WeAreModex

Shai Sand, Modex Chief Product & Technology Officer - Technology is reshaping the sport industry in new, meaningful ways

April 2, 2024

Passionate about automation, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biotechnology Engineering and MBA from University of Michigan, Ross School of Business, Shai’s journey began with tech giants like Intel, Apple, and Microsoft on his resume. Shai Sand shares his thoughts on the meaningful impact that cutting-edge technologies have on sports, highlighting how football, but also other areas, can benefit from Web3 and blockchain technology. A discussion you don't want to miss.

Shai always had a passion for automation, for doing things in a very efficient way. He was always intrigued by writing code and technology and at some point, when that became his career, at the age of 25, it was all about how he could integrate different technologies in order to enable industrial progression. 'Before entering the tech world, I was an officer in the Israeli Defense Force. In Israel we usually start our career a bit later because we join the Army at the age of 18. After the Army I did my Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology Engineering and during my third year I started as a System Engineer at Intel’, recalls Shai.

After that, Shai found himself between building technology platforms and Process engineering. 'Back then, biotechnology was a relatively new industry in Israel. My class was the 4th class at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva that graduated with a B.Sc in biotechnology engineering. The industry didn't quite know where we fit in as we were not chemists, biologists, nor computer scientists, but a combination of it all. While working at Intel's facility in Israel, my duties were between chemical engineering and process engineering and there was a lot of room for automation improvements. Because of my passion for automation, I was in-between a Process Engineer and a System Engineer. I was building systems and platforms to support the wafer fabrication process.'

Modex - an exciting and innovative chapter.

Shai first heard about Modex when Francesco Abbate reached out and told him about an amazing idea: 'We are thinking of innovating the Web3 ecosystem. We have something really amazing and we are going to disrupt the industry, building different products that will change the world'. Shai continues: 'Among different opportunities we had, one opportunity stood out - an RFP from FIFA that would take the sport-tech industry to the next level - and we set our minds to become the leading company to tailor Web3 and blockchain technologies into global products for the football (and other sports) community, bringing everything we know from our past experience to help sport innovation and the sport industry evolve with blockchain and Web3. That was the first time I heard about Modex, that's when we started thinking where we want to be.'

Bringing top-notch features to the fans' universe.

 In Shai's opinion, which are Modex's biggest strengths? 'I believe that Modex's biggest strength is being at the intersect between sports and technology. If we look at the leadership of the company, we are hard-core Web3. We've been part of the leading blockchain projects which are shaping the world, we were part of the leading companies that are really looking to make a change using innovative technologies. And this is our greatest skill - the fact that we've been involved in multiple leading tech companies and Web3 projects and I think this is what the sport industry is missing.'

Modex's CPTO continues: 'Sport is a lot about fun and fans and technology is there as a mean to an end. It's not the end goal. So us - coming from companies where technology is core for the end goal - we are bringing top-notch technology into a sector which is more about fan engagement, an industry that is less tech-oriented (compared to Apple and Microsoft).'

Stay connected to the teams and players you love.

Shai believes that today, people are consuming sport and entertainment in a very different way compared to a few years ago. They expect to be part of the game, of the community, even if they are not physically part of it. 'This is really shifting the entire sport industry to enable global exposure. And that's where technology comes into play. If I am a fan of a particular football club, at the end of the day I care about my team, not necessarily about other clubs. I care about being part of my community. Here, technology can help to keep you connected and be part of that community even when you're not physically there. We see this notion with football fans, but also with other sports.'

Closing global gaps with the help of technology.

Shai loves extreme sports: snowboarding, scuba diving, skydiving, kite surfing, etc. 'All of these sports exist around the world, yet the communities are very location-based. If we take scuba diving, for example, there is a disconnect between the different certifying associations around the world. More than 20 years ago, if I got my certification in Israel and I wanted to fly to Thailand to scuba dive, if I lost my physical card, there wasn't any easy way for me to present a physical approval that I was certified for a specific level. By involving technology in the process, we eliminated this geographical gap. Therefore, if I lose my certification now, it's stored in the system and I don't need to carry it with me.'

'The same goes for kite surfing, which is not as evolved as scuba diving,' adds Shai. 'Since the sport has a significant risk associated to it, clubs around the globe are less keen about renting equipment to new customers, as they don’t have a way to validate the kiting skills of the customer. If I go on vacation somewhere and I want to kite surf, the local authority / club won't even let me rent equipment because they don't know me and they don’t know if I'm a beginner or an expert. Just imagine how easy it is to solve this global gap using technology!'

