Build a minimum viable high-performance mental training mobile app for general availability in time to sell subscriptions for the club and high school volleyball season and discover if there was an appetite for a visualization app in the global sports market.
The founders of NeuroFuel had firsthand knowledge of the impact mental training produced for athletes on the volleyball court when Dr. Larry Widman, a psychiatrist and high-performance mindset coach, joined the team in leading visualization and mental training sessions in 2012.
“Mental training and visualization meditation has been built into our culture,” shared Kirsten Bernthal Booth, Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at Creighton University. “He’s really impacted our program.”
Fast forward to the Spring 2020 and COVID-19 quarantine. The Creighton women’s volleyball players weren’t able to train together, and the players spoke to the challenge of completing the visualization sessions on their own. The common thread was “their minds were wandering” during their self-guided sessions.
Knowing that research proves five minutes of mental training equals 30 minutes of court training, the founders were surprised nothing existed for guided, sport-specific visualization. Most apps they came across were focused on mental health for adults – not high school or collegiate athletes with sessions taking them through sports-specific moves.
“We knew this was a real need,” Booth shared. “If we are having to invent the wheel, we realized this could be a business.” They conceived the idea of a mobile application that would allow their athletes (and others in the market) to access self-service mental training and sport-specific visualization exercises.
The founders, all with expertise and experience in volleyball and mental training, were faced with finding expertise in greenfield mobile app development.
“What I learned pretty quickly after interviewing a lot of different software firms was, this was really complex,” Booth said. “We went from wanting to pay someone to build us an app to finding someone that was going to care about where this was going.”
After meeting with Trility leadership, she and the founders appreciated the approach offered where a minimum viable product (MVP) is designed and launched with a fully developed business plan using the research from the founders and insight from other coaches, players, and volleyball clubs.
With anything, you want good people and people you can trust. People you can have candid conversations when there’s frustrations. And we’ve definitely found all of that with Trility… Superseding all that is character – and that develops over time. Trility is in our corner, and they're trying to do right by NeuroFuel and us as humans. I'm really appreciative of it.
The launch of NeuroFuel started with designing and developing the MVP, with future releases focusing on validated features and functionality desired by the initial targeted customers – high school, college, and club volleyball players and coaches.
Booth recalled when she saw the initial design, she was impressed with how “this little vision they had” became a reality – and one that aesthetically has not pivoted or changed dramatically since the first product release.
To plan for the launch of the cloud-native, cross-platform mobile application, Trility and the founders took existing research and developed a brand and product launch that factored targeted customers, sales and marketing strategy, beta testing, subscription plans, content development and delivery, and long-term scalability for additional features and functionality.
Using Trility’s proven continuous delivery method, the team delivered, tested, and released software in the Google Play and Apple app stores for clubs, coaches, and players. License options were built for both teams or individual users and were accessible through redeemable codes.
After the launch of the MVP, the response and feedback put Booth in a mindset she knows fully well, “It’s almost like coaching. My focus was on how to make things better. It always comes back to that.”
The biggest response to NeuroFuel: More content. With COVID restrictions lifted, the app still provides value off the court. Many clubs use the app during practice sessions and encouraging the players to leverage individual sessions with the addition of Morning and Night Fuel meditations, elite building blocks, and visualization exercises specific to their volleyball positions.
“We’ve just scratched the surface of the volleyball market,” Booth said. While the founders have fielded requests to add other sports, they’ve intentionally remain focused on further infiltrating the volleyball market and making it a great app for this sport.
What set out as a way to help Creighton volleyball players through a global pandemic led to solving a larger problem for athletes beyond their campus. NeuroFuel is now a constantly improving mobile app to help young players on and off the court.
“We’ve geared this toward a younger demographic, adolescents to early 20s… and it’s not a mental health app,” Booth stated. However, the self-talk the players start identifying on the court “applies to navigating tough situations in life. So when players miss three serves in a row, they understand how to not beat themselves up about it, but recover and keep trying.”
NeuroFuel launched and sold subscriptions in time for the 2020 volleyball season. Since then, players have taken advantage of added content with the backend upgrades to more easily upload and organize audio content. With the addition of content analytics, the team can identify what’s consistently in demand to strategically create content the players and clubs desire.
“A great idea is just one step, the real challenge is navigating the business,” said Booth. Having determined NeuroFuel was viable, the founders have continued to seek out more investors, teams, and clubs – even creating a CEO position to help them strategically execute the business plan and product roadmap.
“There are so many challenges that I didn't know due to the technical and product standpoint. It has been fascinating and overwhelming in different capacities,” reflected Booth. While many founders quit their jobs and run the startup, Booth and her co-founders kept their day jobs. “Staying in our coaching roles has been integral to the success of the business.”
Kirsten Bernthal Booth – Founder, Head Women’s Volleyball Coach, Creighton University
Dr. Larry Widman – Founder, Psychiatrist and High-Performance Mindset Coach
Angie Behrens – Founder, Assistant Women’s Volleyball Coach, Creighton University
Craig Dyer – Founder, Associate Head Coach Women’s Volleyball Coach, Notre Dame
Jennifer Armson-Dyer – Business Development Consultant
Erik Booth – Legal Consultant