Business idea: PuttView helps with golf training
Year founded: 2015
The invention of the two founders Lukas Posniak and Christoph Pregizer helps with golf training and visualises the target line, ball path, alignment aid and movement recommendations for any selected putt on the green surface
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PuttView: The Golf Whisperers
PuttView helps with golf training and visualizes on the green surface finish line, ball course, alignment aid and movement recommendations for any selected putt. The two founders, Lukas Posniak and Christoph Pregizer, have not only achieved visualization but also control and training of all important putt parameters. In addition, the software offers a number of other forms of play and training.
“We are a good example of a relatively structured approach to setting up a business. First we wanted to start a business, then we both started to work: Christoph Pregizer at Siemens, me at Volkswagen. At some point we were convinced that our founding idea had the right direction and we gave up our jobs,” says engineer Lukas Posniak. The goal of both of them was to create a training environment for Golf with the help of Augmented Reality (AR). “We then discussed various ideas during this phase, most of which weren’t very promising. This was different with PuttView: “Even though the idea sounded relatively crazy, we saw great potential in it,” adds Christoph, who is responsible for the technical side at PuttView. Lukas takes care of the business.
In good hands
“In the beginning, we needed a mentor for our project. That’s why we approached professors all over Germany who are experts in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Prof. Dr. Frank Steinicke, from the ‘Human-Computer Interaction’ department at the University of Hamburg, was at the top of the list,” reports Lukas. After a meeting they found out: it fits. On the one hand in terms of content, on the other hand Prof. Dr. Frank Steinecke was also keen on the implementation – he had already had a taste of golf.
The two engineers moved especially to Hamburg for the foundation. “So basically we came to the university from the outside. We found it positive that it went so smoothly and that we were so well received. Nils Neumann from the start-up consultancy then worked with us on the Exist applications. Through Prof. Steinicke, contact was established with a programmer who was still missing from the team. Of course, we have written codes before, but we were far away from software development,” explains Christoph.
“In the beginning it was most difficult to find personnel at all. You only have one idea and no money. Nothing to lure people out with,” says Lukas. In the meantime, PuttView has evolved: The startup now has 7 employees plus six part-timers.
At the moment we are looking for another software developer and a sales person. “But they are also in great demand on the market. So far, we’ve only been looking for academics. Now we are also looking for people with training. But where can you find them? You have to search like a truffle pig, because someone like that doesn’t just knock on your door. The personal network is still the best here. We were also looking for our installer/electrician for the worldwide commissioning of our systems. I simply approached the electrician from the kitchen installation in my apartment. Although he wasn’t interested in visiting the most beautiful golf courses in the world, he knew someone,” says Lukas laughing. Christoph adds: “We asked the employment office for a pile of 15 people. They were all asked to apply, but only two of them contacted us.”
Who does not dare, does not win
At that time, after the joint termination in 2015, Lukas and Christoph have for the first time dealt more intensively with the hardware side of the project. But already after one day it was clear: The available AR glasses were not even suitable for the development: “That was perhaps also a little naive of us. The glasses were just new on the market in 2015 and the marketing promised more than was actually possible. Our mentor, Prof. Dr. Steinecke, also didn’t know these glasses well enough for an assessment. When we held them in our hands, the world suddenly looked different. But that didn’t turn out to be so bad in retrospect. Because our naivety ensured that we made a virtue out of necessity and initially developed PuttView as an indoor version. Although our market forecasts for this were initially very skeptical, we have now been taught better,” Christoph continues. They simply thought about how the developed information could get into the player’s field of vision: “In the meantime we even thought about lasers for visualization on the golf course. But you would have had to wear protective glasses,” adds Lukas with a laugh.
After two futile test days with the AR glasses, we first came across the beamer: “Using a projector, we were able to show the finish line, ball course, alignment aid and movement recommendations – but only when putting on the indoor green. For us, this should above all be an intermediate step”, says Christoph.
An important step was the InnoRampUp funding of the city of Hamburg, says Lukas: “Especially for the further development of the beamer prototype. Otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are today. We were always very sales-oriented. That is essential. Sometimes I have the feeling with other start-ups that they are struggling from financing to financing. But when will sales come? When does the product come to the customer? Christoph adds: “Because the only currency that counts at the end of the day is sales. Customers and sales. Everything else is a dream. Or a bet on the future.”
The development of PuttView
Viewlicity GmbH was founded in October 2015. The name is a combination of the English terms “view” and “simplicity”, which is intended to emphasize the focus on applications in the field of visualization and learning. PuttView was presented in April 2016 as the first product. This is a system in which the green surface is analyzed and stored as a 3D model. Thus it is possible to calculate the parameters for the perfect putt.
“The idea came during the golf training: It was somehow unsatisfactory, because the feedback was missing. Where do I actually have to play the ball? That was very random,” explains Lukas.
Among other things, PuttView helps you to read the break, indicates the start direction and the speed. For Christoph the crucial point: “I have been playing golf for almost 20 years and am also an engineer. I knew that everything could be calculated. If you train and aim the wrong way or play at the wrong speed, many people don’t recognize their mistakes well enough. This of course reduces the learning success and is frustrating. The visualized computer calculation gives you a reference and helps you to optimize your learning success. A trainer friend, who trains high school students, only allowed them to putt with Puttview for three months. Nothing else. For the majority of students, putting has improved due to the optimal feedback from the program.”
