Startup Spotlight: HeddokoAugust 21, 2016
This week we chat with Alexandre Fainberg, Chief Executive Officer of Heddoko – the startup that is reducing injuries and improving performance in all aspects of human movement by transforming movement data into actionable knowledge.
Alexandre: Heddoko, Japanese for head coach, is a data analytics platform with the mission to reduce injuries and improve performance in all aspects of human movement by transforming movement data into actionable knowledge. By bringing the power of 3D motion capture technology out of the laboratory and into the field, we treat all humans as athletes to build stronger, more efficient teams whether they are in the workplace or on the sports field.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Heddoko get started?
Alexandre: Heddoko was born from an idea at the precise intersection of sports, technology, and passion. Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Mazen Elbawab, is a veteran motion capture game developer from Ubisoft and a fervent mix martial arts (MMA) athlete. While training for an MMA amateur competitions, Mazen was faced with the following facts: he needed coaching feedback to optimize his training and avoid injury during practice; coaches were not necessarily available when his intense work schedule allowed it; and the cost of personal coaches was prohibitively expensive. At that precise moment he decided to marry his passion for sports and his passion for software engineering, and decided to develop a motion capture solution that would track his movements and provide coaching feedback.
GH: How did you build your team?
Alexandre: We originally incubated the company at District 3 Innovation Center (D3). D3 is a university [Concordia University] incubator in Montreal, that puts the necessary tools, resources and knowledge in the hands of innovative leaders in order for them to move from idea to impact with confidence. D3 attracts not only aspiring entrepreneurs but also students and recent graduates that are looking to acquire experience, make their first steps in the job market, or simply get a taste of startup life. Driven by their passion for innovation and sports, we manage to put together a team of 7, with different backgrounds and skills (electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and product design for example), in a very short period of time with the help of D3.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
Alexandre: At some point we were stuck with a software bug. We had been struggling for many weeks and we could not see any shred of resolution. It seemed impossible; that we had reached the limits of the brain’s capacity. The team members in charge of software development were very demoralized. One of the developers called me a Friday evening, sleep-deprived, exhausted and very demotivated. He told me how he had no idea how to solve the problem. It seemed we had reached rock bottom.
I am one of the few non-technical members in the company, so I understood at a very high-level the problem in question, and barely grasped the magnitude of the technical challenge. But I knew this: this individual is one of the most skilled and talented developers on the market and I had this blind conviction that it was only a matter of time before he could crack it. The key to bouncing back was to motivate and re-energize the team. As simple as it sounds, the team was so stressed and eager to solve the problem that they had neglected sleeping, eating and exercising properly. That day (actually the following Monday), things started turning around and a few weeks later the bug was fixed.
GH: What did you learn from your first users?
Alexandre: We were astonished and amazed to learn how much our first customers (actually most of our customers) value the ability to visualize the data that we capture. One of our assumptions was that “data visualization is important”. Assumption confirmed and validated. We just did not how important this feature would prove to be.
GH: You hail from Canada – but what has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
Alexandre: Our introduction to the Boston ecosystem started with Techstars as we are graduates from the Techstar Boston 2016 cohort. The Boston managing directors (Eveline Buchatskiy, Semyon Dukach, and Ty Danco) were our first guides and mentors here. We met dozens of local mentors, who in turn made introductions into their networks and that is how we slowly got acquainted with the Boston entrepreneurial scene. We also discovered CIC Boston and Impact Hub where we are now operating our business from.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
Alexandre: Affordable housing!
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
Alexandre: Worst: “Don’t bother, the wearable technologies market is too crowded.”
Best: “Pace yourself; running a startup is like running a marathon not a sprint.”
GH: You just completed TechStars – what do you think made your company stand out during the selection process?
Alexandre: The drive and passion of the founders.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
Alexandre: Re-focusing the entire company on the Industrial Health and Safety market.
GH: What does the future hold for Heddoko?
Alexandre: In the short term we expect to grow very rapidly in the industrial health and safety market. In the medium to long-term we expect to further develop first the professional and elite sports markets, and the consumer sports market (back to our roots and origins). Expansion into video games, virtual reality, entertainment, healthcare, aerospace and defence is also on the horizon.
More about Heddoko on www.heddoko.com