“We just wanted to do something great and change the world with this thing called InNet, today it’s called the internet,” Microsoft Co-founder and Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen once told NFL player turned tech CEO Shawn Springs. That bit of insight resonated with Mr. Springs and fed his entrepreneurial spirit. With an inner drive to cause real change, he has gathered a team of doctors and engineers, and is heightening the safety bar on the sports playing field and the military battlefield via his company Windpact’s head-protection technologies and patented innovations with energy-absorption/impact-reducing applications. The following is a lightly edited conversation between Mr. Springs and Direct Interface Founder Kevin Jordan.
What are your thoughts on the current state around cognitive development?
Cognitive development-based virtual reality applications are being used to sharpen player’s mental edge without even being in a game or on the football field. VR is not only being used for player performance enhancement but its future also looks promising with applications toward supporting recovery from sports concussions and injuries.
What direction do you see the industry going and any associated challenges?
The industry direction is that of being data-driven. What you’re seeing now is athletes using sensors, heart monitors, Fitbit bands, etc. Technology today will be totally different tomorrow. From VR to e-fabrics to sensor clothing, all will likely be integrated. Your sleep will be integrated with your hydration levels and performance.
I think an athlete’s discussion involving their full-recovery process will be different. For example, I see athletes in the future saying, “Here is my chart for the week—rest, hydration, biometrics, etc. And the process and the discussion around it will be more data-driven and will continue to improve. But I do believe there will be mounting challenges around questions of who owns the data, how is that data distributed, and who has access to it.
Want to know more about Windpact? For an in-depth look on this new technology, see the company overview here (PDF).
What does Windpact’s growth strategy resemble?
We’ve been able to partner up with some leading companies in sports, military, medical and automotive in a collaborative effort to improve impact protection for users in various industries. We work with large brands to improve their system and solutions, and our clients are delighted because of the tangible wins we create for them and their customers.
What are three patterns that you’re observing and why?
The end user today is smarter than ever. The millennials are brand agnostic. Meaning, I grew up a Nike guy, and I followed Nike because Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson wore Nike. But now you’re starting to see companies that are driven by a cause and they want to get behind a cause. Like the company Toms, that has given out shoes in Brazil and Africa. Millennials are identifying with causes or things that resonate in their hearts and that are making a change.
Technology is bridging gaps. Whether you’re a guy of vision, facing discrimination or a gentleman from India who didn’t go to Harvard, digitization and technology can enable bridging the gaps to a lot of different things.
Collaboration. Companies like GE and Under Armour are coming together to solve major, unique problems. Johnson & Johnson is working with Texas Medical Center (their innovation center feeds Johnson & Johnson’s JLabs). These collaborative partnerships among companies make the world better. I would have never thought that Whole Foods would be bought by Amazon. The silos are down with certain players.