In particular, the training of the speed control makes PuttView an extraordinary system: “It is the only training system that can display the speed of the ball when putting”, emphasizes Lukas. Augmented reality visualizes this information for the golfer. The ideal putting line for the player is projected onto the green via a beamer. Bryson DeChambeau, one of the TOP10 golfers in the world rankings, calls this “brain training”. Because what PuttView displays on the green is what should ideally take place in the golfer’s head before the putt. Christoph is convinced that if the player has a concrete picture in his head of how the putt is to be carried out, he will usually succeed in doing so.
The feedback is positive and varied: “Each of our customers uses the system offered in their own way: Some paint a miniature golf course on their putting green, others only use the lines, are more visually on the move and train the brain. Everyone benefits individually. We want to respond to these diverse needs and not force them into our concept,” says Lukas.
PuttView’s innovative approach is confirmed by various awards, such as winning the Hamburg Innovation Award in the Idea category in 2015 and the Auggie Award, the “Oscar” of the Augmented Reality industry in 2016.
The first customer
But what happened on the business side? “At the end of the Exist phase, we had our first customer in 2016: Peter Merck from the Golf Lounge in Hamburg. At the beginning there was a big press event, magazines asked us. That brought us extremely forward. For us, it was the best showroom ever. In the first year, we had about three or four customers, each of whom felt like a breakthrough,” says Lukas.
First the USA, then the rest of the world
First contacts were made at the PGA Show 2017 and some months later the first systems were delivered in the USA. One of our first customers in the USA was the golf professor Bryson DeChambeau. That was in April 2017, an absolute highlight for us! We’ve been working closely with him ever since,” says Lukas. During the same period, we entered into several binding partnerships. Among others with Englishman Phil Kenyon, probably the most famous putt trainer, who permanently has four to five top ten players under his wing and trains them in his putt studio.
One of the important distribution partnerships is with Full Swing Golf, a large company for golf simulators: they produce a movable green that can be adjusted with motors (under the green). With this PuttView 2018 was on the biggest golf fair of the world in Orlando, USA. So you got your foot in the door of the world’s biggest golf market.
Christoph: “The USA is our main market. Especially the Tier One Colleges and Schools, which offer an indoor facility for 10 to 20 million for the bad weather. Soon we will have equipped ten of them. If one wants it, the others want it too:
When we installed the first system in Texas, it was for two entrepreneurs who wanted to do their own thing with an indoor golf location there. In summer they have about 35 degrees, nobody wants to play outside. I was skeptical at first, but when we told you they were the first in Texas and number five in the US, they were totally over the moon.”
Convince with performance
“We are not door-to-door salesmen. We see it more as taking advantage of the opportunities that come our way. Most of these have come about and were not planned in advance. We think partnerships should be lived, so we usually do more than is actually in the contract. If the partnership is important to you, you should do that. On the other hand, there were also situations where a certain building block was needed. Then you have to be a truffle pig and dig around until you find it,” Lukas muses.
Worldwide, a total of more than 60 PuttView systems are now in operation, the majority of them in the USA. “In 2018, we had a joint booth with our partner at the PGA Show, and in 2019 we already had our own booth there,” Christoph underlines the progress. Apart from further conquering the American market, Australia and Asia are also on the agenda: “In mid-2018, we launched the first system in Japan, followed by the first system in Thailand in 2019. However, we are not yet represented at all in the other markets such as China and Korea.”
Lukas: “As a takeaway for other founders: You can make many plans, but the most important thing is to adapt to the realities. If the distributor doesn’t have time and doesn’t want to do it, you can write it on your list, but it still won’t happen. Then you just do it a little sooner or later. But you should never lose sight of your goals.”
Where the journey is going
The goal was always to bring PuttView outdoors from the indoor area: “From the beginning, our plan was to bring the system to the golf course with augmented reality glasses,” Christoph emphasizes. A pilot project for this is already running in Berlin, and more people are to be equipped with it in 2019. At the Porsche European Open on the Green Eagle GC, the developers were able to project their technology onto outdoor greens for the first time with augmented reality glasses and successfully take the next step in the company’s history.
“Basically, the golf idea is just the first of many possible applications for AR for us: we want to use this technology to create an immersive learning environment that helps people perform complex processes and motion sequences. We see this opportunity in other sports as well. Our long-term goal is that people will eventually be on the court wearing their own glasses. A corresponding app that can be downloaded from an app store for glasses will then provide the supplementary visualization,” Lukas explains the vision.
Capital yes, but not at every price
In the near future, they do not want to sell the project: “We both did not start to flip the company after two years. Incidentally, all founding parties should always be clear about that,” Christoph says, both laughing. Of course, that would be an option in the future, however, “You would run your company differently if you knew it was going to be sold in 2 years,” Christoph notes.
“Many would probably have started looking for capital earlier than we did. For us, opportunities arose here as well, but we were then able to manage it on our own. In the meantime, we are looking for capital, but not at any price. That improves the starting position,” Lukas concludes.
Further information via https://www.puttview.com/