The sports digital media space is definitely something to look out for this year and Teamer is making sure that they are the number one startup on everyone's lips when it comes to the industry.
The company who raised €500k investment, a round led by Kernel Capital, The Bank of Ireland’s Seed and Early Stage Equity Fund in March 2010 will be hoping to increase their already growing 1.5 m members in 2012.
I spoke to the company's CEO, Niall McEvoy, who talks me through his background, how Teamer came about and their plans for 2012.
Could you quickly give us some background information about yourself?
Born, raised and educated in Dublin. After a brief flirtation with academia when I left school, I embarked on a career as a bookmaker (as in betting, not making books !). Great fun, learned a load about risk and margin ! Then changed direction completely to work for the Irish Govt. business development agency, helping companies to grow in international markets. This role took me to London, where I spent 8 years. After a few years back in HQ, I got the entrepreneurial itch, and Teamer was born in late 2008.
How did you get involved in entrepreneurship? Were you exposed to entrepreneurship as a child?
My father was an entrepreneur, leaving a very safe public sector job in his late 30’s to set up his own business (scary how history has a habit of repeating itself !). But actually, my main exposure to entrepreneurship cam during my time in Enterprise Ireland. This was a wide and varied business consulting role, which gave me exposure to companies ranging from start ups to those growing in international markets by acquisition.
So tell me about Teamer and how the idea came about?
Teamer was born in a pub ! Actually, it’s not my idea, but the idea of company co-founder Ken Moulton, who had been asked to run a hockey team, and quickly discovered that there wasn’t an integrated web/email/sms solution online. With my experience in working with high growth start ups, fundraising etc., Ken asked me to come on board as CEO, with him taking on the role of operations director. We were joined at founder stage by Ken’s brother Steve, a career web professional. 3 co founders of the business
What is Teamer and how does it work?
Teamer is sports social platform which provides any sports team with a private online team space to organise, interact and communicate. At its core, Teamer is fully integrated with the mobile sms network, and this combined with web, email, and mobile app provides a unique sports team organisational platform.
What is your business model?
Up to recently it has been solely advertising and sponsorship, but the model is evolving as we scale to include mobile apps, sms, and up-selling our users to value add functionality. We have some exciting new revenue streams in our business plan.
How did you initially attract users to Teamer, and how do you do it now?
We work very hard on user acquisition. We do all the usual stuff, search and social media etc, and we have an in-house user acquisition team, that focuses exclusively on a direct user acquisition strategy. We get a lot of viral growth within clubs and communities once we seed effectively. We are always experimenting with new user acquisition methods. We have some special sauce as well, but that would be telling !
What makes Teamer different from any service out there? What problem does it solve?
The problem is actually pretty straightforward, and that is that organising a sports team is a load of hassle. So starting with solving the team organisational headaches, and building around that, we identified that many teams would have a requirement for an integrated online solution, that solved organizational headaches and offered a private community environment for online team interaction.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
User acquisition without doubt, because if you aren’t adding users/members, then you never get a chance to validate the business model, attract investment and take advantage of the market opportunity.
What was the most challenging part of starting the business?
It would be easy to say funding, but you can always make year 1 happen on a shoestring if you have the appetite for a tough year. The most challenging part is convincing yourself to get off the fence and do it. That’s the difference between having an idea and being an entrepreneur.
Would you say the business has changed from the first initial idea?
At a high level, very little. Anything that has changed, has been user driven. We listen to the user base all the time, are quite democratic about the prioritization of developments and enhancements. If our community asks for new features, we try to prioritise in favour of this stuff.
Who are your competitors?
Lots of people fishing in the grassroots sporting pond, some in the “club” space, less in the “team” space. Companies like E-Teamz, Teamsnap, Pitchero, Clubwebsite, all play in the grassroots sports vertical. We have seen plenty come and go over the last three years, but few with our sort of traction across multiple markets.
What were you doing before you founded Teamer?
Worked for Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Government Business Development Agency
How have you been able to fund the business?
We have been fortunate to attract strategic investment at a number of key stages in our growth, initially private friends and family type investment, then a small seed round from an Irish VC, and a private round in late 2010.
What can we be expecting from your company in 2012?
Grow our member base to 2.5m members, grow into new geographical markets, expanded platform functionality with a range of new features including an android app. Taking Teamer to the USA !
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
- Start now, tomorrow is too late.
- Use every business contact you ever met to get free advice and professional help (you need a lot of freebies if you aren’t funded, and you’ll be amazed how much goodwill can be transformed into free help)
- Build a broad skilled mgt team. If you are a techie, no point in surrounding yourself with lots of techies, you need strong commercial influences to succeed (and vica versa)