🔥 Upside Chat: Sean Harrington, Notemeal CEO (Online platform for nutritionists and dietitians)
This week we had the honor to interview Sean Harrington, CEO of Notemeal, a leading online platform for nutritionists and dietitians. Notemeal currently has 215 nutritionists and 10,000+ athletes on its platform and works with 50 pro teams (NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA, Olympic teams..). The company was recently acquired by Teamworks. Sean is now a GM at Teamworks.
📝 Show Notes: Through this interview, we touched on his background, his role as co-founder of Notemeal. We also talked about his product, the benefits for the teams to use Notemeal and the recent acquisition by Teamworks. Lastly we touched on his plans for the next 12 months.
Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Sean:
On his background: “ If we jump back seven or eight years, I was a collegiate football and baseball player who was also studying computer science. So, I went to a small school called Tufts up in the Boston, Massachusetts area, and I came out of school with a passion to go build software. I was always interested in building in that space. So, I started a few different ventures, more in the transportation space, and I never really hit on any great ideas, which was more due to a lack of execution on my end. And I found myself in a pretty unique opportunity to run the software department for the New England Patriots”.
On how he ended up landing a job at the New England Patriots (NFL): “So we were basically building in-house applications for various departments. It was right in the middle of that great run with the Patriots. So I started there in 2015 and we were at three Super Bowls and we won two. So, it was pretty exciting. So, similar to you and Upside, we saw so many different technologies being used internally. So, we saw a lot of role-specific software, and we saw strength coaches using tools like Kinduct or BridgeAthletic to build workout programs. We also saw coaches using tools like XOS to break down film. Trainers were using those platforms and things like heart rate tracking monitor such as Polar. There were also the folks involved with hamstring testing gear”.
On how he got the idea of Notemeal: “We looked at what our sports dietitian was using. I was intrigued by our dietitian's role with the team. And as the story goes, I walked into Ted's office, Ted is the dietitian over there, still is, and he is a great friend. I walked into his office and he was building meal plans and building educational content on paper, literally. I still have the picture of the plan he wrote me with pen paper. So, the wheel started turning, and I said, "Hey, can we build a solution to help him reach more athletes, more efficiently?" And that's kind of where the light bulb goes off with, "Hey, we're going to build this thing and we're going to call it Notemeal”.
On the 50+ teams they work with: “We work with just over 50 teams. Things have grown pretty darn fast. So, we're now about two and a half years in, with over 50 teams as customers, and with about half of the NFL on the system, and over 10 Power-5 teams, in addition to a growing number in the NBA and NHL. And we're starting to look overseas now. So, from a growth perspective, it's great”.
On his first product: “ We actually have two products. We have the sports dietitian platform, where we're providing a toolkit to amplify the dietitians impact on the team. So that's a toolkit to build meal plans faster. We take that meal plan that takes three hours to build, which dietitians absolutely hate doing, and it takes them about three minutes to do now. That was the first feature. We've got some fun stuff in there with food logs, allowing athletes to track what they're eating via photos, via search, barcode scanner, and it allows the dietitian to go back and forth with them. We'll pull in some body comp data, so whether the team's using a DEXA, InBody, BOD POD or any other device, we can actually ingest that data, feed it forward into the meal plans for some pretty cool automation and analysis”.
On his second product called Performance kitchen: “And then you've got the flip side of that, the second product, if you will, which is called the performance kitchen. So we saw a dietitian spending a lot of time working with food service, whether that was at their own kitchen on site at their training facility or on the road. This also applies when they're trying to figure out how to feed and fuel their athletes, leading up to a competition when they're in unfamiliar territory on the road. So we actually pulled in the kitchen and we have a lot of teams running their kitchen like they're a restaurant right now. So we allow the athletes to get on the app, use their meal plan and combine that meal plan with the day's menu to actually see personalized suggestions. So we hit that plate coaching concept. It's like an education tool. And we can actually allow athletes to send those orders to the kitchen, kind of GrubHub style in-house and those chefs will make those cooked to order meals for pickup. So we have some really cool experiences that we've been able to build for the athletes to provide better vehicles to interact with nutrition”.
On the the types of athletes using its platform today: “ You have two or three different classes of athletes. You have those veterans who are trying to squeeze out another one or two years and they'll do absolutely anything to stay in the field and get out there and keep their bodies functioning at a high level of performance. Then you have the younger folks, who are basically freshmen in college or the rookies in the professional space and with those folks, there's a great opportunity to educate. Some of them are coming in from different backgrounds. They may have grown up with different levels of education with respect to this stuff. So you combine that lack of education with the current kind of social media environment where they're constantly pelted, peppered with content, whether it's a new direct to consumer meal delivery kit or a new supplement who's trying to compete with the dietitian for their attention. And it's part of the dietitian's role to cut through that, to make sure they're making the right science based decisions. So with those folks, it's a great opportunity to get the proper science and research based education in front of them. And we're seeing huge monumental changes in the way that those folks are eating, which again is leading to great changes in both body composition, but also performance. Those things are fueling before the competition and the recovering process afterwards”.
