This self-admitted “serial entrepreneur” might just have logged an idea worth pausing for.
About four years ago, Ronen Benin, HBA’12, a former national level swimmer and coach, developed a digital log/journal to help his younger brother, Daniel Benin, BMOS’15, then a member of the Western Mustang’s swim team, anticipate illness, injury and potential burnout.
“He really wanted to make the Rio (Olympics) team, but kept getting sick and injured,” said Ronen, CEO and Co-Founder of LogIt.ai, his fourth company in a series of entrepreneurial enterprises. “He kept a training journal. I saw from his journal that it was very clear he was headed down the same path I was – where I eventually burnt out.”
What started as a “fancy Excel spreadsheet” – that picked up on informational patterns logged by Daniel and notified him and his support staff to potential issues – has evolved into a software application system, called Logit, subscribed to by approximately 80 per cent of Canada’s national sporting bodies, including Hockey Canada, Skate Canada and Swim Ontario.
Nineteen of the 22 Canadian medal winners at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games use Logit, which requires athletes to spend no more than 30-45 seconds each night responding to targeted questions on their phone, tablet or desktop. Questions range from: “How irritable are you today?” to “How well are you sleeping?”
Due to the minimal time investment on the part of the athlete, the company has a high compliance rate and gathers significant amounts of data to build better forecasting algorithms. According to Benin, the company has invested more than $1 million in research and development over the past year, with the help of government grants, and will likely have invested approximately $4 million by this time next year.
“We build baselines for these athletes and collect information on injuries and illnesses so we know what’s been happening to them historically. We then look for deviations from those baselines and see how they correlate with outcomes. We see when the variables have a deviation of ‘x,’ that leads to an increased risk for this athlete for illness, we notify their support staff,” Benin explained. “We’re taking a more holistic approach, beyond just looking at training. Training is really important, of course, but so is lifestyle. That’s what a lot of the competition overlooks; they’re just looking at training in a silo and we’re trying to get away from that.”
While Logit primarily sells subscriptions to sports oversight organizations for national and provincial teams, Benin has his sights set on expanding the company’s reach worldwide – not only in amateur sports, but also in other spaces, such as defense, aerospace and health care.
“In terms of the performance sports ecosystem, we’ve virtually monopolized Canada. Now we’re looking to expand beyond our borders to Europe and the United States, primarily. Canada is a fairly small market. In terms of the types of customers we’re targeting, the U.S. market is about 150 times larger, because they invest more heavily in sport. So, we’re excited for that market opportunity and Europe is very much the same,” Benin said. “We want to make sure we take care of home base and dominate the sports market, but we’re also interested in building a much bigger company and that’s why we’re looking at different verticals as well.”
From the time he was young, Benin wanted to study business and become an entrepreneur. And while he came to Ivey Business School because he wanted to benefit from one of the best business programs in the country, he admits his parents are the main reason he chose his current career path.
“My parents are entrepreneurs in the furniture importing and distribution business. They manage a supply chain from Asia to North America. I grew up in their warehouses, helping them out and learning their business.”
When Benin launched his first business at the age of 19, he took a page out of his parents’ playbook. “I was importing biodegradable stationary from overseas and distributing it to elementary schools in the GTA as a fundraising option to disrupt the chocolate fundraiser market. That went really well for two summers until oil prices went up and labour costs to manufacture the products went up as well. My margins were being cut so I decided to get out of that business.”
His other companies were Tradyo, a hyper-local classifieds platform that was purchased by Metroland Media in 2014, and Coached, which engaged professional athletes in providing workout coaching tips and content to paying customers.
“That (Coached) was my biggest failure to date. The problem was that pro athletes are used to being paid up front, so although we did get some very high-calibre pro athletes, we didn’t get enough of them quickly enough for the market opportunity to make sense. We decided rather than burning a lot more cash trying to get this thing to fly, we would put it on the shelf and maybe return to it another day.”
In reflecting back on Logit’s genesis, Benin also admits hindsight is 20/20. “It was definitely an adventure. Lots of mistakes were made along the way, but you need to make those mistakes to learn from them – that’s part of the entrepreneurial journey. My parents taught me to take cuts and bruises for what they are and to not blow things out of proportion.”
Some days, Benin feels like he wants to sell the company, other days, he’s so excited about the product, he claims he’ll never sell it.
“I have a pretty bold vision. This business has a lot of potential. If we do sell it, it would be to an entity that would not only write a big cheque, but who would also take this business and allow it to achieve its true potential.”