What Can Attending a Football Game Teach Technology Companies?

12/19/11

Let me state this right off the top: I’m a huge New England Patriots fan. Even though I’m now based on the West Coast, I make it a point to watch every Patriots game and I attend several games each season, making the cross-country trek to cheer on my team.

It was on one of the recent trips that my worlds as an investor in technology and a passionate sports fan began to collide. If you have never been to a Patriots game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, let me give you a quick overview of the scene. Gillette is a state of the art stadium co-located on the same parcel as the Patriots Hall of Fame and Patriot Place, a large outdoor shopping complex complete with hotel, movie theatre, etc. And perhaps most astonishing, all of this is located in an area where there is only one road in and out of the complex.

I was sitting in a 10-mile back-up on my way to one recent game when the epiphany struck. It’s all about infrastructure. It doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles or shiny boxes are on the other end; if you can’t get there in a timely and relatively painless manner it becomes frustrating and counterproductive. While you still may get the diehards like me to show up to a football stadium a few times a year, I think it’s safe to assume that you’d lose nearly all of the traffic to your site or service if they had to endure a fraction of the obstacles it takes to drive down Route 1 on game day.

Imagine for a moment, however, that on game days you could simply roll out another 10 to 12 lanes in either direction and alleviate the backup in one fell swoop, creating a much more pleasant and productive experience for your customers. Sound farfetched? Not in the online world. We just experienced the biggest online shopping day in United States history on Cyber Monday this year. While the deals may have served as the incentive to get people online, it was the ability of retailers to increase their infrastructure through the cloud and other services that kept shoppers spending money and making the transactions a reality.

So while it may be unreasonable to suggest that infrastructure be created in the physical world simply to allow us to drive up to the stadium without delay, that is exactly what the expectation is in the technology sector. Delays or obstacles to products and services, no matter how minuscule they may seem, will translate into lost revenue.

It’s understandable that more sexy technologies such as apps get the bulk of the attention and ink these days, but in the end, infrastructure will continue to be the engine that makes everything possible.

Paul Santinelli is a partner at North Bridge Venture Partners. He specializes in communications and infrastructure and is based in California. Follow @

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