DANU Sports


Oisin Lennon, DANU Sports - Case Study

No Stranger to Hard Work

With his teenage years spent working at his family’s equestrian centre and going to battle on the rugby field, Oisin Lennon was no stranger to hard work and getting his hands dirty. After a shortlived venture into Business Studies at Trinity College Dublin, Oisin opted to abandon the books and head instead to New Zealand where he worked on fishing trawlers and farms, while pursuing his passion for rugby.

Over time Oisin realised that his core interest lay in the area of product design. Ideally, he wanted to come up with a product around which he could build a business. He returned to Dublin to undertake a degree in Product Design at what is now Technological University Dublin.

Following Your Passion

When it came to choosing a product as the focus of his final year project, Oisin’s passion for sport came to the fore. He had seen how high-level rugby players and their clubs had access to an ever-increasing level of performance related data and associated analytics. However, a lot of that data was generated with the player performing in a lab context, using multiple pieces of equipment and a long way from the rough and tumble of the sports field. What if a lot of that data could be gathered during matches where an athlete would be making real moves, taking real hits and feeling real pressure? By the end of his project, Oisin had developed a prototype of a smart sock incorporating sensors which would gather performance data during real-time training or match situations.

The data generated by the smart sock would allow physios, strength & conditioning coaches and clinicians to gain insights which they had never had before. Think of a fast bowler in cricket – traditionally their workload was measured in terms of the number of balls they delivered. A smart sock, however, could provide new and valuable insights into aspects such as the speed of the run-up and the level of impact when the bowler’s front foot hits the ground.

Early Stage Nurturing

While keen to develop the sock, Oisin realised that he probably had years of research and development ahead of him. He went to work with a relatively early-stage medical device company in Dublin where he learned a lot about product development but also enjoyed lots of encouragement from colleagues to take his own idea forward.

Oisin engaged with Local Enterprise Office South Dublin and was impressed with how the team there took the time to talk through and understand his proposition. He secured feasibility funding, availed of mentoring and participated in different awards schemes. He looks back on all of these as massively important in terms of both financial survival and motivation: ‘When you are getting a lot of no’s elsewhere, these small wins really count.’

The Funding Journey

Early supports from the LEO helped Oisin strengthen his core proposition and pitch more effectively to bigger funders. He was successful in securing €50k of funding from the European Space Agency Incubator and a further €50k from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Programme. Both of these helped open the door to a conversation with Enterprise Ireland and other investors as regards the company’s future funding needs. In late 2020, the company secured €600k in equity investment from Enterprise Ireland, the HBAN angels network and some private investors. This allowed Oisin to begin building a team of sports scentists, data analysts and software developers, and to engage more fully with design agencies and hardware partners.

Further angel investment followed in 2021 and then in late 2022, the company secured €3.5m in funding and put together a really strong Board including adidas’ Global Vice President for Hype. Oisin’s solo run was now very much a business.

On the Cusp

After years of development aimed at making the best possible product, summer 2023 will see a range of high-performance sports teams using DANU’s sports sock in earnest for the first time – hugely exciting times for Oisin and his team. As with all new technology, there might be some minor glitches to be solved, but the team are confident that international sales activity can ramp up from early 2024.

Words of Advice

When reflecting on the journey thus far, the first aspect that Oisin highlights is the importance of building and maintaining good relations – be it with investors, technology partners or team members. He knows the company has benefited from a lot of goodwill over the years and firmly believes that this is down to the way in which his team have invested in positive relations from the get-go.

He encourages other early-stage founders to listen to all the advice they can get: ‘I’ve never built a business before, so I am happy to listen to anyone. You don’t have to take it all on board; but listen, sift and see what stacks up for you.’

And finally: ‘Be sure to live off the peaks – not least because there will be a lot of troughs and closed doors, especially in the early stages. Hold tightly to your own vision and believe that you can make it happen.’

Find out more about DANU Sports HERE