Michael Jordan in 2007 on a golf course. Barbara Moore / Flickr
Sports royalty is no stranger to V1 Sports in Novi, Michigan. In a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, Tiger Woods credits V1’s swing tracking and analysis system with “so many young golfers getting this good so quickly these days.”
“It was a very humanizing effect,” said Bryan Finnerty, CEO of V1 Sports, of the Detroit Free Press. “I’m sure that happens all the time when almost everyone he meets for the first time is struggling to find the words to say.”
With that kind of panache, getting NBA legend (and controversial GOAT) Michael Jordan to invest in sports improvement software should be easy, right? Not after Finnerty. The former Detroit Rockers goalkeeper was prepared with a brief presentation aimed at “not putting him to sleep”.
Instead, the scheduled 30-minute meeting in early April over chicken sausage and eggs turned into a two-and-a-half hour conversation that would lead to the announcement in August that Jordan will be investing in V1 Sports with an equity position through Black Cat Ventures, a Jordan-established golf technology fund.
What made the golf fanatic Jordan invest in V1 Sports? Finnerty described it as a form of Uber for golfers that connects players with teaching professionals through an app. With software integrated into over 3,500 golf club training programs, the technology provides affordable access to educational institutions that evades the pressures of in-person tuition, Finnerty told Forbes.
“MJ said the reason he loves us is because you can have elite classes for non-elite athletes anywhere in the world,” Finnerty said in the article. “The main reason people don’t take classes is because they’re intimidated – not because they’re too expensive, or too hard to find, or too far away, or because they’re too time-consuming.”
Finnerty first joined the video analytics company in the 1990s as a consultant and ambassador. At the time, the company was just beginning to investigate the application of video and telestration technology to sport. For the past three years, V1 has endeavored to provide do-it-yourself golfers who don’t see a professional with the tools to seamlessly integrate suggestions for improvement. Whether it’s viewing specific teaching content or using V1’s shot tracking platform, users can choose their own teaching adventure with tips sent straight from professionals.
Finnerty sees great opportunities in attracting these golfers who want to remove their shots from their scorecards and improve their skills. The now 25-year-old software company delivers more than 50,000 lessons per month, proof of a flourishing classroom. Finnerty believes that a fertile market can sustain V1’s pandemic demand surge, sales growth of well over 20% from 2020.
“Only 15% of the market takes a lesson,” Finnerty told the Freep. “With 30 million golfers in the US, that’s only four and a half million. It’s a pretty small market. So we need to talk about these 25 million other golfers, and how can we serve them? “
With Jordan on board and over 15,000 professionals offering tips, it’s not hard to imagine V1 rising to the forefront of training technology.