Hudl, Proxibid find common ground at Chamber event on innovation
Hudl and Proxibid employees gathered Tuesday for a meeting of minds at The Mastercraft.
For all the high marks Hudl has earned over the last half-decade — and the company, which has grown from 12 high school clients in 2008 to about two thirds of the high school football teams in the country this year, has had plenty of positive report cards — Hudl co-founder and chief product officer John Wirtz can look back and find room for improvement.
Like in the company's ability to play well with others. Said Wirtz of Hudl's tendency when trying to find the solution to a tough problem: "We look internally too much."
On Tuesday, Hudl not only looked externally but also traveled up Interstate 80 for a little neighborly interaction. It was part of Common Ground, a new quarterly event hosted by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce that brings together representatives from two area companies for discussion and the exchange of ideas.
Hudl, a Lincoln company that makes web-based video analysis and coaching tools for sports teams, joined Proxibid, the Omaha outfit that runs a real auction marketplace, for Common Ground. The event took place at The Mastercraft building north of downtown Omaha.
Following three hours of closed morning discussions between Hudl and Proxibid employees, the event was opened to the public for a lunchtime panel called "Managing Innovation: How is innovation managed, handled and promoted?"
Wirtz and VP of user experience Kyle Murphy represented Hudl on the panel. Chief technology officer Greg Nichols and director of product management Cassius Almeida spoke for Proxibid. SPN's own Danny Schreiber served as moderator.
Though the panel conversation centered around innovation, the event as a whole was just as illustrative of the importance of collaboration. Often, talk of how a region can best cultivate startup success stories leads to truisms like "success breeds success."
But on Tuesday, as two growing companies compared notes and shared insights, the idea of companies helping each other along rang true. Sometimes, keeping up with the Joneses — or at least chatting them up — can be a good thing.
Dusty Reynolds, the Chamber's director of entrepreneurship and innovation, suggested that's part of the goal of Common Ground: "Get together with like-minded people of opposite companies and figure out the world, basically."
Both companies seemed to figure out a few things from their interaction Tuesday.
Wirtz said Hudl could learn from Proxibid's tendency to reflect on completed projects. "We're working on doing a better job … seeing why we're fixing something," he said. "It sounds like Proxibid has a better process in place for that."
Nicholson marveled at Hudl's ability to iterate so quickly. "I was surpassed by how quick and how agile they are," he said, "how they can introduce feedback from a customer within minutes, hours, as soon as they learn it."
Danny Schreiber (from left) led a panel discussion on Tuesday that featured Proxibid's Greg Nichols and Cassius Almeida and Hudl's John Wirtz and Kyle Murphy.
Both companies' representatives stressed that, in their pursuit of new and innovative ideas, they can't forget their users' most basic requirements.
To that end, Hudl has adopted a slogan to keep coaches' most fundamental needs at the forefront of the company's collective thoughts: "Just give me my damn video."
For Proxibid, the equivalent of getting coaches their damn video is delivering auction bids in a timely fashion. "When you're running a live auction that time is of the essence," Nichols said. "You can't afford latency."
Though the companies found common ground, there were also some disconnects. Take, for instance, the companies' use of social media.
Murphy espoused the use of Twitter and Facebook for gauging the sentiments of athletes that use Hudl. "It's really nice," he said, "to have a name that's so easy to search out on those social media channels."
Proxibid, meanwhile, has a user base that skews older and mostly male — a demographic that is less inclined to use social media. "We're not going to have that effective of an approach," Almeida said, "if you try to bring in that demographic with social media."
But the companies gleaned enough from their half-day together that both expressed a desire to continue their dialogue in the future.
"For me," Wirtz said, "it's always, it's just really intriguing talking to a company that has the billions of dollars and the assets that flow through Proxibid."
Concluded Nichols: "I think we did a nice job of talking about the high-level stuff. … I would anticipate, although we haven't talked about it, that we would try to get together here soon."
Credits: Group discussion photo by Danny Schreiber. Panel photo by Michael Stacy.