By Eric Peterson | Feb 15, 2015
Athletic Monitoring and Testing Equipment
Founder and CEO Michael Weinstein is bringing cutting-edge, Colorado-made athletic testing technology to this week's NFL Scouting Combine and growing his company into other sports.
Weinstein started Zybek Advanced Products, or ZAP, in 1996 to make lunar simulant -- fake moon dust -- for NASA and design-and-build projects for a wide range of customers.
In 2008, one such project -- a vertical jump tester for a strength coach with the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs -- turned into a whole new company: Zybek Sports.
For the first four years, the company was a "hobby business” next to ZAP, but Weinstein decided to push it squarely on the front burner in 2012 after landing a deal to provide the testing gear for the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the pre-draft event where the top college players go through a battery of tests for their speed, strength, and athleticism.
"Three years ago, I said, 'There's no competition -- let's go for it,'" says Weinstein. "I just couldn't believe there wasn't anybody in this marketplace."
It was a prescient move. Sales doubled every year to about $700,000 in 2014, and Zybek Sports already surpassed that number in 2015. The company could easily triple sales for the year.
Today the company supplies testing equipment for a wide-range of pro and college football teams, training facilities, and events and is moving into the high-school market for football and other sports.
Zybek Sports' equipment times and tests 40-yard dashes, strength and agility drills, and most every other athletic task that football scouts want to see. Featuring cutting-edge sensors and automated starts and stops, its timing systems are accurate to one-thousandth of a second.
At the 2015 edition of the NFL Combine (Feb. 17-23) -- the company's fifth year at the event -- Zybek Sports is debuting real-time results. The equipment was so accurate in 2014 that the real-time data will be used by the media and official. "We're sending the time signal to the media in real time," says Weinstein. "That's a really big deal. The people who live and breathe the NFL Combine think it's amazing."
If you tune in, you'll probably see Weinstein at work. "Look at the first person at the first table on the 40-yard line," he says. "That's me."
A big value-add: the company's athlete assessment reports. The detailed dive into the data is light years ahead of most athletic testing. Weinstein calls it "the science behind the performance."
The company is now bringing NFL-caliber testing to a wide range of younger football players. "We show the kid where they're at, where they were, and where they want to be," says Weinstein. "We can generate cool custom reports for individual athletes."
And that's a huge jump from "the handwritten three-by-five cards" that are the status quo, he adds.
Weinstein says the company's equipment -- all of which is manufactured in-house in Westminster -- also represents a quantum leap forward for athletic testing.
Before he connected with the NFL, the scouts at the combine used "garage door sensors on PVC poles with telephone wire strung between them." Zybek upped the ante in a big way.
"It was an overlooked market," he says. "The only competition is getting the word out."
Challenges: Some customers have difficulty with anything beyond an on-off switch. "We get coaches from all levels of technology awareness," says Weinstein. "That's been one of the big challenges we have."
Opportunities: "We're taking the exact same model and cut-and-pasting it to other sports," says Weinstein, highlighting 1.2 million girls who play high-school softball in the U.S. as well as lacrosse, baseball, and soccer. "You could build a whole business around any single one of these markets."
He says Zybek Sports cut its already low prices in half to target the country's 30,000 high schools in 2014. The company's products cost a fraction of the $30,000 price tag that's standard for other suppliers. For high schools, says Weinstein, "That might as well be $3 million."
Weinstein also highlights the medical rehabilitation market "applying the exact same tests to middle-aged people."
Needs: "The obvious ones," says Weinstein. "More money and more time in the day."