Meet Paulo Oppermann, the newest addition to the QST team and all-around know-it-all when it comes to SportsTech, data collection, and the SportsTech potential of Doha. Paulo is stepping in as Entrepreneur in Residence for the duration of the first QST program. During his time in Doha, Paulo will be working closely with each and every one of the 10 startups to help them achieve their goals and establish valuable partnerships.
Paulos exceptional journey in SportsTech started even before graduating from college. Fascinated with the mind’s influence in sports, Paulo majored in Sports Psychology. His affinity for engineering quickly nudged him in the direction of data collection. He has spent much of his career dabbling in performance measures, data analysis, physiological analysis, and feedback.
As for local network and knowledge of the sports industry, Paulo’s got you covered! In 2015, Paulo was hired by Aspire Academy to assist them in implementing new technologies, optimizing current technologies and utilizing data analysis for sports performance, health, and wellness.
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Please introduce yourself. Give a short rundown of who you are, what you have been up to, and what you are currently doing.
My passion for sports started early on. I traveled to Turkey when I was in my senior year in high school. while I was there, I started playing soccer, semi-professionally. It was very interesting because the dynamic that stroke me with the highest intensity was that different players with different skill sets were performing with different outputs depending on their minds. It all depended on how they were and if they were stressed or not. So you had players of the greatest technical quality but when the game started, they played pretty poorly. You had the opposite as well. Someone who had mediocre quality level but when the game started they transform into beast mode and had incredible results.
I started having passion for that studying sport psychology. My father is an engineer so everything for me was pretty much science-based and numbers-based. I started bringing that merge to sports psychology. How do we know if someone is playing well or not playing well? Are they in a good state of mind or a bad state of mind? I started diving into physiology, neurophysiology, biofeedback, and neurofeedback. I basically started doing more on the sports sciences side. That’s actually what led me to study my master’s degree in human development. I was invited by my previous advisor to join a doctoral degree in sports psychology at Boston University due to my passion for numbers and sports science, as well as my empiric understanding of the human mind, body, and performance.
I started getting more into the engineering side and was invited to work for MIT in human performance analysis. I started working with biofeedback to improve the reaction of athletes. I also improved objective performance by increasing attention span, task engagement and things like that. That really prepared my life like a professional. The teams always have big demands for objectiveness. They are always looking for consultants and professionals who can produce significant incremental performance without taking much time. Professional sports are very dynamic. They value time almost more than anything.
From there, I started working with Olympic teams and semi-professional teams in the US and in Brazil. I was also invited by Aspire to join them to help establish a program which was very science based but also focusing on the mind. It involved the performance of soccer athletes and especially of youth development. I also got to work with technology development and some startups in developing sensor technology and conforming sensor technology so sensors that stretch to the body. I joined a company called MC10 and had a lot of projects with them to develop sensor technology for sports, for the military and for the medical field. It was tremendous.
This is a little bit of what helped me to be where I am today and to be involved with a lot of scientific-based organizations looking into bringing technology into sports and data analysis into sports. My network is really comprehensive so it doesn’t focus only on sports psychology or biofeedback or biomechanics it really ranges from a lot of fields that are important in different levels for different sports modalities.
How can your expertise help the startups of the first QST cohort?
My goal for supporting the startups is to really assist them in understanding the plateau of variables really impacting, not only the present, but the future in sports technologies. Trends are amazing. They are fantastic. But they can last very short timespans. A startup which may look tremendous and have incredible success can fall into the 30% statistics of successful startups in the first couple of years. They look good but then they can fall exactly in the other 50% that fail in 5 years. Or the 33% that they can fail within the decade. So my goal is to support the startups to have a comprehensive image and understanding of the sports reality that they are diving into and the caveats and the roadblocks they can face regarding understanding their applications, understanding future applications and understanding cohesiveness with different applications that could be already placed by other company. And also specific areas in market that could have a little bit of more support in the different stages of the startups development.
I want to be a pain in the neck. I want to push them to be bothered and look into everything that could be negative so that everything that could be positive can have an exponential growth significant to these startups. So my goal is to really push them to understand every variable that impacts their growth path in all senses. In sports, communication, and marketing. In different sports modalities. Some startups are really focused on football. that’s as well is broken down into different areas in the world. Asia has a different focus than Europe, South America, North America, and Africa. So you really need to see how these companies will fit into the world scene and how they are going to fit into the growth of sports and into the projection that the market is pointing towards. My goal is really to provide them with comprehensive support and understanding of where they are and where they can be. I am going to push them to be the best they can, not only for the first few years but also to be very well established in the decades to come.
What do you think is needed to create a vibrant SportsTech ecosystem here in Doha?
Doha is at the center of cultures. So you have over there clashing cultures and cohesive cultures. It’s an amazing environment. There are really different levels in the understanding of sports and different levels of expectations for sports and that comes from different cultures and different markets working together. For you to provide an ecosystem in Doha that is successful and vibrant, you need to have that understanding as well. You need to understand that the way things really happen in European culture is really different than the Qatari culture. So if you expect responses and the speed of communication to be done in one solid way you definitely gonna fail. You need to have a diverse approach to achieve success in different areas in Doha with different people.
Qataris are passionate about their country and about the performance that they can get out of athletes and the growth that they can have with athletes. Especially with the 2022 world cup coming up. It is a place where a lot of focus is strong right now, emphasizing the world cup that is ahead of us. But, of course, there are many cultural aspects that need to be taken into consideration to really establish some organizations in sports technology and to be successful.
What would be your one word of wisdom to any SportsTech startup who wants to establish valuable connections in Doha?
I think my one word of advice is to do your job well done as a whole, of course. But also to be able to deliver the message in a strong and an easy way to understand. That also creates a strong impact on the market. If you are able to deliver something that is tremendous but you are doing it in a humble way, that is not gonna work in Doha. You need to do it in style. My one word of advice is to be able to adapt to that need from the local culture and create a balance between respecting the things that really work in Doha. That is crucial for the success and development of SportsTech and startups.
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