Mike Piha of HitCheck: “Live and Die by Metrics”

Live and Die by Metrics — Be obsessed with metrics, if you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it. Metric should be “drive decisions” As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Piha, Co-founder/Chief Executive Officer of HitCheck. […]

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Live and Die by Metrics — Be obsessed with metrics, if you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it. Metric should be “drive decisions”

As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Piha, Co-founder/Chief Executive Officer of HitCheck.

Mike Piha is our CEO and resident coach. Drawing on more than 20 years’ experience as a successful entrepreneur and multi-million dollar business owner in Silicon Valley, Mike is an idea shaper, play caller and team motivator.

One of Mike’s true life passions is coaching youth football. For more than 30 years, he’s volunteered his time to coaching and inspiring young athletes, many of which have gone on to play college and professional football. As co-founder of the NorCal Youth Football league, he has brought the game to more than 7,000 youth and in 2010, Mike was inducted into the American Youth Football Hall of Fame.

When Mike’s not building companies or volunteering on the field, you can find him racking up miles on his road bike, golfing with his two sons, enjoying the San Francisco city life or taking in a Giants game with his wife, Cheryl.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

After playing 16 years of football (4 years in college) and entering the business world my passion for football continued as I started coaching youth football at the age of 24. I coached youth football for 25+ years and over 1K kids, started a league that now has over 25K participants all while starting and leading a 40M business in the Silicon Valley and raising two boys with my wife Cheryl in Palo Alto, CA. My passion for football brought me to research why participation was declining at such a rapid rate, only to learn that the health & safety issues, mainly head injuries (concussions) were the number one concern of parents not allowing their child to play tackle football. This also was consistent in all contact sports including soccer and baseball.

I pursued to find a solution to help this problem as I found there was not a cognitive test available for anyone under the age of 16. Through my research I met sports medicine MD, Dr. Jake Benford, who had been working on developing a cognitive test on a mobile device with a focus on youth. After several months of discussions, Dr. Benford and I started HitCheck.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

The moment was the day I learned that over 50% of concussed athletes return to play the same day as the methods for concussion screening were either not done or administered by an unqualified person with antiquated methods.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

With any start-up raising capital is what drives the development of the company. The space we are in, sports technology/healthcare was not a focus for most investors, we needed to raise 2M dollars to get the concept developed, tested and marketed. We faced time over the first two years where we had zero dollars in the bank…the passion to solve this problem and the drive to make a difference provided the fuel to keep going.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

We are diversifying and expanding our reach through new customers in the DoD Us Military and working on a cognitive test for dementia. With COVID-19 many of our customers have had to place everything on hold while they have canceled or suspended their season.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

An early mistake we made was our original name, HHITT. Nobody could pronounce it or spell it and they had no idea what we did, I was speaking to a group of 100+ football coaches and the introduction ppt. on the screen had SHITT (instead of HHITT). Solve the identity crises early…we renamed the company a few weeks later.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The people and the team. We have built HitCheck with a group of experienced individuals with incredible experience, the majority of our team are “advisors” who are only paid through company stock options. These individuals have other jobs or activities, it is amazing how much time and contributions they have provided HitCheck. One story is our UX Designer, Martin Anet is one of the “top” UX designers (Groupon, DoorDash) in the world, he will put in late nights and weekends working on HitCheck projects including taking vacation days from his “real” job to complete a HitCheck project, he like so many others on our team have a passion for the success of HitCheck.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I always let my team know “if it is easy…everyone can do it…If it’s hard, it is worth it”! Starting a business from a concept is really hard, always seeking to educate and learn will eliminate burnout.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My father was a mentor who provided me the knowledge to understand the value of relationships and how important they are in your personal and professional life…I always work on building positive strong relationships. He also taught me how a positive attitude will have a direct impact on your success…when I was 12 he gave me a gift, the book ‘Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude” by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone written in 1960…I still have it today and have read it over 100 times!

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

We have over 300K users from five counties participating in 23 different sports or activities including the US Army and US Air Force. 1. Used social media to market and share the brand. 2. We have attended several conferences (National Athletic Trainers Association, US Football, USA Soccer, Concussion Symposium and more). 3.) Direct Marketing Campaigns and PR through media outlets.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

We have a SaaS model for annual subscriptions, we focus on youth leagues, high schools, colleges (including club sports) and professional leagues. We also have a focus on the military, active duty and veterans.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. It’s not just an app: It’s a Business — Your business model is your key to real success. Build it before you build your app.
  2. Solve the “Identity Crisis” — Create a robust name and brand at the start, it is the first impression. HitCheck was the thought of Jamie Norton our graphic designer who just came up with it one afternoon.
  3. Get “Lean and Mean” — Talk to your prospective customers, understand their problems and how your app will solve them. Know your target audience and learn everything about them.
  4. Make something people LOVE — Product market fit is key, being in a good market and building a product that can satisfy what people in that market want.
  5. Live and Die by Metrics — Be obsessed with metrics, if you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it. Metric should be “drive decisions”.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Keep our youth active and participating in healthy activities such as sports and outdoor activities that provide movement, exercise and mental development. Bring back physical education in our schools and limit indoor “screen” activities (video games, PC’s and TV. We need healthy habits for our youth!

How can our readers follow you on social media? LinkedInis the best!

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