On the pricing models to start using Notemeal: “We bill annually. It's a software subscription, which is similar to almost every other kind of companies selling to the elite athletic space. We are working with those partners. So if you imagine an athlete management system (AMS) such as Smartabase or Kinduct, or the company who acquired us, Teamworks, who sits at the intersection of all sorts of different departments. So it's an annual subscription and we only work in the elite space”.
On the special deal that they are now offering to Teamworks’ customers: “So we are doing some pretty cool promos right now. Again, we're no longer that small startup. We've got a little bit of wiggle room to help kind of grow our user base. So if you are listening and you are an existing Teamworks customer, either in the US or internationally, we'd love for you to reach out. We're doing some pretty cool things with getting you on board ASAP and we're doing some “buy now pay later” discounts”.
On the number of nutritionists and athletes using Notemeal today: “We've got about 215 sports dietitians using the system, which is incredible to think about, back to the days when we were working with Northwestern and Duke and Purdue and the Lions and we had five on there. It seems like it was yesterday. So it's been exciting from an athlete perspective. I think we've just passed the 10,000 mark, which is pretty cool”.
On how Teamworks’ acquisition does not impact Notemeal strategy: “It's one of the most asked questions our customers have been asking us. What does the acquisition mean for us? And Teamworks customers are also asking and what does this mean for us as well. So from a strategy perspective, it doesn't really change much”.
On how Notemeal and Teamworks are coming together: “Now, you have a handful of responsibilities and roles that are very operations driven. So things like when you're traveling from Boston to Miami and you have to call three restaurants, four restaurants, five restaurants, depending on what you're planning to schedule the meals to feed the team or fuel the team. You have to give them your credit card information. You have to figure out whether or not they have a Latin option if you're working in baseball. Can they make accommodations for allergies? Do they deliver? Did the last team eat there? Are you getting the right price? So you think about the operations piece on the road, but also in the building. So thinking about building menus with the chef, and seeing a lot of Google sheets and a lot of Microsoft Excel files flying around, and managing those workflows. So anyway, long story short, with Teamworks, Teamworks has done the best job in the industry of streamlining those specific operational tasks and those communication specific tasks. So when we talk about these highly repeatable tasks, how do we start to automate those with software to allow these dietitians to really focus on the thing they've been trained for eight years to do, which is increased performance through nutrition. So that's why it makes sense from a product perspective. If you think about the schedule that is ingrained within Teamworks. So with Teamworks, we know, for the first time with these athletes at college, when they have class or at the pro level, when they've got community service activities, when they've got practice, lift sessions, film sessions, and we can find those windows in time where they do have opportunities to fuel themselves. So with Teamworks, it's “when”, on the “how much they should eat” and “what they should eat”, and we [Notemeal] have that full picture. So there's a really exciting opportunity with the acquisition”.
On the fact that Notemeal offers both a mobile app and a team dashboard": “So we've got the the mobile app, which is available for the athlete, the dietitian, but also for a chef, which is fun. And we’ve got that admin dietitian dashboard on the web to view all the data to manage all your team workflows”.
On their API integration with teams’ existing systems: “Again, as a very technically focused founder, we used [in our past job with the Patriots] a lot of these tools that are consuming APIs. So it was always on our hot list of things to do. So we actually released a second version of that API on October 20th. And what folks are going to be able to do is to, whether it's a sports science team, or whether it's an athlete management system, they're going to be able to pull nutrient information for each meal consumed by the athlete. That includes meals that the athlete has ordered for pickup. So it's a really fun data set. For a while, folks in this space were using food frequency questionnaires to gauge what was going into the body. We think it's going to be really exciting and we can't wait to see what people build with that”.
On the fact that they are looking to support new languages moving forward: “The app is written in English right now. We had a great call with a few teams overseas, some Spanish speaking countries and clubs and organizations. And we get this question asked quite a bit in the NHL: Can we translate to Russian per se? We get asks to add Spanish and Russian. We've got a lot of asks there and with that, it's right at the top of our list, Julien”.
On its plan for the next 12 months: “Yeah, so I hinted at it before, but we are really starting to look at answering the following questions: How does teamwork schedule? How can we integrate that with our meal plan and educational framework? Timing is so important for these athletes when it comes to fueling, so how do we capitalize on that? That's a data set that no one else is ever going to have. It's proprietary data inside Teamworks. So we're definitely focusing there. We're also really turning the eye to these food service operations. We find a lot of dietitians who are spending a lot of time in that space and it almost bogs them down so much that they're not able to reach as many athletes as effectively as they otherwise could. So without giving too much away there, we've got some pretty exciting plans that we're getting ready to launch probably at the turn of this year. So big ideas and big things are coming and we have lots of work to do”.