This week we had the honor to interview Donato Campagnoli, Zlam CEO, a leading sports video analysis startup.
Show Notes: Through this interview, we touched on his background, and his role at Zlam. We also talked about his startup, his product, and how it benefits the tennis clubs. We also discussed his plans for the next 12 months.
Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Donato:
On his background: “ I have an academic background as a professional interpreter, but during my university time I have discovered that I had tennis in my blood and my veins. So once the university period was over, I started another educational pathway with the Italian Tennis Federation to get the highest qualification as a coach here in Italy. By the way, I am also a PTR International Master Professional and a USPTA Master Professional. I have been coaching for almost 30 years: my vocation has always been to coach professional players, but I also worked at clubs with players of all ages and all levels. I have been collaborating for the last seven years as a technical advisor for the Italian Tennis Federation and this gave me the opportunity to travel all over the world to attend international conferences as a speaker and to create an important network.
On how he got the idea of building his tech startup: “So 15, 20 years ago, I was the one traveling with cameras to record matches of professional players. After matches, I would go back to my hotel room and I would try to analyze matches. I think there is one thing called the "perception", so what you see when watching live performances of players. And then there is another thing which is when you go back home and you try to analyze in detail how the match really developed. So by combining the two experiences, the live experiences, and the after-match experiences, what I wanted to do was to communicate in a different way with the players I was coaching, and in all areas of the game, even the relationship between the player and myself. And then I got the idea which then became the inspiration for Zlam. "What if I could have a system available or a set of cameras distributed on the court so that we could record matches and extract information from the players’ interactions?". At the same time, all of a sudden, several companies, especially from Israel, launched a system in the market: they were pioneers in this particular market.
On what he wanted to offer tennis clubs and players with his product Zlam: “I thought that all these great systems were too much concentrated on the technology itself and less on the user experience. So the origin of Zlam was quite simple. It was about how to provide tennis players, coaches, club managers, federations, academies and so on, a different experience. And above all we want these stakeholders of the Tennis Industry to make the next step in the future of consumer sport tech".
On what his product is: “We are providing a customized, emotional and engaging experience. People love numbers and stats but what they really want as players, coaches, as stakeholders, are feelings, emotions, the understanding of the game and that sense of belonging. And this is what Zlam offers. Zlam is a combination of things. First, it's an acquisition system, because you need a system in order to record matches systematically. And then our technology is capable of analyzing this data in order to produce some meaningful and valuable information. We built this capability into a B2C solution (see below) and also into our Zlam Platform, which is a web app where you can access, as a coach or an expert, very in depth and insightful information about the tennis match”.
On the underlying computer vision technology used by Zlam: “We use both computer vision and AI. We wanted to develop a very light system, meaning with as little hardware used for the system as possible, with just one camera and one PC. And we wanted a very user-friendly system to be installed on a tennis court, which should also be low cost. For the service and the equipment, the total cost is around 3,500 euros. There is a monthly fee to activate the software, too”.
On all the services offered by Zlam: “We are now working on the integration with a platform delivering online court booking services and data for management/administration to 1500 italian clubs. For those clubs that do not have this platform we are releasing our Zlam APP. We guarantee our customers the recording of the matches, the live streaming of matches, and of course analytics which include the insights and statistics about the performance of the tennis players. So to summarize we install a hardware system at clubs that have various software packages with different pricings available. For example you can buy 30 hours, 60 hours, or 100 hours and so on. In a couple of weeks we're going to install the first systems. .
On the tennis players’ journey: “So say you have a tennis club with 50, 100, or 1,000 members that can access the platform and book the tennis courts online. As we said we are integrating with this platform so that the members can not only book the tennis court online at a particular time, but they now can also activate the recording of the tennis match for the time that they're scheduled to play. And that particular match is live streamed because we want to offer players the possibility to be on TV or to be live streamed to anyone. We also want to provide people with the ability to get insights about their performance. So ultimately we want to democratize this technology, and make it available to everyone”.
On their footprint in Italy: “We have a footprint of about 1,500 clubs in Italy, with about 700,000 tennis players. So our goal and mission is also to scale. Right now the most important thing is to provide these potential 700,000 tennis players a new tennis experience (..) With our technology players can continue reliving their tennis experience once they are back home. We are convinced that it's a great advantage for the tennis clubs. We want to start here in Italy, but we also plan to expand internationally in the next couple of years”.
On their plans for the next 12 months: “So our first goal is to enter the market. And step number two is to improve our system because I do believe in research and development (..) But above all, we have to work on and to strengthen our team. At the end of the day with our tech I want to revolutionize the world of tennis and develop something customized for broadcasters based on data visualization of smart analytics. That’s our plan for the next 12 months”.
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