Welcome to ‘Female Founders’, the Information Age series profiling 12 women who have grabbed the entrepreneurial reins and ridden into the unpredictability of start-up life.
We talk to the women about their business, entrepreneurship journey and advice they’d give to other women considering starting their own business.
Information Age interviewed all 12 women on the Start-up Catalyst Mission to London this year. Start-up Catalyst runs regular missions for start-ups, investors, and other leaders to some of the world’s top tech hotspots, such as Silicon Valley, Israel, Hong Kong and London. The goal? To transform both the individual and innovation landscape in Australia.
Today we speak with Suzy George, co-founder of Sportech Industries.
Name: Suzy George, co-founder
Business: Sportech Industries
Established: 2015 in Adelaide
No. of employees: 2
No. of customers: Pre-revenue
Information Age: What is your business all about?
Suzy: MyCall by Sportech Industries is the next generation of umpiring assistance tech in cricket.
There’s lots of tech in cricket but none at the bowler’s end. MyCall will call ‘no balls’ automatically. At the moment, that decision is missed 90% of the time.
Essentially, it will help the umpire to make better decisions. It’ll also make the game faster, smoother and create a better fan experience.
IA: How did the name of your business come about?
Suzy: The name MyCall, as in ‘Michael’, is used in our tagline, “Who’s call should the no ball be? Should it be the umpire’s call, or it should be MyCall’s? But it also sounds like a person (Michael) who’s not here.
One of the very famous umpires is Michael Wilson who’s also known as Blocker. It’s a little bit of a spin off that.
IA: How did the idea for your business come about?
Suzy: My husband was sitting at the cricket at Adelaide Oval. He’s with his mate from the UK and it’s one of the games in the Ashes 2013 series. [Cricketer] Ryan Harris went and took the last wicket and he was going to clinch the series for Australia. It was a pretty exciting moment and you’ve got 45,000 fans at the game, that’s usually a sell-out in Adelaide. It’s a great atmosphere.
You only have 20 wickets for an entire game that goes for five days. That moment where you take a wicket is cause for celebration – they’re rare. So Harris takes the last wicket to clinch the series and the whole crowd goes crazy.
He’s won the Ashes for Australia – it’s a really exciting moment!
But then the umpire stops the entire game and has to go back because of the rules and review to see if it actually landed in the right spot before he could call the wicket and declare it.
Instead of the crowd celebrating, everyone just stands around for a while and that moment is lost.
Fan engagement is very much a driving force within sport globally at the moment. You’re really organisations asking, ‘how can we engage with our fans and create a better experience?’
One of the issues that you have is that in a moment like that, you lose their focus and you lose their attention and within a split second, they pick up their mobile phone and starting scrolling through other sporting tournaments from around the world.
All of a sudden, the fans have disengaged from your game and possibly your code, and they’ve gone and engaged with the National Basketball League in America and you’ve lost them.
IA: What step did you next take?
Suzy: My husband is Peter George, a professional cricket player transitioning form elite sports into entrepreneurship. He played for 14 years, and has an engineering background. He’s combined that to really look at this ‘no ball’ problem in cricket.
At that game in Adelaide, he was there as a fan but the was also able to look at it from the position of a player. He thought it was a dreadful way to end a game.
You have situations where players take wickets, then they’re revoked because they’ve bowled an illegal delivery.
Potentially they’ve done that quite a number of times, but the review process is not there until they take a wicket and then that wicket is taken away, so it’s also a poor outcome for the players that are involved in the game.
Pete was watching it unfold on the field saying, “I can see the problem, I could use my engineering knowledge and what I know about machinery and robotics to do something about it.”
IA: How does the technology actually work?
Suzy: It’s something built into the pitch and there’s a sensor clipped onto the back of the player’s shoe which interacts with the sensors on the pitch.
IA: What is the vision for MyCall?
Suzy: To be the most relied upon technology in world cricket.
IA: Who is your ideal customer?
Suzy: Our customers are very much the governing bodies of sport within an individual country. Initially, we’d like to have this in Australia. We’re working with Cricket Australia at the moment, looking at trials and user testing, and really fleshing out our strategy.
Then you move out into English Cricket Board and Indian Cricket Board. At the global level, you’ve got the International Cricket Council which governs cricket across the globe.
There’s quite a big group of countries that play cricket. You’re looking at about three billion fans globally and one million participants.
IA: What’s been the biggest challenge for your business?
