After the 17 football recruits signed letters of intent with Duke on Feb. 4, they were invited to join an internal software system that can schedule their time, remind them about doctors’ appointments and study halls and track their performance and body measurements.
That same software, which can be accessed through a smartphone app, is also used by schools and pro teams around the country, including N.C. State, North Carolina, Baylor, Michigan State and the San Francisco 49ers.
The Durham-based company Logistical Athletic Solutions is using its Teamworks platform to connect and coordinate the hundreds of moving parts and competing interests involved in college and professional sports and other organizations.
“My initial concept was to solve my personal scheduling issues,” said Zach Maurides, a former Duke offensive guard who had the idea for Teamworks in 2004 when he was struggling to keep up with his own schedule as a student-athlete.
Over the years, Maurides and Logistical Athletic Solutions co-founder Shaun Powell tested their software and listened to college and professional players, coaches and doctors as they built out a Teamworks platform with more than 10 module offerings.
The company has about 793 clients, including college football teams, athletic departments and organizations such as the Big Ten Conference and the College Football Playoff.
Teamworks’ modules include a messaging option, which allows staff, athletes and other stakeholders to send out wake-up calls, communicate schedule changes and event reminders via text, email and recorded voice messages. Communications can also be customized to be confidential and target individuals or specific groups, such as freshman players.
Other modules streamline team travel and video sharing; store and manage documents, such as medical records and academic monitoring forms; block out students’ classes and appointments on calendars; and track players’ progress on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom.
Idea stems from assignment
After Duke awarded Maurides a football scholarship in 2003, the Illinois native learned he had unknowingly played his senior year of high school football with a broken ankle. Duke still wanted him to come, and Maurides’ freshman year was a blur of classes, doctors and rehabilitation appointments, practice and media events.
“So you have five or six different things that are all administered by different groups, and they have different priorities,” said Maurides, who turned 30 Sunday. “The onus was put on the student-athlete.”
Such coordination is a lot for some professionals, he said, much less a college freshman.
The punishment for being late was running stadium stairs, and Maurides said he ran a lot of them. It was easy to forget to factor in the time it would take to walk across campus, or he’d miss study hall because he was at a doctor’s appointment.
That pain point was realized when the then-sophomore was given a class assignment of creating a web-based application that would benefit him in his life.
Maurides built out the initial version of the platform with the help of Powell, who began as a contractor but evolved into the company co-founder.
They started with about $300,000 in seed money, which included equal investments from Maurides, his sister and his father. Maurides’ father’s company also initially provided legal advice and accounting services.
Maurides built the software using feedback from Duke coaches and support staff, and then Northwestern University’s football department, which became the company’s second client after the Blue Devils.
Maurides graduated in 2007 and went to work as a product analyst for Triangle-based SciQuest, which provides cloud-based business software solutions.
In August 2009, Maurides left his job with a goal to work on his company along with a master’s degree in management studies at Duke.
Maurides made good grades his first semester, he said, but didn’t feel that he was absorbing the information because his attention was split between studying and trying to connect with customers.
At the start of his second semester, Maurides met with Kathie Amato, who now manages Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative education programs. She advised him to chase his business and come back to school if it didn’t work out.
Powell left his job as a database administrator soon after that. He focused on building the back end of the software while Maurides focused on sales. The system can cost clients from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the scope and extent of use.
“I spent a lot of time beating my head against the wall because you watch movies and you think anybody can sell it,” Maurides said, but it is a process wrought with different personalities.
Economic buyers focused on the return on investment. Users focused on how it would make their lives easier. Technical buyers focused on whether the information was secure.
To address some of those challenges, the company sought in 2011 a return on investment study of Duke’s use of Teamworks.
It found that the Duke Athletic Department’s return on investment was 345 percent. Over a six-month period, Teamworks’ electronic forms saved the department 44,390 pieces of papers and 2,727 hours in data entry, organizing, distributing and collecting and filing forms, the report said.
Overall, the system saved the university $244,305 in materials and employee hours, the study states.
Managing constant change
Initially, the company gained customers through word of mouth among coaches, but now its staff of 16 includes three people who focus on bringing in new customers.
The company’s market has expanded from universities to professional sports and organizations, such as the College Football Playoff, which the company picked up as a client in November.
Now, the company is working on creating an affordable option for high schools, Maurides said.
Bill Nayes, who recently transitioned from director of football operations at N.C. State to working for the San Francisco 49ers, said the system helped the Wolfpack coaches organize practices and meetings around players’ class schedules. Nayes anticipates using the system to wrangle 49ers players and staff when they travel, he said.
Nayes even used the system to send out a quick “hello” when he returned to the program last month.
Kevin Lehman, director of football operations at Duke, said Teamworks is an integral part of the football program.
“When you are managing more than 200 people, things constantly change,” he said.
In addition, Lehman said, the system and Maurides illustrate what freshmen can accomplish as Duke student-athletes.
“He is a really big example for us of showing our guys that they can do incredible things while they are still students because Zach did,” Lehman said.