“Failing Often Isn’t Unusual” With Huang Han, CEO and Founder of T-Goal

“Failing is ok, and failing often isn’t unusual either.

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“Failing is ok, and failing often isn’t unusual either. When I first started building this company, I knew very little about anything other than football. As you can imagine, I failed a ton in the first half year of trying to build my company. At the time I took it very hard, but over time I knew that through failure, I was learning more about what I needed to know to reach my goal, and I was also learning more about myself as a person.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Huang Han, CEO and Founder of T-Goal and proud father

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

Of Course. I grew up around a neighborhood in Fuzhou, China that didn’t have a lot of “nice things.” My friends and I spent a lot of our childhood playing football whenever and wherever we could, so it was always a big part of my life. When we got older, I noticed that our coaches would and could only give subjective evaluations on who seemed to be good and bad as players. Even amongst my teammates, it was your word versus mine in terms of who was better at one aspect of the game or even in general. That’s when I became interested in sports tracking and analytics, as they can give us objective insight into sports performance and areas for improvement. The only issue was that only the top athletes in the world had access to these kinds of resources. I wanted to create a football-specific product that would be accessible financially for anyone to use, so they could overcome all of the unhelpful subjectivity and train smarter.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company

Our company is filled with football enthusiasts. And more recently, a lot of our kids are starting to get to the age where they can start playing sports. One of my programmers’ kids just entered a football academy, and apparently his coach kept picking on him for the way that he runs despite the fact that the kid is actually one of the fastest on the team. My programmer friend is extremely passionate about football and proud of his son, so the next day he came into work extra early to work on our companion app. He told me he had a paternal responsibility to make T-Goal into the best product it could be to prove objectively that his son had nothing to be upset about.

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

My company is filled with people who are all passionate about football, and therefore each person believes in our product 120%. People here aren’t afraid to go the extra mile to make the product better, and I don’t have to tell people what they should be doing either. We all learn from each other and subscribe toward a common goal. That allows us to work in a very adaptive mindset and stay intrinsically motivated. One time we ran into a supplier issue in which our representatives had to manually approve every work order. In order to make their lives easier, our programmers took it upon themselves to write a few scripts to streamline the process, and everyone was so much better off for it.

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?

I would say that this person for me is a particular investor who I’m currently working with. He has a lot of experience in the sports and technology field. When meeting him for the first time, I thought that I must have came off like an amateur who just had a lot of fire in my lungs. However, he never dismissed me or my opinions. Instead, he helped me channel the fire that I had into a more methodical and productive way of approaching my business and how to build it. He could have just been another results guy that I would have to answer to every now and then, but instead he used his experience and expertise to mentor me along this whole process. For that, I am forever grateful, and he is definitely not just an investor to me.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

I can’t exactly go into details, but I’m looking at a few promising projects related to big data applications for sports analytics at the moment. I think that big data is becoming such an invisible yet powerful hand behind some of today’s most complicated industries, and I want to see what i can learn about these applications and bring it back to our product ultimately. I think there could be a lot of synergies to look forward to.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Right now, we still have our hands full with our international launch, but I’ve always thought about sponsoring football camps under the T-Goal name in the future. Specifically, I want these camps to reach out to kids from less fortunate economic backgrounds who have a passion for football. I want our product to give them value and to give them hope in a certain kind of way.

Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

I really like Moneyball because it kind of affirmed my belief all along that metrics and analytics would soon become the future for sports. I ran into a lot of people who also didn’t believe in me or my vision, much like the protagonist of Moneyball, so the book really inspired me to keep going and also to never get too high or low on myself. Actually, I was in a pretty bad mood after pitching my idea initially to some colleagues at my previous job. When I came home, my roommate told me to watch Moneyball, the movie, and I was instantly hooked by the story and by Billy Beane’s personality. Without that book, I don’t actually know if I would have made it this far.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You can never assume that things will go exactly as you planned. I remember really early on, there was an instance where I had assumed that our freelance design guy would do all of our mockups and specs in metric units, because we were obviously a Chinese company. However, I never communicated this detail to him, and he for some reason thought that we were trying to sell our product primarily in the U.S. Assuming cost us some money in this case when we could have easily just communicated more clearly to each other.
  2. Failing is ok, and failing often isn’t unusual either. When I first started building this company, I knew very little about anything other than football. As you can imagine, I failed a ton in the first half year of trying to build T-Goal. At the time I took it very hard, but over time I knew that through failure, I was learning more about what I needed to know to reach my goal, and I was also learning more about myself as a person.
  3. It’s not about how hard you can get hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and how fast you can pick yourself up to keep going. This is related to the second piece of advice as well.
  4. Tea is “better” than Coffee. Coffee crashes are insanely hard to deal with as an entrepreneur. Things come up out of nowhere all the time, and so I realized that drinking Tea helped me stay alert more consistently than coffee. Sure, the sensation of tea caffeine overall is much weaker than that of coffee, but for someone like me, It’s more reliable.
  5. It’s ok to ask for help. I tried to save money by teaching myself how to code in order to build my first website prototype. It was a very painful process, and I felt like I didn’t really internalize what I was learning. I reached out to a friend who was interested in my project, and he built the site in a matter of days. He didn’t even ask for any compensation, but from this I learned how to be more efficient with the allocation of my time in the future.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

As T-Goal is expanding into the U.S., I would definitely love to sit down and enjoy some lunch with the wonderful David Beckham. I think he’s still the American face of football, and I would love to get his thoughts on our product. If he likes it, I would definitely want to explore possibilities about how we can leverage his experiences and connections to help T-Goal expand our reach and empower football players of all shapes, sizes, and experience levels.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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