The San Francisco 49ers have a long tradition of borrowing ideas from Silicon Valley. Their legendary former coach, Bill Walsh, famously modeled his meeting techniques after those used by technology CEOs. But in the last few months, the 49ers have developed a more aggressive approach to tapping into the tech industry's best minds: They've started hiring them.
Led by team president and co-owner Gideon Yu—a former Facebook, FB +1.29% YouTube and Yahoo YHOO +1.20% executive—the Niners have been quietly plucking from the neighboring tech world to fill their top jobs. Rather than pursuing the normal Silicon Valley routine of bouncing between startups and hoarding stock options, the nucleus of tech veterans in the team's executive offices focuses on everything from streamlining the draft scouting process to finding out how fans in different parts of the stadium can organize chants with their smartphones. They are, as Yu puts it, "fundamentally trying to rethink everything about live sports."