biggest issues we face is people using it because it will force people or coaches to change their behavior about how they coach there. We have good feedback and we are slowly starting to overcome (this) that they are actually implementing our system into daily training, even though they know it might lead to some short term inefficiency.
What values are at the heart of your brand? “We’re really looking to rethink how we train top athletes, train them and give feedback to top athletes, and how we can explore communication even further than we do now. Innovation and redesign are good. We and our clients need to rethink how they organize training sessions, how they assess performance, and how they view communication as a performance enhancer. It’s a new way of thinking and working with different sports and athletes that has never been done before.
What does success ultimately look like for your business? “We are innovating the sports industry and creating even better athletes.”
Vokalo’s device is audio equipment with a vest worn by players.
What should investors or clients know about you – the person, your life experiences – that shows they can believe in you? “A solid experience in both sport and business, and then we have an extremely competitive and competent team with various expertise. So Jakob, my co-founder, is really good at feedback and learning. Jon is extremely good at software development, and this can help us create new products extremely quickly with specific know-how within the sports industry.
What is the main benefit of better communication for athletes? “It creates better learning environments. It’s about making players better and giving coaches a tool to provide better feedback with better timing in a more optimal way. This creates better learning environments, which will lead to better athletes and, therefore, better performance.
Do you have a favorite leadership quote? “‘Wisdom is always greater than strength. It’s from Phil Jackson. Sport and business are complex by nature, and complexity must be resolved through structure, experience and curiosity. I believe that those who are aware of their weaknesses and strengths and, at the same time, dare to explore the unknown over time will surpass and, therefore, surpass those who believe that hours spent are the driving factor for success.”
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