Seriously, what were the odds of us being around after 5 years? YinzCam started off in 2007 as a research project out of Carnegie Mellon University, headed by a computer-engineering professor and with a number of undergraduate/graduate engineering and design students for employees. We spun off from the university in May 2009. We had a zero track-record in the sports industry, we had no industry knowledge, and more importantly, we had no rolodex within the industry. We had no money in the bank, and no venture-capitalists to back us. All we had was a product idea born of being sports fans, and a passion and a deep conviction to make that idea come to life. We had generous people in Pittsburgh (Dave Soltesz and Audrey Russo, I’m looking at you both) who saw something in us and gave us a chance, embracing us even when we had not proven ourselves to them. Our engineering background and our Carnegie Mellon roots made us think (perhaps, naively) that nothing was impossible, if you believed in your idea, if you were determined to make it happen, and if you poured your heart into the work.
We made a lot of mistakes. A lot.
We learned everything the hard way, simply by doing it.
We changed our business model several times.
We learned how to sell a product.
We learned what product to sell.
We learned what customer service meant.
We learned what matters to sports teams.
We learned what matters to fans.
We learned to adapt our products to clients’ needs.
We learned to take critical feedback the right way.
We learned to apologize when we screwed up.
We learned that, while the quality of your product gets a client on board, your integrity, your transparency, and your responsiveness (both as an individual and as a company) are what keeps a client’s trust.
What we have in abundance is gratitude. To this day, I remain grateful whenever any team is willing to even let me in the door to have a conversation with them. I am thankful for every bit of education about the industry and its workings that I get from so many people who have deeper industry roots/experience than I do. I still get goosebumps every time I enter a new stadium/arena that I’ve never been to before. I am as delighted as my 7-year old at every kick-off, every tip-off, every puck-drop for one of our teams. I still pinch myself when people from teams/leagues are willing to have a conversation with me–yes, me–a computer engineering professor with no prior background in the industry.
I am eternally grateful to every one of our clients who has stuck with us, to every client who has graciously accepted our apologies when we screwed up, to every client who pushed us to have the courage of our convictions when it came to our products, to every fan who has downloaded and used one of our apps, to every fan who has written to us with suggestions to improve our products and has made us better, to everyone who opened the door when we knocked, and to everyone who believed in us (even at times when we didn’t believe in ourselves).
We’re here after five years because of you. Thank you.