Checking back through old emails this morning, after Emirates Team New Zealand had won the America’s Cup, I was reminded that I reached out to their communications manager, Hamish Hooper, on March 24 last year.
I didn’t know Hamish. I didn’t know anyone at Emirates Team NZ. I didn’t know sailing. Nobody had referred me.
Within two hours, Hamish replied asking to meet. And, shortly after meeting, he came back saying the big bosses had approved his decision to trial the technology I’d shown him.
Just to set the scene a little better, Hamish represented an established sporting organisation, who worked with major sponsors on the world stage, and I represented a tech start-up with close to zero runs on the board. These were very ‘beta’ days. We barely had a working product.
Given the circumstances, I remember complimenting Hamish on the speed of the decision to give us a shot. He let me know that wasn’t abnormal. “We don’t muck around if we see potential.”
The tech I showed Hamish, called Blinder, allowed anyone in his team to receive media calls on their personal mobiles, but without the need to share any personal contact details. So Hamish could provide great media access to his athletes, while also respecting their privacy and minimising distractions.
Over the last 14 months, ETNZ has contributed massively to the development of Blinder. And I like to think Blinder, in some small way, contributed to the clear-headed decisions Pete Burling and co. made in Bermuda on their way to a 7-1 win over Larry Ellison’s Oracle Team USA.
Emirates Team NZ are noted pushers of innovation boundaries in an arena noted for innovation. Their ‘cyclor’ grinding set-up was the most obvious example of that in this campaign. But it was just the tip of the iceberg for an organisation with one hell of a growth mindset.