WisBusiness: Software company looks to fill sports management niche

By Dustin Choy

For WisBusiness.com

MILWAUKEE – A software program customized for the financial management needs of major sports teams and athletic departments is one of 21 business plans still in the running for the 2009 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

Innovative Sports Strategies was created by Milwaukee resident Brian Cole, who believes major sports teams are losing out on money and time because of the way they manage their financial data. His product aims to eliminate confusion and save time.

“ISS saves time and money for (athletic departments and professional teams) because they will no longer need to spend hundreds of hours each year setting Excel spreadsheet templates, rolling forward prior data, managing numerous versions of spreadsheets and compiling massive amounts of reporting data,” Cole said.

Cole, a Glendale native, came up with the idea for ISS while working on his graduate studies at the University of Oregon. Cole worked with Tom Larson, chief financial officer of the Oregon Athletic Department, on turning over Excel spreadsheets from year to year. Cole began designing a business plan for a financial management application as part of a team project for an entrepreneurship class.

As the idea grew, Cole began interacting with dozens of collegiate organizations and professional teams such as the Seattle Seahawks.

According to Cole, all sports teams currently use Excel and Access to do their budgeting, forecasting, accounting, reporting and benchmarking.

“A typical college athletic department has only 50 to 100 full-time employees to run all operations,” he said. “These individuals do not have the time to build, maintain, enhance, and roll-forward high-powered Excel or Access financial management tools.”

While Excel and Access are programs created for general use, ISS is tailored specifically to sports management.

“Our software application provides college athletic departments and professional teams with a push-button tool for all their financial planning and reporting needs,” explained Cole. “Users no longer need to spend countless hours building complex Excel models to consider long-term financial alternatives.”

Cole plans to market his product through his network of connections through his work at Oregon. Eventually, his plans for ISS are much bigger.

“College athletic departments will be able to leverage the economies of scale that stem from only one system needing to be maintained for numerous athletic departments,” Cole said. “In the near future, relationships with the CFO of the NCAA and CFOs of major college athletic conferences will be used as ISS pursues large group sales.”

Initial funding for the project has come from friends and family, but Cole has begun discussions with various angel investor groups.

The cost of ISS would include an upfront installation and training fee as well as an annual upgrades and support fee.

“For the Business Plan Contest, our hope is to get exposure to and feedback from many of the great resources throughout the state who work with and invest in start-up companies,” he explained.

The Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest is in its sixth year. This year’s winners will be announced June 9-10 at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Milwaukee.

— Choy is a student in the Department of Life Sciences Communication at the UW-Madison.