It was an honour to sit with Mlondi Mashinini a passionate sports fan, whose love for sport saw him not only get a sports-related degree, but also work with Real Madrid and the Kansas City Chiefs before returning to his native South Africa and co-founding Fanbase Analytics, a company that enhances sports teams’ operational efficiency, profitability and fan experience by using data based insights. Key take-aways included:
- Starting your journey as a Founder: Mlondi and his co-founder Earl Patton, combined their experiences at professional sports teams, passion for sport and what they saw as a market gap in South Africa, to create a company aimed at helping sports teams enhance their understanding of their fans and using these insights to improve their business performance. The lesson here is that it is important to combine experience in your industry of choice, a real passion for the industry AND a market need.
- Key Challenge faced in starting Fanbase Analytics: Realising that a key assumption, that South African sports teams would have the data needed in their possession, was wrong. Mlondi and Earl met this challenge by pivoting their business model, according to Lean Start-up principles and performing a ‘zoom-out’ pivot by providing data collection and management as well as data analysis. The lesson here is the importance of listening to your customers and using their feedback to, where appropriate, pivot by modifying your business model.
- Failure: Misunderstanding the scope of work for a project brief, leading to the client almost cancelling all interactions with their company. Mlondi and Earl were proactive in going to the client, apologising and ensuring they took steps to remedy the error but also ensure that in future the scope of work is always written and signed off on by the client. The lesson here is that you will make mistakes, take responsibility for them, fix them and put in place procedures that will prevent or minimise their re-occurrence in future.
- Keys for their success: Being subject matter experts in sports data analytics, having a partner with the same vision and work ethic and Earl’s wide network of contacts were all factors Mlondi mentioned as being key to their success. On a personal note Mlondi emphasised how having a positive/’can-do’ attitude and having objective mentors are his key attributes.
- Key quote: “I will not lose, for even in defeat, there is a valuable lesson learned so it evens up for me”, which Mlondi said is actually a quote from the rapper Jay-Z.