V1 Game Developer and Visionary
Interview with Matt Ward
Dallas Webster is the developer of the V1 Game golf app. He is an avid golfer and data nerd. Through developing and using V1 Game he has carved his handicap down to a 5 to a +1.
THE WEBSTER STORY:
I started playing golf when I was 16, during Tiger-mania. I immediately fell in love with the game and steadily improved all the way through college, but after graduating, a day job, getting married, and having my first son, my game started to fall off as it was harder to find time to practice. It was right around that time that Mark Broadie’s book Every Shot Counts was released introducing the world to Strokes Gained. As a statistics nut and numbers guy, it was right up my alley. I ate it up and immediately started tracking all my own detailed stats and strokes gained data via Excel spreadsheets and computer scripts. My game also started improving.
Around that same time, my best friend Ryan Hebert was just taking up the game and struggling to manage practice with a growing family as well. He started using my scripts to look at his stats, but he was frustrated by the amount of work it took to get to the gold. We came to the conclusion that we could make the data easier and we could offer it to more people if we turned it into an app. So, we did.
Over the next 5 years, I spent countless late nights developing PocketPAR as a passion project on the side. In 2019 we paired up with V1 Sports to create V1 Game. The original clunky, clumsy interface is almost entirely hands-free with industry leading technology inside. I am still the head developer, still plugging away on the app most nights, and still using it to improve my own golf game as I’ve climbed to a +1 handicap.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
I’m definitely a hopeless golf nut. That was a big part of why I started with V1 Game in the first place, but I’m definitely the guy who is constantly thinking about his next round of golf. When is my next trip, my next round, my next swing. I try to convince my wife there are worse addictions, sometimes she is not so sure.
What was the genesis for the V1 Game app?
It started as Scripts, Spreadsheets, and really complicated scorecards that I was using to study my golf stats. I was trying to understand how I could get better. But once I got my buddy Ryan Hebert trying to do the same, he just kept complaining that it was too much work even with very compelling data. We decided that we might be able to sell the data if we put it in a golf app. We could actually help others get better at golf along the way. The original version was called PocketPAR which stood for Pocket Performance Analytics Recorder. We thought we were pretty clever.
How long a time frame in overall development from concept idea to consumer rollout?
It took around 8 months to get from the idea of creating an app to the very first version of the app launching in 2016. That version was terrible and clumsy. It took another three years of improvements to get the attention of a partner in V1 Sports. That has accelerated growth and improvement to get to the version that is in the store today, that is worthy of mass consumption. Four years of long nights and blood, sweat, and tears. Lots of phone calls and storyboards with Ryan.
What distinguishes the V1 Game app from others in the category?
The biggest differentiator is V1 Game does advanced shot tracking and statistics without the need for hardware. Before V1 Game, if you wanted to get serious about game improvement and stats, you had to shell out roughly $300 to buy sensors to install in the grips of every one of your clubs. With V1 Game, you can download the app and try our technology for free. If you have an Apple Watch, the experience is even more seamless. Our built-in intelligence sets us apart. Not everyone is a data scientist. We break it down so you get exactly what you need to improve without overwhelming you.
Who is your customer?
Any golfer looking to improve or understand their game. I think there is this misconception that advanced stats are more for the better player or competitive players, when the reality is the 25 handicap has as much to gain, if not more. We tell golfers at all levels exactly what to work on to improve the fastest based on their personalized performance. The average score entered in our system is above 90, but we have everyone from LPGA Tour players to juniors to beginners that are seeing benefits from V1 Game.
When does meaningful analysis become paralysis by analysis?
Statistics can certainly be overwhelming. I’ve seen some of our competitors bombard users with data tables and random numbers like proximity from 150 yards. Okay. What do I do with that? Is that good? I believe that data needs to be actionable. In my day job I use data to tell stories and to influence leaders to make good decisions. Golf and V1 Game are no different. We use the data to tell the story of how you can improve, keeping it easy to understand. We then use the same data to measure progress so that you can see yourself improving. Paralysis by analysis is when you have too much in front of you and you don’t even know where to start. V1 Game isn’t like that. Our Virtual Coach system, for example, does the heavy lifting for you and tells you exactly what to work on first and what to work on next to improve the fastest.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
I would drastically simplify the rules. They are intimidating for new players when they don’t have to be. Take a water hazard for example. There are red (lateral) hazards and yellow hazards. Your options are different for each. Try explaining that to someone new to the game and their mind starts spinning. You can ground your club here, but not here. In this scenario, it’s one club length, but in this it’s two. So many examples. I’m currently teaching my 7-year-old the intricacies of tournament golf and it’s intimidating. It slows down golf. Just simplify it. Water is water.
Plenty of companies tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach you follow?
I love our customers. Most of them are passionate golfers just like I am, however not all of them are as into the data and persistent as I am. So, I take their feedback seriously. An app like V1 Game should enhance your golf experience, not distract from it. If we can’t meet that ideal, then we’ll make it right. I am constantly in our customer support chat fielding questions and interacting with customers. I think its important as the developer to understand pain points, but also to hear ideas. More than a few of our features have been directly from customer feedback. If you have a good idea, we’ll implement it.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
I’m an avid reader and I can’t quite put my finger on exactly where I picked it up from but the words that have always stuck with me are “Get better every day”. The concept of just trying to improve every day in all aspects. As a father, as a golfer, as a golf app. That doesn’t mean I’m successful every day. I can’t improve at everything, but I’ve seen the rewards of persistence.
Given your success with the V1 Game app – what’s on your future agenda in terms of your creative efforts?
We’re certainly not done with V1 Game. I think we can take it to the top of the app store for golf apps. Golf is booming and technology is becoming more affordable. That means more opportunity for data and more opportunities for integrations. Personally, I also want to share how I use data and V1 Game to improve my golf game to help others do the same. I recently started a YouTube channel called The Good Miss Golf where I do some course Vlogs, show how I use the app for course management and post round analysis.
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