Korrio, Led by Former Isilon CEO, Seeks Fortune in Youth Sports

3/12/12Follow @gthuang

Are you sick of platforms yet? I know I am. But I’m not sick of sports.

Hence, let’s talk about Korrio, a sports-automation software company that has an interesting bicoastal story. Korrio is based in Seattle, but one of its biggest markets is Massachusetts. Specifically, Massachusetts youth soccer clubs. The Bay State is “sports crazy,” and its soccer clubs are “seen as progressive,” says Steve Goldman, Korrio’s founder and CEO.

I spoke with Goldman on his recent trip to Boston last month. Seattle techies know him as the former CEO of Isilon Systems (now part of Massachusetts tech giant EMC) and, before that, senior vice president at F5 Networks. Goldman helped take both companies public, with IPOs in 1999 and 2006 respectively, so he has a fair bit of operating experience from before and after the dot-com bubble. Besides Seattle, he has also lived in the Boston area, back in the mid-1970s and again in the mid-‘90s.

So why software for youth athletics? For one thing, Goldman and his kids have played sports through the years, so he has an intrinsic interest and sees specific problems to attack. “It always struck me that no one had done a good job applying modern technology to youth sports,” he says. “Our goal is to really transform the youth sports experience.”

What’s more, Goldman says, soccer is a growing and underserved market compared to other big sports, when it comes to administrative needs and, yes, software platforms.

Korrio makes Web software that lets sports clubs handle all their needs for scheduling, registration, communication, website hosting, roster management, and social networking for players, Goldman says. The platform competes with separate vendors supplying different pieces of the puzzle, such as spreadsheets and scheduling software for lacrosse, he says. “Our vision is multi-sports. We started with soccer for practical reasons as a beachhead.”

In its first full year in business, Korrio has grown to 20-odd employees (including three in the Boston area), and its platform is used by hundreds of sports clubs in 20 states and three countries, Goldman says. Clubs pay a flat fee per player per year for the software.

I asked Goldman what lessons he takes from his experience at F5 and Isilon. “The notion of building a company of lasting value,” he says. “You have to really understand your customer, and build products that are truly transformative. They have to be dramatic and life-changing.” For F5, that meant load-balancing networks for IT systems, and for Isilon it meant network-attached storage for businesses.

With Korrio, he says, “We’re going to automate this very fragmented space. It has to do with the quality of product and services, and quality people at the company. And always taking the long view.”

But Korrio is also very different from F5 and Isilon, in that there is a strong consumer aspect to it. “You have to hire the right people to match your long-term vision of where you’re going,” Goldman says. For Korrio, that vision is to appeal to athletes and their families, not just to the clubs.

It’s early in the game, but Korrio, which is venture-backed by Ignition Partners, looks ready to go the distance. Returning to startup life is “a barrel full of monkeys,” Goldman admits. “Building a company is hard. I’m a builder, and I love the journey. It’s hard, and it’s fun.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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