By Clint Vojdinoski, Editor at Bullpen Media
It’s a simple enough proposition, sports games have got to be easy to organise and find players for. Yet the problem is rather multifaceted when you have to communicate with friends and fellow players across different channels, find locations or venues then coordinate who is playing and who has paid.
Developed in Scotland, Find a Player is an app that enables people to organise games and find and connect with players in their local area with messaging, organisational and management tools built in to make administrating it all painless.
It’s attempting to solve something that’s become second nature for people to access in other industries such as ordering food, doing shopping or booking hotels and transportation by giving users a clean interface and a simple experience where you only need one to two taps on your phone and you can seek out people and play sport from a central hub.
The app has been downloaded more than 60,000 times across iOS and Android platforms, with a healthy base of users across the United Kingdom.
With a formidable team in place to drive further growth, we spoke to Find a Player’s CEO Jim Law, the winner of the 2017 UK Game Changers.
In the last 12 months, your company won the UK Game Changers, took out several industry awards and received new investment, aside from those achievements what has been the most pivotal development in that time?
Jim Law: “There’s a number of things that we’re working on at the moment but I think the one thing that’s going to be a game changer for us is, both in terms of market reach and credibility, is our recent partnership with nine governing bodies and a charity in Scotland called Young Scot which is a reward scheme for youngsters that has 700,000 cardholders.
“The credibility of having nine governing bodies who have nailed their colours to the mast and said ‘we want to work with Find a Player to get our sport out there and get more people finding and enjoying our sport’ is massive for us.
“Also we’ve brought a number of people into the team, people that have taken startups to unicorn status. There’s two unicorns in Scotland, one is FanDuel and the other is Skyscanner, we’ve already got people from FanDuel, who were at the senior director level or founder level, working with us and we’ve also got talks ongoing with some people at similar level who were at Skyscanner. I think that’s massive for us, not just helping us build credibility, but with any platform it takes a while to get it off the ground and build the team to help get the product to a level you want it to be at.”
It’s being able to utilise their overall influence and experience where it can help shape your product roadmap, offer ideas on user experience of your app.
JL: “Absolutely, FanDuel have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing in their time so having someone in our team who’s been there and done it with them, who knows what to expect and how to deliver the same kind of thing for us, is huge. On the product side we can use that same level of experience of building a product roadmap that’s really going to deliver what our users want to see and help us accelerate that growth curve.”
The markets you’re targeting is quite segmented such as your grassroots, schools, universities, communities, charities, non-profits, governing bodies. How do you tackle such a segmented and diverse market?
JL: “It’s certainly a challenge for us. We don’t want to end up at a point of ‘death by a thousand opportunities’ and that is something we’re acutely aware of as we don’t want to try to do everything and do nothing well. We’re keen to work with selected partners who will deliver the best value and be the best fit for us.”
Looking at the breakdown of people who have downloaded the app, where has the most downloads and usage come from?
JL: “At the moment the main demographic is about 22 to 35 year old males. I think because we haven’t done a huge amount of marketing so far. With a product like ours you really have to get it right before you start trying to scale it.
t scratching the surface in terms of what we’ve done so far against what’s achievable, it’s still heavily weighted towards football so that’s one of the reasons we were keen to bring in a lot of different sports so we’re not seen as just a football platform but a multi-sport platform where you can find different sports regardless of what your interests are.”
A problem I’ve noticed is that people are not aware that there are plenty of free spaces or ways to register to book or access sports.
JL: “I think for me what it’s all about is trying to deliver the kind of user experience you get from Uber. That’s what consumers expect these days, they want a couple taps of the phone to deliver what they want and they don’t want to search through websites, send emails or make phone calls. People want to just go ‘tap, tap, tap’ and have that immediate service they expect these days – so that’s what we’re trying to provide for sport. It’s a very fragmented industry and it does seem to lag behind considerably in terms of how it’s delivered to the consumer.
“Another thing we tackle is the game admin side of things. Previously it used to take me at least an hour a week to organise my weekly game. Now I can tap a couple buttons on my phone, sends out invites, keep track of numbers automatically, get a whole squad of people ready to play, a list of people who have asked to join the game and if I need a more players I just tap my phone and it shows me local players. It genuinely takes me five minutes a week now and it’s no stress at all. Once we get people to understand how much benefit there is we can’t see why they’d go back to the old way, so the challenge is just getting them to try something new and understand that there is a much, much better way to do it.”
How have you responded to feedback since the app launched?
JL: “It might be a symptom of calling the app Find a Player but what we’ve seen is that there’s two core things that users are looking for and that’s finding players to play with and games to play in. There are also people that want to use it for admin purposes but I think because of the product name they kind of jump straight to it being a connector app.
“One of the things that we’ve seen is that there’s maybe too many events for people to search through and don’t always get a response. So potentially someone asks to join a game which has already been filled up and they don’t get a response so they may consider it a waste of time.
“To counter that what we’re about to do is develop a curated, live feed of current opportunities. So a couple of days before each game we’ll ask organisers if they need any spots filled and we’ll put that onto a live list of opportunities – it means if you come onboard as a new user we can show instantly the games with open spots and you should definitely get a response. I think that should be a game changer for both organisers and players because it’s building up that instant liquidity and making it results driven.”
That’s a really big user experience factor and it would be a way to combat the problem where someone uses an app once and never returns.
Is monetisation something you’re currently grappling with?
JL: “We’re exploring a number of options and some are pretty obvious, one that we’re looking at shortly is payments and being able to pay for games through the app which is something that always features strongly in user feedback. It’s a constant bugbear for organisers when people forget their money.
“It’s the same as other experiences, look at using a traditional taxi versus Uber where it’s all done through your phone, it’s just a much better user experience.
“Advertising is a relatively obvious one and another is facility management, like you said where you can help to fill up pitches, courts and facilities.”
Out of curiosity what is the Scotland startup scene and culture like? Has it changed since the successes of Skyscanner and Fan Duel as their success tends to have a galvanising effect.
JL: “Going back a few years before Skyscanner and FanDuel hit it big there were always questions from investors asking whether we should be in London and if you could build a world class product and team in Scotland. But that’s been pretty strongly answered.
“There’s been a good rising interest in Scottish entrepreneurship and Scotland as an entrepreneurial country. The likes of Entrepreneurial Spark and Entrepreneurial Scotland have done some great things. Scotland has always had a strong culture of problem solving and invention so it’s something that’s always been here, we’re just not necessarily very good at shouting about it. We’re not natural self-promotors, but that something that’s changing. So yeah there’s definitely a big interest in start-up companies and solving problems.”
When you have local startups reach that billion dollar valuation it does give belief and realisation in people that they could ‘punch above their weight.’
JL: “Yeah there’s definitely a halo effect, you see it in sports all the time. In a sport like cycling for instance, it was pretty niche for a long time, then suddenly you have Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy and Chris Froome all having huge success and everyone in the UK is out spending three grand on bikes and mad into cycling.
“It’s the same with anything, when you see other people having success that’s relatable to you, you think you can go and have a crack at doing something similar.
“It also trickles down through the ecosystem for companies like us, who aspire to be the next unicorn, to have people that have been there and done it, who are accessible and you could bring them into your team. It’s a massive help and it makes it real that you can go and do it and make it.”
About the author:
Clint Vojdinoski – Bullpen
Bullpen is a publisher of sports business, digital, technology, data and intelligence. Our mission is to spotlight who and what is shaping the Australian sporting industry.
We bring you the innovations, ideas and people that drive the sporting ecosystem closer to both fans and professionals alike because we want to show that not all sports stars step onto a sporting field.
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