Spotlight: How Monarc Sport Built a Robotic Quarterback to Help Athletes Train During a Pandemic

robotic quarterback to help athletes

The pandemic has impacted the sports world in a major way. Athletes had to adjust and find ways to hone their skills on their own. Luckily, Monarc Sport had already developed a robotic quarterback perfect for this job.

The Seeker stepped up and helped some big names in the NFL this year. And it’s a useful training tool for college teams as well. Read about the invention and the company’s journey in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

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What the Business Does

Offers the Seeker, the world’s first robotic quarterback.

Business Niche

Offering a sophisticated option for training alone.

Co-founder Igor Karlicic told Small Business Trends, “Prior to The Seeker, it was largely impossible for players to train alone given the need for a human to physically throw them a football. While there are some other products on the market that try to replicate that action, none are as sophisticated as The Seeker.”

How the Business Got Started

As a school assignment.

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Karlicic studied at the University of Iowa, where he worked on a project linking a tracking device to a pitching machine. Shortly after, Karlicic met his co-founder Bhargav Maganti, a Boeing design engineer at the time. They developed the concept together over nine months and incorporated Monarc at the end of 2015. They quit their jobs to run the business full time in 2016.

Biggest Win

Helping high profile customers during the pandemic.

Monarc released the latest version of the Seeker in 2019. And they didn’t expect much demand from individuals. But everything changed in 2020.

Karlicic says, “The coronavirus spread quickly, shuttering campuses across the country and forcing sports leagues to postpone their respective seasons. This spurred a sudden surge in interest in Monarc’s technology. Today, nearly two dozen professional NFL players are using The Seeker to train, and league stars George Kittle, Hunter Henry, Mohamed Sanu and N’Keal Harry have come onboard as investors. Several NCAA football programs are also using The Seeker to improve reps and track player performance.”

Biggest Challenge

College football closures.

The pandemic completely changed Monarc’s market in more ways than one. Previously, they were mainly focused on college players and teams. So shutdowns made a major impact.

Maganti adds, “A major setback that we encountered was the cancellation / postponement of football during COVID-19. As a new company, we had a plan of several collegiate programs utilizing the Seeker during spring and summer. With programs shuttered, we pivoted to supporting individual NFL athletes looking for a safe way to continue getting reps, and thus #QuarantineQuarterback was born. In lieu of several new collegiate customers this year, we’ve had a multitude of NFL players utilize and advocate for the Seeker and we’re looking forward to continuing on our path to becoming a staple in football training”

Biggest Risk

Adopting brand new technology.

Maganti explains, “We use ultra-wideband (UWB) tracking and we needed to trust that the industry would grow, embrace the potential of this tech, and continue to develop and support it. Had this not played out well, we would not have been able to have the funds to develop an alternative. However, we ended up selecting a winning technology and it gave us a head start on integrating something that other companies are increasingly adopting.”

Lesson Learned

Handle important work in-house.

Maganti says, “The vast majority of the engineering related to the Seeker is done in-house. We oversee all aspects of the design and technical implementation, but we have experimented with contracted engineering help in the past. Our experience is that shortcut solutions never pan out and we always redid the work. Whenever we have been able to create something ourselves, the result is substantially better. The allure of external help is appealing, but if we could go back we would not have spent any time and money attempting to ease our burden.”

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Bringing in new talent.

Karlicic says, “We’d love to expand our team to increase our ability to support our customers and develop/release new features.”

Team Tradition

The Monarc Bowl.

Karlicic explains, “Our entire team either attended Northwestern University or the University of Iowa. Both in the Big 10’s West division, the schools play each other every year, so we have formally made it a holiday dubbed the “Monarc Bowl.” The stakes are high because the bragging rights last until the following year’s game.”

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Image: Monarc Sport, Bhargav Maganti and Igor Karlicic

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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

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