A biomedical engineer by trade, Chris Welch has spent over 25 years in the industry in various capacities. After having spent some time on the research side of the business, Chris saw an opportunity for a business model of this own. His first concept, Welch Tech evolved into ZenoLink in 2011.
ZenoLink provides information on functional movement through its innovative technology. They specialize in sports performance assessments but also look into worker compensation issues. By using a 3D motion capture process they can analyze human movement and often influence injury prevention.
“What’s unique is that we’re not selling hardware, which is what some companies in this space do,” says Chris. “We provide our information from a solutions perspective.” Chris developed a patent for a unique process for creating 3D data from standard video (as opposed to markers or sensors which is how many of his competitors operate).
His clients include professional sports teams such as the Yankees, universities, training academies, and children’s sports clinics and camps. “We can test hundreds of players in an afternoon,” Chris says.
Chris explains that the average athlete doesn’t have access to this kind of tech. “Because we do it without the bulk and because of our cost structure we’re making it available to anyone, anywhere,” he says.
Chris says his product has been well-adopted thanks to its flexibility. “If you are using sensors or markers, it can take half an hour to get one athlete set up,” he says. Setting up ZenoLink’s product in a batting cage, for example, is much easier and quicker. “It’s also completely non-invasive and [the athletes] are in their natural environment,” he says. This means a baseball player can be in his uniform as opposed to in a lab, which may mean a more accurate read on his regular performance.
The workplace is also a big opportunity. ZenoLink recently took its cameras right into a plant. “We set up on some furnaces where they have workers pulling fiber optic cables out of them and we looked at the ergonomics.”
While ZenoLink does project-based work for clients like this, most of their ongoing business is through partners. Chris compares it to a doctor’s office having blood work equipment in their offices but sending it out to a lab that processes data all day. “They just draw the blood and send it out,” he says. “Instead of drawing blood, they are taking video and shipping it to us and we process the data.”
Getting the Word Out
“We grew from essentially me and a primary shareholder,” says Chris. Today, ZenoLink has nine employees. The company experienced 100% YoY revenue growth in its early years. While growth is starting to balance out, their client list keeps growing. Chris cites NHL teams and major hospital systems as newly signed clients.
Chris says they focus on “inner circle marketing,” pursuing press opportunities in trade publications. They also use social media marketing to target customer communities such as college athletes.
One of their most practiced areas within athletics is golf. In a 2010 feature in Global Golf Post, Chris commented on the swing analysis of major sports stars like Tiger Woods. “That got us a lot of mileage. That kind of stuff works better than an ad.”
In 2016, Chris is excited to open up their very own testing and training center and to get deeper into the workers comp application. “The proof of concept on the healthcare stuff is really solid,” he says. He is open to partnering with a company that has bigger pockets and the infrastructure to drive it.