Hawk-eye, the tiny innovative sports technology firm, has been gobbled up by the global giant Sony. There is considerable appeal for large firms to acquire creative talent. But is this a good strategic match?
At first sight, the takeover of Hawk-Eye by Sony [March 2011] has marketing logic behind it. Sony has successfully diversified through sophisticated technological innovation in the electronic games market. It has recently announced a deal to deliver 3D at the next Wimbledon tennis championships. The move comes at a time when Sony is preparing to announce a major internal restructuring
The tiny firm Hawk-Eye is synonymous with a technological capability in the sports market and has niche market leadership in tracking devices used as decision-support systems. Intuitively, there seems synergy with Sony’s play station technological knowhow in its competition with Nintendo.
The firm is also well-placed to be the official supplier of such a system for Football, although the debate over the use of goal-line technology still rages on.
Dr Paul Hawkins is the entrepreneur behind the Hawk-Eye system. He has been associated with the firm since its inception, and has some backing from the cricketing establishment. Initial reports suggest he will continue to play a part in the development of the technology within the mighty Sony empire.
The Hawk-Eye official website summarises its sports technology focus:
Hawk-Eye is the most sophisticated officiating tool used in any sport. It is accurate, reliable and practical: fans now expect and demand it to be a part of every event. Hawk-Eye first made its name in Cricket broadcasting, yet the brand has diversified into Tennis, Snooker and Coaching. Hawk-Eye is currently developing a system for Football (Soccer).
In Tennis the technology is an integral part of the ATP, WTA and ITF tennis tours, featuring at the Masters Cup in Shanghai, the US Open, the Australian Open, the Wimbledon Championships and all high-profile events. Hawk-Eye is the only ball-tracking device to have passed stringent ITF testing measures.
Hawk-Eye’s Cricket systems were used by host broadcasters at the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy, the 2007 World Cup and have been present at major Test and ODI series around the world since 2001. Hawk-Eye offers a unique blend of innovation, experience and accuracy that has revolutionised the sporting world.
When large firms acquire creative minnows
There is considerable appeal for large firms to acquire creative talent. The business model is to provide resources that are often needed to support creative growth. The small firm escapes the hazards of dealing with venture capitalists and other equally demanding sources of finance. In practice, the process may prove unpalatable for the entrepreneur unaccustomed to large company structures and politics.
Entrepreneurship and retailing: The Grigor McClelland Conference
This post was prepared as part of the celebrations planned for The Grigor McClelland Conference to be held at Manchester Business School, Friday April 8th, 2011.