Inside Track: Orreco co-founder and chief executive Brian Moore
Data analysis company helps elite athletes optimise their performance
Orreco chief executive Brian Moore and golfer Pádraig Harrington. Photograph: Shane O’Neill Photography
Orreco was founded in 2009 and uses cutting-edge machine intelligence and advanced learning to help some of the world’s most advanced athletes analyse their health and performance data in order to enhance their performance, to accelerate their recovery and, ultimately, prolong their careers.
The company, founded by Dr Brian Moore and clinical director Dr Andrew Hodgson, employs 30 people and has offices in Galway, London and Cambridge, Massachusetts. In June this year they opened an office in Los Angeles and launched their first consumer product for the mass market, an app called FitrWoman.
What sets your business apart from the competition?
It’s a combination of proprietary data sets (GPS data, wellness data, training statistics, etc), world-leading sports and data scientists and working with phenomenal athletes who are constantly striving to get better so therefore we have to do the same.
To deliver that we have a network of truly world-class partners such as NUIG, Harvard Medical School, the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Houston. In addition, our team has published more than 300 peer-reviewed research papers.
Our model is that all members of our technical team have, or are working towards having, a PhD, but also that our work is grounded in practical science and the real world.
What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
It’s something that my dad relayed to me from my grandfather who was a carpenter: “Measure twice and cut once.” We have to be very analytical in what we do but it is also important for us to make decisions and to keep making them, so we try to assess things as much as we can and then, when we make a decision, we act decisively.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
I have made countless mistakes and without a doubt will make many more which hopefully I will learn from. Any mistakes I have made have been a result of not listening to my gut instinct. Other than that I think you just have to get on with it. I have also been lucky to have many mentors who have all helped me massively to avoid obvious mistakes and then, when things haven’t gone to plan, helped me analyse why.
And your major success to date?
I am really proud of the team we have built and, in many ways, the mark of our success is that our clients perform at the highest level. To sign contracts, serve and then renew contracts with world-class athletes, I consider a great success. I’ve been doing this since before the Sydney Olympics and the joy of this is that you find yourself in scenarios watching Pádraig Harrington risk it at a major or watching Sonia O’Sullivan perform at the Olympics or you’re inside the ropes watching Graeme McDowell at the US Open or you’re in a sporting colosseum like Madison Square Garden, Wimbledon or St James’s Park and you know that your work is making a difference. It’s a great feeling.
Who do you most admire in business and why?
Mark Cuban, the businessman, investor, TV personality and billionaire owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. I read his book and fast-forward to recent times when we signed a contract with the Dallas Mavericks and I’ve been dealing with him directly.
Considering the scale of his businesses, how hands-on he was and the speed at which he operated was pretty breathtaking. I thoroughly enjoy any interaction I have with him, especially when discussing the future of sport, particularly with regard to machine intelligence. He’s really hot in that area. To put it into context, he invested in Twitter because they had improved their machine learning and the stock jumped 4 per cent.
Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?
When Andy Hodgson and I started the business, it was a tough ask. We got great support from Enterprise Ireland and through the European Investment Bank, which got us off the ground. What we were going in with to the banks was quite farfetched, yet they took the time to understand our business. We had a credible plan, we hit our milestones and we got the support. So in that regard I can’t speak highly enough of the team in Bank of Ireland Sligo.
What one piece of advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy?
Aside from expanding on capital expenditure, on infrastructure projects, rural broadband development and supporting the national research agenda, I’d love to see “start your own business” courses taught at every level of our education system. I’d like to see them synched with a national competition that captured the public’s attention. I’d like to see that then aligned with a crowdfunding type platform where the public could invest in their favourite ideas. I think it might help us unearth the next John and Patrick Collison of Stripe.
What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
When we started out, some of our ideas seemed very far-fetched and the concepts also required advancements in computing technology. Our approach was to have really strong scientific evidence to underpin all our technology. Outside of our early adopters and investors, we needed to wait for clients to be ready for our solutions. That is most certainly the case now.
How do you see the short-term future for your business?
We are continuing to grow our presence in professional sport in the United States and in Europe. We are going to build out our team and add to our product suite. We are entering the amateur market with our first consumer product in June. It’s our first foray into the consumer market and we will continue to evolve that side of the business.
What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
Our business is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. We’ve had fantastic Irish angel investors from the get-go but recently we completed a series A investment from True Ventures in Silicon Valley.
They were the first investors in Fitbit. They share our vision and ambitious plans for the future where our ideas can translate to the weekend warrior and be useful to millions of people training for their next athletic event or simply to improve their health and wellness.
Orreco was built from the outset with the idea that it could one day list on the stock exchange. So to change our plans for a trade sale, it would require a very large consideration.