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Global Sports Technology Expert Shares His COBE Experience

Martin Schlegel headshot

Dr. Martin Schlegel of Melbourne, Australia is a global collaborator with more than 20 years of experience in the sports and recreation, construction and polymer-specialty chemicals industry in the areas of IT, product development, process engineering, and research and development. As Principal of Chemneera Consulting, Martin engages internationally with startups, small-to-medium enterprises, and multinational corporations to identify growth and export opportunities and develop business strategies through digital transformation, research, and innovation.

Martin also serves as director and Board member of the Australian Sports Technologies Network (ASTN), a not-for-profit, membership-based organization. ASTN’s mission is to help local Australian sports technology companies grow internationally across the sports, media, entertainment, health and e-sports landscape. With more than 2,500 people in the network — its world-class, pioneering network helps power Australians in sports and tech.

“In short, I work in sports technology. Sports technology is defined as anything from video and artificial intelligence to sports analytics, betting data, apps, eSports, media, biomechanics, e-commerce, to management technology, sensors and wearable devices used in coaching and training,” explains Martin. “I take viable, scalable sports technology businesses and help them connect with international markets.”

Now that’s a specialized career.

“I’m a niche within a niche,” explains Martin. “Sports technology is a niche. And then you add the fact that my global consultancy is based in Australia – that’s another niche in itself. Australia, though large in its geography, is a relatively small market in terms of population. I tell local companies: if they concentrate on the domestic market, they will die a slow death due to the limited range of market. Sport is a global industry. I help businesses think through how to bring their enterprise into the global market to survive and excel.”

How did this unique vocation lead Martin to UC Berkeley?

“I was doing some early work with ASTN focusing on trade missions and had come to the Bay Area several times to look at innovative ecosystems – what they are and what makes them work. One of my stops was to UC Berkeley Haas as part of a trade mission of Australian sports technology companies to the U.S. The group had a session with Professor Jerry Engel. After the session, I saw a flyer posted outside the classroom about Executive Education and it piqued my interest. I had thought about doing an MBA some time back, but given my job demands, I just didn’t have the opportunity. That flyer changed things. I signed up for the Corporate Business Model Innovation program without even knowing about a Certificate of Business Excellence (COBE).”

And while attending his first course, Martin was hooked.

“I like to say that I got hungry while eating! While taking that first program, I wanted more. I looked deeper into what was available with Exec Ed and decided to pursue a COBE.”

“My biggest take-away from Corporate Business Model Innovation was learning about the structures of how corporations and start-ups can work together to enhance innovation. The program framed the options and gave clear choices on how to collaborate, and it eliminated some of my preconceived opinions of what does and does not work. It also shed light on much of what I had seen throughout my business experience.”

“My next course was the Venture Capital Executive Program. This program exposed me to the avenues of funding; it’s not as limited as one would think. There is a breadth and depth of options and avenues to consider when thinking about funding possibilities. We looked at the dynamics of innovation clusters and what makes them work, and how closed and open innovation paradigms work, and so much more. It was very valuable to me and the work I do.”

“Digital Transformation Strategy interested me because I wanted to dive deeper into this area, knowing first-hand that businesses need to look at how they must transform in a digital age. Start-ups do that much easier because they are born digital. For established businesses, this presents a host of challenges. I learned about the strategy behind using digital methods to better understand and enhance the customer connection. I learned about digital tools that are available to assist in becoming more customer-centric, like customer journey mapping, the conversation prism, and how to look at high-tech versus high-touch approaches and so forth. It was an amazing program.”

The Advanced Executive Presence program with Mark Rittenberg really put me outside my comfort zone! I have presented all over the globe, but this course gave me new ways to think about and present information. It gave me practical tools, from how to conduct an effective all-hands meeting to using storytelling techniques to engage audiences – and during the course, I received coaching as well. So valuable!”

The Innovative Organization program with professors Jerry Engel, Sara Beckman, and Juliana Schroeder rounded out my COBE in the best way. First off, I picked this program for the practical reason of it fitting perfectly with my travel schedule. But more importantly, I particularly enjoyed the live cases in innovation. We first heard from a panel of entrepreneurs who shared their experience, then a panel of venture capitalists shared as well. It was very interesting.”

Making Global Connections: Face-to-Face Courses Provide an Invaluable Advantage

“Looking back at my COBE journey, the biggest value has been those face-to-face connections in all the programs I took – this approach is integral to the program. In one program, we were required to converse with fellow classmates we did not know and then formally introduce them to the class with a brief biography. My partner in this exercise is from Santiago, Chile. After class had ended and we went about our lives, I reached out to him and asked him to connect me with some specific people in South America. Within a short period of time, I was connected thanks to my classmate. I followed up with my new connections and was able to boost my export program to South America! I am already established in my field and I already have access to global contacts through my network and my country’s federal entity, the Australian Trade Commission, called Austrade. Thanks to the contacts I’ve made at Exec Ed, it’s opened up the world that much more to me.”

Faculty – The Best Around

“When I think of the Exec Ed faculty, it’s quite an impressive group. They come from diverse backgrounds and are grounded in academia, plus they are all successful in their business pursuits outside of academia. Each professor brings his or her unique experiences to the classroom through anecdotes and case studies. Also, the networks they have – including the people they invite to the classroom panels – are the highest caliber and outstanding in their fields.”

Covalent Bonds – Beyond Chemistry Class

“In a digitally connected world, I consider person-to-person interaction to be of great importance and that’s why I elected to do all of my course work face-to-face. My COBE experience reinforced this notion for me –that I have to go out and interact with people. Then I can then use modern communications tools in more efficient ways – but I’ve got to meet people first and build an initial connection.”

“In one of his books, Professor Jerry Engel makes an insightful chemistry analogy: personal relationships are like covalent bonds that bring clusters of innovation together. The covalent bond is the strongest bond between two atoms that share electrons. In my work, I sometimes feel like I am an electron in a covalent bond, bouncing around between different clusters of innovation. As with electrons within a covalent bond, I’m the one on the journey binding things together.”

“That analogy resonated with me. Even I – as a chemist – could understand what these business experts were talking about!”

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