Pocket Radar’s speed-tracking devices help athletes track pitching and hitting velocity
Pocket Radar co-founders Chris Stewart, Steve Goody and Grant Moulton wax nostalgic when they recall their early days as young Hewlett Packard engineers.
It’s like they’re speaking of a long-forgotten era when everyone had their own workbenches with unlimited access to electronics testing equipment and resources. Budding inventors could consult with technology gurus.
It was a culture they said was fueled by creativity first and rewarded by money later. That was before the dominance of venture capital and exit strategies. And that’s exactly the business environment the three veteran tech inventors sought to foster when they started their Santa Rosa tech company.
“This is all about building the right environment, where creative people can thrive,” said Stewart, Pocket Radar’s president and chief operating officer.
The company, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, designs and makes small and affordable radar devices primarily for athletes and coaches who want to capture the real-time speed of baseball pitches and hits, tennis serves, race cars, remote-controlled cars — anything that moves fast.
The company’s newest model, the Smart Coach, syncs with smartphones via Bluetooth, allowing the user to embed speed readings directly onto mobile videos taken of a baseball pitch or bat swing.
A simple search of #pocketradar on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter brings up athletes of all ages, from backyard hopefuls to professionals, sharing their speed results.
In late June, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady used Pocket Radar’s Ball Coach to send a message to ESPN commentator Max Kellerman, who had notoriously claimed the 6-time Super Bowl champion was “falling off a cliff.”
Brady posted to Instagram a screenshot of the Ball Coach with the radar display showing 61 mph, for the speed he can still throw a football.
While speed-tracking devices like the popular Stalker Pro 2 radar gun still are widely used by Major League Baseball scouts, Pocket Radar has become a smaller, more discreet alternative. It’s a favorite of high school and little league sports coaches who use the speed readings as training reinforcement and feedback, a way to show young athletes that proper physical adjustments can yield positive results.
“Every extra 1 mile per hour is equal to approximately 5 feet of distance on a well-launched ball,” said Goody, the company’s CEO.
Though Stewart has been an inventor since his youth, he honed his business skills at Agilent Technologies, where he was business manager of the company’s radio test business. He also held a series of leadership roles in research and development at Hewlett Packard and its Agilent spinoff in Santa Rosa.
Stewart is now a volunteer instructor at Sonoma State University and last year became the entrepreneur in residence for SSU’s school of economics. Stewart said his work with Sonoma State is his way of giving back and nurturing young inventors.
“We’re looking to build a culture of long-term innovation for the local area,” Stewart said.
Moulton, Pocket Radar’s chief technical officer, joined Hewlett Packard right out of college and several years later hired Stewart and brought him into his engineering group. Moulton later left HP and joined Next Level Communications, where he worked on high-speed optical and digital communications leading a team of several engineers.