Kevin Imes Interview

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Founder & CEO Hole-in-One Media, Inc., creator of ReelGOLF. PGA Show preview
Posted on
January 23, 2023
by
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The Imes Background

Kevin Imes is the founder and CEO of HIO Media, Inc., and the creator of ReelGOLF™.  He holds an MBA from the McCombs School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with each of his degrees from the University of Texas at Austin.

Imes is a prolific inventor with over 100 U.S. and international patents across multiple industries, including smartphones, mobile music, IoT, digital imaging, alternative energy, AI videography, and most recently golf.

Kevin Imes Interview

The Imes Story

My career path cannot be defined by a single moment, but rather a series of events ultimately leading me in creating multiple startups and becoming an innovator as well as a prolific inventor. My inventive spirit started at an early age. I grew up in an underprivileged part of Houston and attended Aldine High School during the 1980s.

During my sophomore year, an anonymous donor donated four Macintosh computers to the school. We formed a computer club. With only six of us in the club, it was pretty easy for me to get access to a computer and learn to write code. My first project was to design and build a slot machine with a graphical interface and a pull-down lever.

My passion for innovation stemmed from this moment, but my journey took some navigating. I grew up in a blue-collar family with parents that didn’t attend college and couldn't afford it for their four kids.  At 18, I started my own journey and joined the military to help pay for college. I worked in the U.S. Air Force and National Guard on avionic systems for fighter jets while attending night school at a community college. I applied to the University of Texas at Austin and was accepted into the engineering program.

While attending UT, I worked full-time on the weekends at Motorola, which supplemented my income. It was there that I learned about inventing and applying what I was taught in college to solve very complex problems. Working for Motorola helped me shape a mental framework and a pathway to innovation. A few years after graduating from UT, I applied to law school and was accepted. However, I decided not to attend because my passion was not in patent law, but in innovating. My career trajectory changed at this moment.  I quickly started my own company called 3Gfoto and designed a mobile app on a Palm Pilot (circa 1999) for realtors to take photos of homes and have their own website updated with a daily sync of their Pilot. I designed a car play technology that allowed mobile phones to connect to car stereos, an invention licensed to nearly every car company.

After being awarded over 100 patents and founding several successful startups, I stood in the rain on the cliffs of the iconic par-3 19th hole at Payne’s Valley, the Big Rock. Our team finished setting up, and we had no idea if our AI-enabled camera system would even record at such heights. But we went onward through the fog. When the rain stopped and the fog cleared, we achieved a new feat.

On Thursday, Aug.18, 2022, our system recorded not one, but two amateur golfers’ hole-in-ones within minutes of each other. A 17 million-to-one odds feat that to my knowledge had never been achieved. But that moment in time would not have been captured if not for designing my first slot machine on a Macintosh computer in high school thanks to an anonymous donor.

Kevin Imes Interview

***

What was the genesis for ReelGOLF?

Just a few years ago, I was playing my first round on the Old Course at St. Andrews. I realized during his round I had no way to capture this epic moment.

I came back from the Old Course inspired to change the on-course experience and memorialize those cherished moments.

 

What differentiates what ReelGolf does versus any competitors?

The nearest competitor to ReelGOLF is players using mobile phones to record shots. Golfers tend to not want to delay play or depend on others recording shots on epic holes.

With ReelGOLF, we discretely place high-end 4K cameras and produce PGA Tour-inspired video within minutes of players taking their shots. The final video includes a drone intro, the players’ names, course, hole number, and shot tracing of the players’ ball flight.

How long was the timeline from the genesis of the idea until the actual rollout?

HIO Media began doing research in the spring of 2020, right before the pandemic hit. I was at the Players Championship researching camera technologies when the PGA shut down spectator viewing. It was a very surreal moment, but I doubled down on my vision.

Golf took off again and about two years later, ReelGOLF was born.

 

Who is your customer?

We have been fortunate to have several clients, hosting several events including the Dell Match Play, Titos National Sales, the NGCOA Multi-Course Owner Retreat in South Carolina, a 400 Player Member-Guest event at Barton Creek Country Club, and a single-day test at Payne’s Valley nineteenth hole.

We have several high-profile permanent installations in the works with announcements forthcoming.

 

In what specific ways are you building your visibility?

Our brand growth has been through creating organic golf videos shared through social media platforms.

The two aces recorded on the same day at Payne’s Valley put us on the map, and we will continue to record and share these great moments as they occur.

 

What are the approximate costs to engage ReelGOLF?

We offer a lease model varying greatly depending on the complexity of the installation. Leases can vary between $3,000 - $5,000 per month.

Courses also have the option to use our event services for custom footage and our SMS communication platform for post-round player outreach for daily deals or specials.

Plenty of companies tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach followed by ReelGOLF.

Customer service begins from the first meeting all the way to the use of ReelGOLF. From the minute a course meets our team, they can feel our emphasis on creating great experiences.

Our system also has self-monitoring capabilities that we check on a daily basis and a real-time notification system that tells us if there is an issue on-site. We will likely know of issues before the courses do and will respond accordingly.

Kevin Imes Interview

What roles does customer feedback play in your future efforts?

Listening to your customers is vital to maintaining your presence in the marketplace. Since we have launched the first autonomous videography platform for golf, we rely on honest feedback from players and courses shaping the future direction of ReelGOLF.

If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally -- what would it be and why?

I enjoy having a caddy to chat with when playing. I feel that this is starting to become a lost trade as more courses move away from caddies.

It would be nice if there could be a national association beyond the association of professional tour caddies. The tenants would tutor and educate new caddies, preserve traditions and provide additional support for caddies beyond what they earn such as health care, education, and retirement.

Best advice you ever received - what was it and who was it from?

A quote from Albert Einstein -- “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when creating them”.
That could be changing the way music is played in your car, how a thermostat can become smart and save money, how wind energy is managed in volatile weather environments, or inventing the first AI-enabled golf course video system recording players’ experiences. Traditional thinking has to be broken for industries to evolve.

Thank you Mr. Einstein, for inspiring me.

***

For more info go to:

www.reelgolf.com

 

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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