Shai strongly believes that blockchain technology can be used to address geographical gaps and remove location based barries. 'That's how technology will reshape the sporting industry, the way sport is being consumed and addressed because now it's no longer localized, but globalized. And that's the amazing power of technology.'

Why simplicity and storytelling matter.

Curious to find out about Shai's current biggest career challenge, we also touched upon that. 'Being at the intersect between two advanced industries is a constant challenge. Everybody wants the end result, especially when you aren't talking to tech-oriented individuals. We talk about football, club owners, club managers, players - technology should be used for their advantage. Some of them use it, enjoy it, appreciate the utilization of it, but for the majority it's all about the game and the community. It's a similar situation with the fans. I think the biggest challenge is addressing the end-user current pain in the right way and with the right technology for them to be able to enjoy game even more. And this is where simplicity and storytelling become important.'

The sweet spot between technology and end-users.

'When you're speaking about two industries intersecting each other, you need to be familiar with both sides and speak a language accessible to both sides', thinks Modex's CPTO. 'Sometimes, the gap is just tremendous. Imagine me trying to figure out the best technological solutions for football, while fans simply want to watch the game and be part of it. They like to enjoy it and not all of them are tech-savvy. So finding this sweet spot between technology and the end-user, that's the biggest challenge!'

Shai continues: 'Your product should be perfectly tailored to provide value to your audience. And here's the challenge: how do you take very complicated technologies and how do you simplify them to the level your end-user accepts them, adopts them and enjoys them without even thinking technology? Let's look at Bluetooth-enabled headphones: we all like them, buy them, they're easy to carry around, but we do not need to understand how Bluetooth technology works. On one hand, we are building the technology layer, and on top of it we are building the application layer. The end-user, most likely, faces the application, not the technology, and it’s on us to build the right application to provide true value to the user'.

Apple is very talented in understanding and driving customer behavior.

Shai worked at Apple for 7 years. 'As part of the iPad Operation team, I was responsible for the iPad and iPad accessories: 1st gen Apple Watch, the first 12 generations of Smart Keyboard, 1st gen Apple Pencil, and more. As users already know, Apple is very obsessed in providing the most amazing customer experience. For them, this also drives behavior. Apple is very talented in driving customer behavior. The design team is responsible to outline what will be the design of the next product. Then, based on the design, engineering needs to understand how to make it happen. More than provide amazing products and amazing technology, they are also known as the leading company to shape the future of the customer behavior. And in order to do so, sometimes you have to push technology to the limit.'

A better professional and a human being .

Moving on from the tech side of the chat, we've asked Shai what he does in order to become a better professional, but also a better human being. 'To be a better professional, I try to stay on top of everything that's going on in the industry. I try to be aware of technology and new projects, be proactive in reaching out and learning as much as possible when it comes emerging technologies. I try to always stay on top of what is the next amazing thing. The more you know, the better you can integrate your learnings into everyday life.'

'As an individual, I try to balance between my engineering point of view and the social point of view of life. When it comes to giving back to the society, I am very involved in education. At home, we have a family business for educational technologies, and I try to bring as much as possible from the tech sector to the education sector.'

What does it take to be a good leader?

 'Patience and acceptance', answers Shai. 'I truly believe that in order to be a good leader, it's about enabling the people we impact to do their best and not necessarily requesting them to do what we believe is best for us. A good leader provides the right environment for an individual to be the best, to flourish.'

 When it comes to the values Shai appreciates the most, honesty ranks first. 'I believe that being a good person is more important than everything else! And that's what I also try to convey to my kids. At school, grades are important, but even more important is for you to learn how to be a positive force in the community, how to be a good individual. I value trust and openness, so I dislike when things are done in an untrusted way. In today's society, the more we are open one to another, the more we can accomplish together.'

Extreme sports, family and traveling.

How does Shai disconnect and unwind after a busy day? 'Besides the extreme sports I've mentioned, spending time with my family is really important. Doing things with my kids and spending time with my family is what relaxes me a lot.' Traveling is another passion. Shai - who has been traveling around the world since 2012 - recalls: 'Back then, I was spending a lot of time in certain countries, as per my job requirements, but nowadays I'm more of digital nomad, I’m a world traveler.'

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