It is an exciting time for the talented stats chaps at EquiRatings. Sam Watson and Diarmuid Byrne’s brilliant new advanced eventing analytics service recently won the Best Start Up and Best Overall business at the first stage of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition. They are going up against the other regional winners in the next couple of weeks.
The Gaitpost caught up with Diarmuid to hear more about their brainchild, the revolution they believe they can bring about in the sport and to find out how it all came about.
How did you and Sam meet?
We were in the same year in school but actually it wasn’t until we lived together at university that we became as close as we are now. A shared love of playing darts is probably the foundation we built it all on!
Was there a ‘light bulb’ moment or had you always seen a gap in the market for in-depth analytics relating to eventing?
It’s pretty well known by now that Sam is the numbers one. Sometimes that’s confused because I wear glasses. He began analysing his own performance using statistical models as far back as 2008. Data in sport is growing at an incredible pace and with three distinct phases and any number of variables, eventing is a sport more suited to this type work that many others. There was no real lightbulb moment, we had been discussing its application to the sport for years!
Tell us about the #IBYE awards.
It’s quite a prestigious award, we are going up against young people from all over the country pitching their businesses. We won the Best Start Up and Best Overall in our county which brings us great funding but also great access to expertise. To have the industry experts backing us lets us know we are on the right lines. All the support from the eventing world has helped us – a tweet or a Facebook message means a lot when you spend this much time alone with the laptops!
How do you work as a team?
Sam is very analytical and loves testing theories on the sport by sitting for hours writing various codes. I look after the business side and make sure our work is focused and we are meeting the needs of our clients and the market. It’s a good team. We have a very different skill set so we mainly just let the other one get on with it.
What has been the hardest part about setting up the business?
It was tough going out on our own. I was working in a big law firm and my path was reasonably defined back then. It came down to trusting my instinct and taking the plunge. Getting awards like last week are nice but the days that you are riddled with doubt and insecurity aren’t as well documented! Generally we look out for each other and we are lucky to both have great supporters in our lives.
We spent a lot of time planning the strategy of the first year. A huge amount of work this year has been behind the scenes and we have liked that. What’s exciting for our business is there is almost no aspect of the sport in which decision making isn’t improved by studying the numbers. 2016 will see us working with a wide range of different parties, from individual riders right to the top of the sport…and we have the website launch to look forward to! Confidentiality is a huge part of our consultancy service so I can’t give too much away for now.
My family are an eclectic bunch but we work well as a team. If I don’t say them I will be just naming a list of Liverpool players…oh go on…Kenny Dalglish, Rafa Benitez, Carragher…I could go on.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“I used to be a lawyer but….”
I’m working on it! I am getting a bit more comfortable with the entrepreneur tag.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Dr Doolittle. Imagine hearing what some of the horses think of the riders.
What is your greatest fear?
Having to give feedback on a dressage test. I will probably know your horse’s average dressage mark at any level but too many questions on half passes could expose me.
I usually have a few books on the go. We don’t have a TV in our home so there are a lot of books! At the moment it’s the Racing Post columnist Steve Palmer’s new one. The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte is the book that convinced me to follow my dreams. If you ever feel directionless, that’s the book to read.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I am not a morning person but I wish I was. You feel like you’re getting one over on the world when you get up early. I thought 8 was early until I moved into this world. I’ve gotten better, but I will probably be nicer to you at night!
I listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts. Everything from Dale Carnegie to Alan Partridge.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Taking the plunge. Running a business that I love with my best friend. Hard to top that.
Where would you like to live?
Surrounded by green fields.
Great question! I like these. In my head it would be gym, lunch with friends, a good day of racing, a Liverpool win and an event on the Sunday. In reality, EquiRatings is seven days a week for now. If Sam is eventing, I will be back in the office. If he is not, we go for our strategy walks. Long walks could solve the world’s problems.
We wish Diarm and Sam the very best of luck in the finals of #IBYE.