Today we welcome Olaf Zschiedrich who joined us as Chief Product and Technology Officer at the end of 2020. Olaf is an experienced leader who has a passion for our mission ‘to enable people to continuously discover all sports they love through the power of technology’. We discussed why he chose Urban Sports Club, key projects for the teams and challenges that lie ahead in 2021. Read on for more insights.
SB: How did your career in Tech begin?
OZ: This is a somewhat funny story. I am quite a late starter. Before I was heavily into music, which I studied and made my living off for some time. When starting to work in recording studies more I realized that I love live music and playing drums more than programming beats. On the other hand I was fascinated by computers. Kind of another instrument you can play to do great things. As a consequence I started programming which I enjoyed so much that I decided to also study computer science.
SB: Why did you choose Urban Sports Club as the next step on your career journey?
OZ: After working in the internet industry and corporates for more than a decade I took a 12 month sabbatical spending quality time with my family. I was looking to combine my passion for sports and work in a scale-up environment. Our vision of creating ‘a world where everyone enjoys doing sports’ really resonates with me as it helps people to live an active, healthy, and fun life. After I met with Benjamin and Moritz I had a great feeling and this cemented my decision further that Urban Sports Club was the right choice for me.
SB: What are your impressions so far?
OZ: Positive but challenging. We do have a lot of smart people and the team has built some really great products over the past years. On the other hand times are challenging, with the pandemic having a huge impact on our industry including accelerating a shift in consumer behaviour, forcing us to rethink our product and tech strategy. To do so I recently did a series of workshops with my team working on our strategy, priorities and a new organisational structure. As a result we are now structured in a way that allows us to better execute against our objectives, support our various products and serve our customers. Having worked on this new setup together it was also a great way getting to know each other better. I think we came a long way as a team.
SB: What key projects will you be working on this year?
OZ: We focus on two strategic priorities. One is to strengthen B2B. We see huge growth potential in enabling corporate clients to offer sport memberships as an employee benefit. The topic of workforce health and wellbeing is top of mind for many employers and we want to be a strong partner and enabler in this field. For that we will improve our existing and develop new solutions for corporate clients with a focus on self-service, automation and data insights. The second priority is expanding our digital offering. We believe the post covid world will be hybrid combining offline and online sport activities. Our members should be empowered to do the sports they love anytime and anywhere, online and offline. We kicked off an initiative called Home Sports Club with a focus on digital including live classes and video on demand. Lastly we will invest in our platform vision by consolidating and improving our foundational tech- and business capabilities including data infrastructure, data intelligence, cloud automation or the underlying developer experience.
SB: What do you see as the biggest challenge we face at Urban Sports Club?
OZ: Well, it’s clear that the pandemic has had a massive impact on our industry. The longer it takes, the bigger is the impact not just on the business but also on engagement and morale of our teams. Managing us and our teams through the crises is a challenge. One I personally never had before and one I am paying a lot of attention to. Our people are our main asset! So far I am proud of our teams and how they have coped with the situation. We are convinced we will come out stronger, a lot driven by all the cool product and technology projects we are working on.
SB: What’s your favourite Sport or Activity?
OZ: I have been a big sports lover and football fan all my life. During my sabbatical I discovered indoor rowing which I really like. I took part in my first indoor marathon in October and ranked #7 worldwide on a Concept 2 this season in my age class. I would like to take part in the indoor world rowing championships at some point in the future but for now I am content with my achievements.
SB: Outlook for future?
OZ: Within our sector we have one common goal. We encourage people who are not active yet to find partners and the activities they really like, helping them to build healthy routines with our app. We want to help companies to build healthy teams with our technological solutions. We already talked about a couple of our strategic pillars like strengthening B2B and digital. More long-term our ambition is to become the fabric of the sports ecosystem enabling different partners to build their business with us. This goes beyond our aggregator business. With Fitogram we already have a cloud based online scheduling and course management software for the wellness/sports industry in our portfolio. This allows us to go deeper and to provide a better, more complete service to our providers. We are also working on an API strategy to further improve connectivity for the various actors in our industry. This may include topics like IoT, hardware, health tracking, gamification, nutrition or sportswear at some stage. Another big topic for us is data. We believe that the insights we gain from data enable us to build entirely new products. We already have some cool ideas but it’s too early to speak about them.
SB: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. It sounds like there are a lot of really interesting topics you and the team will be working on this year. I look forward to following up with you at a later date to check in on our progress.
OZ: Thank you.
We’re looking for Full-Stack, Mobile (React Native), DevOps and QA Engineers to join our teams. If you’re interested check out our jobs page.