In our series 10 minutes with, ISM Connect CEO Kent Heyman talks about his love for the minor leagues, why the product is so engaging, and what a smart advertising network brings to the gameday experience for fans and sponsors.
Kent Heyman is a veteran general counsel turned CEO with a knack for leading technology startups from poor to profitable. He joined ISM Connect after his former company, Customer Mobile, purchased Ingenuity Sun Media and CrowdJoy in June of 2017. In the office, Kent is a trusted advisor with a reputation for being accessible, insightful and always focused on the end result. Outside the office, Kent is a sports fan and a coach. He enjoys everything about sports — particularly baseball — watching, listening and talking about it at the watercooler.
ISM: You’re a baseball fan. What aspect of the sport are you most passionate about?
KH: There’s no single aspect that stands out. I love watching baseball in person. I love the sights, the sounds, the colors, the smells, the whole process. Because I have a family member who plays the game, I like to go early and go to batting practice, watch the players when they have their guards down, see them interact with coaches and teammates, and I love to sit through the game. I like to eat. I like to drink. I like the whole operation.
ISM: You coached for many years. How has coaching – particularly coaching baseball – helped shape you as a business leader?
KH: Well, it teaches you how to scream at people who aren’t listening. [Laughs.] I don’t really know that there’s a direct correlation, other than that I’m very competitive, and I have a passion for winning. In business, just like in sports and many aspects of life, you have a goal. You have resources that you are allocated, and you have to find the way to best deploy them so that you can achieve your goal. I think in that regard, coaching and business are almost exactly the same.
ISM: Your son played minor league ball for many years. How was this experience for you as a parent and coach?
KH: My father played in college, and my grandfather played professionally. So we’ve got a long line of people in our family that really enjoyed the game. It was heartening for me to see Grant reach the pros, because I think football was his favorite sport growing up. After high school, he went and played baseball in college and really developed the same kind of passion for the game that I have. So it gives us something to talk about when all else fails. We can talk about his games. We can talk about his leagues. We can talk about our favorite teams. It’s something that I share with all my kids. It’s a remarkable thrill to see Grant hit a 400 foot home run. I get sympathy pain when he gets hit by a pitch. My son Davis also played. He just got Offensive Player of the Year for his high school team, and my daughter Caroline and I love to watch games together. Baseball is truly a family affair.
ISM: How has preparing for the launch of the MiLB Allegiant Airline Network pushed ISM Connect to grow up as a company?
KH: First of all, the MiLB partnership has taught us about the challenge of our business, which is also in many ways, the value of our business. In each component part of what we do, we have tremendous competition. There are a lot of content management systems out there. There are a lot of demographic software programs. There are lots of displays that people deploy. There are competitors in all of those areas, but we really haven’t seen anybody provide the whole solution. In a sense we are competing with all of them. It’s not an insignificant challenge as a business to say, “We’re going to be good at content. We’re going to be good at hardware. We’re going to be good at software. We’re going to be good at facial recognition.” These are all of the things we’ve committed to doing well, and so now we have to go ahead and deliver on them.
ISM: Obviously data and analytics are big in sports right now. Can you speak to what ISM Connect will be providing with regard to data and analytics?
KH: Analytics in baseball is a favorite topic of mine. I think we all learned from Moneyball that data is our friend. Seeing as though our company history is in wireless engagement, data is our roots. We are well-versed in tracking mobile interaction data and campaign performance metrics. As our company evolves, we have been looking for ways to take that know how into other areas of the physical world, and that’s what we’re trying to do with Minor League Baseball. Just as in Moneyball where data was used to improve baseball operations, the data that we gather will enable our partners, sponsors and event operators to improve theirs.
ISM: How will the MiLB partnership shape the future of the ISM Connect business?
KH: MiLB, for us, will be a proving ground… pun intended. We are very grateful that they have entrusted us with this opportunity to innovate on a national scale. Assuming we deliver, and we will, one of our big challenges is going to be figuring out how to handle all of the interest we have in year two. Once trust is established with our partners at MiLB, we’d love to take our network elsewhere.. to other sports, other entertainment venues. What we’ve learned and will continue to learn is transferable to any other activity where there are large numbers of engaged patrons, spectators, fans or participants. The next year is going to be a big one for ISM, and I can’t wait to sit down and write the year-end address for 2019. There will be so much growth. It is going to be a helluva ride.
Amie Sheridan is a Philadelphia-based writer and content strategist serving sports technology startups. Her work has appeared in Sports Business Journal.