Three Kettering University alumni took their passions for teaching, coaching, football, and technology to create an app designed to draw and share playbooks in real time.
CoachMe was conceived on the football field during spring practice in 2011 where co-founder Willy Joseph ‘09 was coaching a new system. It was clear to him that he and the coaches needed a new way for their players to quickly learn the new offense and defense so they could get the most out of practices.
“I tend to call CoachMe my best biggest mistake,” said Joseph, CTO of CoachMe. “The initial thing wasn’t supposed to happen. We were just on the football field and I had the iPad in my hand, showing off an app to stream movies. I took it on the field to show the coaches, also showing the ugly diagrams that were available to them. And then I thought maybe it would be cool to have a digitalized playbook instead.”
That summer Joseph started writing code, and James Glover ‘11, Co-Founder and Director of DevOps, came in to help get the website and logistics off the ground.
CoachMe allows coaches and players to easily draw, animate, develop, and share playbooks in real time.
“For me it happened so organically. You’re not sure what you are hoping for or looking for. You are just in the moment,” Glover said. “Everyone wanted to add their own uniqueness to the app.
For us it was really trying to stabilize the platform at first.”
The company’s big break came in 2012 when they received an email from the Chicago Bears.
“The company changed from that moment right there,” Joseph said. “We were going from the formation of being a project to a business.”
Jarrad “JP” Pouncil ‘09, Director of Business Development, officially came to the team in 2014. At the time of the launch of CoachMe, he was finishing up graduate school and starting a new job. But a few years later, he was ready join Glover and Joseph on their adventure.
“I learned how to solve problems, how to work with a team, and how to develop software in my previous opportunities. I always stayed in contact with them and what they were doing with CoachMe,” Pouncil said. “My friends were having fun making an app, and I wanted to be a part of it. We all want to be able to work with people who are like-minded people we like having fun with because that’s what brings joy to your life.
“I always knew I wanted to start a business one day. I knew the technology, I knew software, and I played football in high school, so it was a good fit.”
From Kettering to entrepreneurship
The three work well as a team, something they knew from their time together at Kettering. Joseph, Glover, and Pouncil are fraternity brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha.
Joseph and Pouncil participated in the AIM (Academically Interested Minds) summer program at Kettering while in high school. Their friendship and bond started there.
“We all knew our work dynamics. JP, he played a critical role making us a true business. James and I were extremely close to the work, close to the consumers. JP was able to come in and say, let’s pull back and look at where we are. We needed to be data driven with analytics. Bringing that in solidified our external relationships,” Joseph said. “We are just three kids from interesting backgrounds trying to do something in an industry where there’s a bunch of sharks.”
They were all recent graduates from Kettering when CoachMe was getting started. It was an opportunity their past experiences prepared them for.
Glover studied Business Administration at Kettering. Pouncil and Joseph were Electrical Engineering majors at the University.
Glover stayed with his co-op at ParkingCarma, Inc. after graduation, where he developed and managed a cloud-based software that allowed parking management companies to manage their parking site information in real time. He learned to connect with the customer during this time.
Joseph stayed with his co-op at Mentor Graphics Corporation in Wilsonville, Oregon after graduation, where he was a software engineer.
Pouncil, originally from Flint, went to New York University after Kettering for a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering. While at NYU, he interned at Deloitte before joining the team full time as a business technology consultant. While at Kettering, he did his co-op with General Motors, BorgWarner, and then the FBI, where he completed his thesis. Along with CoachMe, Pouncil started a digital marketing company specializing in helping agile and lean consultants, trainers, and coaches get more leads via LinkedIn.
At Kettering all three were thankful to meet like-minded people looking to work hard and try new challenges.
“Everything has its challenges. But we work well together to make something happen. All the stuff we did in the community in Flint, the competitions we were involved in and all the different organizations we started at Kettering prepared us to work hard. I’m working with people who were natural leaders on campus. This is work as usual for us, just grinding things out,” Joseph said. “We created something that affects people’s lives. James gets to work on it a lot, affecting youth, and making others successful. We actually did that.”
For example, one of the coaches has a son with dyslexia and the traditional methods of learning a playbook with static images do not aid with understanding all of the fundamentals, Glover said. The dynamic nature of the CoachMe platform has been essential in teaching his son the game; features like player animations and the ability to add colors and labels to player icons makes learning the game straightforward and fun.
Their time at Kettering gave them a good background and foundation for success in their futures.
“My Kettering experience was very eventful. From starting organizations and being in many leadership positions, I learned how to manage finances and handle failures. The lessons taught me that failure is not the end, but more so an opportunity to do better,” Glover said. “Kettering is what you make it. Being on campus, you learn about yourself and grow into your own.
Pouncil, Joseph, and Gover were in student groups like National Society of Black Engineers, Black Unity Congress, Order of Omega Honors Society, Student Government, and the National Pan-Hellenic Council of UC-Flint. Each of them were in leadership positions.
Pouncil said Kettering opened up the doors for many opportunities to grow and experience the world.
“Having to sit down and buckle down and really learn how to teach yourself new concepts helps you learn a lot about yourself,” he said. “Having the chance to work at multiple co-ops allowed me to travel a lot. Knowing that I’ve done a lot in my past has enabled me to reflect on what I’ve done and what I’ve learned. It was a really fun time with great people having so many different experiences.”
Joseph’s road to Kettering was a bit different. Originally from the Bahamas, he didn’t know if he would return to campus after AIM. He faced some challenges during that time, but many mentors supported him and encouraged him.
“It goes back to the people. The beautiful part about Kettering was how small it was,” he said. “Every year Kettering solidified my work ethic and it prepared me to lead. The people really cared. They had a desire to see us all succeed.”