Suzy: As founders, our business is only ever going to be as great or as big or as awesome as we want it to be or we envisage it as being because then you go on a journey to work and how you get there.
I think we’re always in the way of our success more than anything else.
That’s certainly something that I’ve pulled out of this trip – just how much is possible in the world.
Is it possible for me and if I don’t believe it is, then why not? Because it’s probably just me getting in the way.
IA: Have you ever wanted to throw the towel in?
Suzy: My husband and I work together and we also have two small children, and there are some days where you think, ‘is this really worth it?’
I think on the outside success always looks very glamorous, and I’ve come to believe that the more successful you are on the outside, often the messier things are on the inside, and that you’ve just got to learn to be comfortable in that space.
Sometimes throwing the towel in is actually just a sign to go, “Something’s not quite right here.” It’s a good sign if you can learn to listen to it and pay attention to it. It’s actually a really healthy thing to say, “For some reasons the balance is not right here, and rather than just give up and throw the towel in let’s work out why we got to this point or why we’re feeling like this and really what’s the actual problem here? What can we do about it?” You can start to have those conversations.
In some ways it can be a really positive thing because it can be alert that something’s actually not quite right. You need to revisit the balance.
IA: What’s been your biggest mistake to date?
Suzy: Not believing in myself. I think if you can go on a journey where you believe in yourself, then so much more becomes possible. It’s about shifting your mindset to say, “I can do this,” and “This is possible and it’s also possible for me,” and then working out then how do I do it!
IA: Were there are people along the way who mentored you, that helped to change that mindset?
Suzy: While mentoring is wonderful you also have to be in the right place to accept that. I think I’ve done a lot of work to get myself into a position where I’m saying, “Hey, I’m actually open to feedback,” and it’s because I’m secure enough in myself.
That’s a really key part of it – to be comfortable in where you’re at, enough to actually open up and say, “I’m ready now for other people to have input and tell me how I can go on that journey to be who I need to be.”
IA: Who put you on the path to entrepreneurship?
Suzy: My mom said to me the other day, “I think I’ve just realised that you’re not really meant to have a normal job.” I was a bit sad for myself that I hadn’t realised that before.
I worked in a big corporate and they were a wonderful employer and I worked with wonderful people, but I was never truly comfortable there.
I wanted to do something that mattered to me that I believed was actually important.
If I was going to put in a lot of hard work, I didn’t want it to be just for somebody else.
I just couldn’t see the justification there of spending my whole entire life working in a company where I don’t really see the end results of that.
I ended up here which is the place that’s allowed me a lot of flexibility. I get to structure my time and my life around what’s very important to me. No one tells me you have to go and do this. If it’s not valuable to me I get to choose that I don’t do it.
IA: With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you would’ve done differently on your start-up journey?
Suzy: I would have gone a lot faster and realised how much potential there is. We’re in the process of raising our first seed funding round, and that’s really going to accelerate our growth. But it wasn’t until someone sat with us and said, “This is how you do this, this is how you should structure it.” That we’d even considered it to be really an option for us.
Again, it’s maybe that you know it’s possible, but is it possible for us? It’s just opened this world of possibilities that we didn’t even realise existed. It’s just sometimes someone opening the door just a crack and giving you a view in, and if you’re in the right place to see that, you realise that that’s an opportunity.
IA: How have you funded your business to date and are you seeking to raise capital?
Suzy: Bootstrapped to date. We’re in the middle of a seed funding round at the moment.
IA: What will be the first international market you’ll enter?
Suzy: We’ve got two choices here, it’s India and the UK. Australia, India and the UK is certainly our big three focus.
IA: The cricketing nations.
Suzy: Absolutely. It’s just an obvious choice, you just really look where the game is played at a big level and with ease of access.
UK probably has ease of access. India is a bigger market. The IPL there, their sponsorship value is greater than that of the basketball league in America, and it’s only an 8-week competition!
That’s certainly been one of the outcomes of this trip – really understanding a little bit about that UK market and how easy and accessible it is. We’ve got organisations who are just there to support that transition into a global market, so it’s been really exciting and sometimes it’s hard to find out about these things when you’re just sitting in your bubble in Brisbane.
It’s been really great to know that there’s that support networks for us there as we expand that don’t actually have to go out there and do it all by ourselves. There are entire bodies and people and organisations who really are there to just provide those support services.
IA: What advice do you have for women thinking about starting the entrepreneurial journey?
Roulla Yiacoumi travelled on the 2019 Startup Catalyst Mission to London with the Female Founders.