- Hello Jim! Thanks for taking the time to chat about Find a Player and the Sports Technology Awards – for those who aren’t clued in, what would be your elevator pitch for your award-winning brand?
Hi! You’re welcome.
Find a Player makes it easier for people to find, organize and play sports in their local area via our map-based app. Essentially, we connect sports people, clubs and games based on their interests. We also simplify all the game admin making it easy to run a regular game in about 5 minutes a week. Ultimately, we provide the same kind of user experience as Uber or JustEat, but for sports.
- How has entering and winning the Sports Technology Awards helped the growth and profile of Find a Player?
It was important in terms of the number of doors it opened. Nobody’s going to criticize your brand to your face, so that third-party validation and being able to point to multiple wins in credible awards is huge. I think the quality of the entrants the STA attracts is a massive plus as well – people outside the industry might not have heard of the Sports Technology Awards, but when you tell them you beat Arsenal, British Rowing, the New York Marathon and the German FA, it definitely gets their attention.
- Find a Player has now won two Sports Technology Awards – one in the 2017 Awards, and a Startups Award earlier this year. What has Find a Player been up to since those wins, and what’s next for the brand?
We’re just back from Germany where we won the Puma Innovation in Football award which was pretty amazing. I got to pitch to their CEO and all their key Global Heads which was a fantastic opportunity for us, especially as they all sounded keen to explore what we could potentially do together, so we’re excited to see where that takes us.
In general, we’ve been completely focused on getting the product to where it needs to be – with a product like ours, which is largely B2C but massively scalable – it really has to be ready before you hit it hard in terms of marketing. We’re now at that point, so growth is next on our agenda.
- Can you briefly outline the customer/user acquisition and retention process for the brand?
It’s something that we’re focusing on now. We weren’t keen to drive growth until we were sure the product was right, as people are brutal with reviews on the app store and play store – so we didn’t want to push until we were happy with it. But now that we’re there on the product, we’re working on acquisition through several channels (including partnerships and direct digital acquisition), although I’d rather not go into specifics of those publicly.
On retention we’ve been building a messaging framework to drive engagement, both internally through the app and through a big series of onboarding emails, which takes people through all the product benefits that are most applicable to them. We’ve started rolling that out in the last couple of weeks and we’ll be refining and optimizing as we go. We’re also working on some other incentivization mechanics which we’d like to implement as soon as we can to encourage the kind of user driven viral growth loops that companies like Dropbox and Uber used. All of this will be working to reducing CAC, increasing retention, and ultimately driving growth.
- Find a Player is a Startup that’s managed to cut its teeth in the industry. What advice would you have for budding entrepreneurs who want to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t underestimate the size of the challenge. Running a startup properly will consume your life and take a huge amount out of you personally – so you need to be prepared for that. People outside the industry only tend to see the glamourous parts and nobody really talks about the massive amount of stress you have to go through, the time you need to put in and all the knockbacks you’re going to get.
You need to love your idea and have total faith in it (because nobody is going to believe you until you prove it to them). You also need to know the industry and the market inside-out before you even start. If you do decide to take the plunge, build a great team around you and recruit in areas where you’re weak. Nobody is good at everything, so be honest about where your shortcoming are and hire people smarter than you that are good at the things you aren’t.
The most important part though is mindset. You’re going to have to be open to learning a lot fast and being outside your comfort zone on an almost daily basis. You’re also going to have to be mentally robust and resilient, because there are going to be a lot more downs than ups initially.
But apart from that, its great! Genuinely though, it’s a tough gig and it’s not for everyone.
- In terms of raising investment as a startup business, what are the key learnings from your experience?
How long have you got? That’s a full-day conversation! Again, resilience is key. You’re going to get a lot of ‘no’s’ and a lot of people doubting you and saying what you’re doing isn’t going to work, so you need to learn to take away any positives in terms of feedback and not let the rejection affect you in any way.
It’s like water off a duck’s back to me now, you immediately say ‘okay, on to the next one’. I think for us, our biggest challenge is that we’re trying to do something big, and people don’t believe it’s possible until you go and do it. In terms of raising money, it’s probably a lot easier to do something much smaller and niche and prove your model faster. My biggest current frustration is that, almost universally, everybody we speak to loves our product and wants to come in on the next round once we’ve hit scale… but it’s a lot harder finding people who want to do this one.
Entries to both the Yahoo Sports Technology Awards and the Sports Technology Awards Startups close on 23rd November 2018 (with a week’s extension for a late submission fee); details on categories, judges and entry forms can be found at www.sportstechgroup.org/awards/ or call the sales office on +44 (0) 20 3150 2080