Our Start-up of the Week is Clubify, an app from two sports-mad technologists who believe they have built the ultimate solution for sports club communications and money management.
Hailing from Co Clare, Aidan Quilligan and Declan Murphy are very passionate about two things: sport and technology.
As well as having played senior schools rugby and currently lining out with his home club’s senior hurling team in Sixmilebridge, Quilligan has been building web and mobile applications for more than 10 years. Most recently, he managed the development process for the University of Liverpool’s hepatitis and HIV drug interactions project. These are apps used by thousands of doctors and medical practitioners on a daily basis, primarily across Africa.
Murphy has been involved in club communications for almost 25 years, since he first became PRO of his local GAA club, and also ran a web development company part-time. Since his retirement from hurling (with multiple county and Munster titles under his belt), he has since taken up triathlon and adventure racing, as well as coaching his two sons’ sports teams.
After 18 years in the telecoms sector, Murphy is now committed full-time to Clubify, the pair’s venture that combines their two great interests.
‘Clubify will provide the ultimate solution for clubs where we combine the project management of Slack with the communications of WhatsApp along with the micropayments capacity of Plynk’
– DECLAN MURPHY AND AIDAN QUILLIGAN
Clubify is a communications platform for sports clubs to engage with their members and supporters, grow their brand, and simplify fundraising and membership collection via online payments.
It addresses the pain point experienced by clubs all over the world that are trying to communicate with their members and supporters through a fragmented array of solutions, including websites, social media and mobile messaging platforms. This multi-platform approach is not only hard to manage, but it’s not effective either, with messages sometimes missed or drowned out in the exchange.
“Clubify enables clubs to engage and communicate directly with their members and supporters, free from other distractions,” the founding pair explained over email.
“We have proven engagement levels in excess of 20 times that achieved by club communications through Facebook. It simplifies the burden on club officials by reducing the communication workload by up to 70pc, and, through our integrated payments infrastructure, it empowers clubs to revolutionise fundraising and seamlessly manage membership and subscription payments.”
Targeting clubs operating on a voluntary or semi-professional basis in both team and individual sports, Clubify has identified a serviceable market of more than 150,000 clubs and sports departments, made up of 50,000 clubs across the UK and Ireland, and 100,000 youth sports and high-school athletic departments across the US.
“Clubify will provide the ultimate solution for clubs where we combine the project management of Slack with the communications of WhatsApp along with the micropayments capacity of Plynk,” the duo explained.
The goal is to become the leading communications and payments software provider for sports clubs in Ireland, the UK and US. In North America, they’re focusing on specific sports, such as soccer, as well as gaining traction in others, including high-school sports.
‘The biggest challenge for us is educating clubs on the importance of communication and, furthermore, on the difference between communication and engagement’
– AIDAN QUILLIGAN
“For the club supporter, we provide a custom app with a direct channel of communication between the club and their followers,” said Murphy. This includes push notifications that can be customised, ensuring that users are always aware when new content is added, and it is accessible on their mobile device.
This comes via what the team calls the Clubify content delivery engine (CDE), which is accessible by a web portal used by sports club administrators to deliver news, fixtures and results to their app users, as well as to accept payments for membership and fundraising.
To make the process as seamless and friction-free as possible, clubs can integrate their existing social media platforms and, with a single click, update the app, website, Facebook and Twitter.
Since the app’s launch in October 2015, Clubify has registered more than 350 clubs on the platform, spanning different sports, including GAA, soccer, rugby, hockey, golf and athletics. The app is already global, with clubs in six different countries – including Ireland, the UK, the US and Canada – signing up.
“We started the LaunchPad programme at NDRC in September 2016 for 12 weeks and reassessed our revenue model, and changed from our original freemium model to a monthly SaaS model,” the founding team explained. “[We] converted our first paying customer in October and processed our first membership payment in November of last year.”
Both co-founders took up full-time positions in the company in September 2016 and have been concentrating on business development, with regular trips to the UK and Stateside now the norm as they work on converting ongoing trial users to new customers.
“We are aiming to close a seed round later this year, which will enable us to achieve our proposed market share throughout 2018,” they said.
“The biggest challenge for us is educating clubs on the importance of communication and, furthermore, on the difference between communication and engagement,” added Quilligan.
“Local sports clubs are underestimating the power of their brand. Supporters want to hear news about their club, but the current forms of communication, such as social media, means their message is being drowned out by other brands. Related to this, some clubs do not see the value in paying for communication but, based on our research, clubs that create a compelling supporter engagement experience – both on and off the pitch – drive greater loyalty, affiliation and, as a result, increased revenues.”
‘We have learned a lot about our ability to respond to setbacks. The key is to stay in the game’
– DECLAN MURPHY AND AIDAN QUILLIGAN
The Clubify founders see themselves as part of a thriving start-up scene in and stemming from Ireland today. “You need look no further than the New York and San Francisco Enterprise Ireland offices to see some of the great companies coming out of Ireland and really making it on the world stage,” they said.
Their three-month stint on NDRC’s LaunchPad programme last year helped them tap into the Dublin start-up networks and, between developer meet-ups, Startup Grind events and the Bank of Ireland Workbenches active around the country, there is never a lack of networking opportunities for the eager entrepreneurs. “The past successes and wealth of experience in the Irish start-up scene really helps us to set targets for ourselves going forward.”
While regular, buzzing networking events are excellent for growing contact lists and getting advice on how to scale from those who have walked the walk, the Clubify pair are cognisant of the need to sort the valuable advice from the noise. “You will receive so many suggestions and pivot ideas that you will get dizzy thinking about implementing them. Remember: there is no substitution for hard work and this is your business and your idea so, when decisions need to be made, let them be your decisions,” they advised.
“Success doesn’t happen overnight. Resilience is undoubtedly one of the biggest requirements if you’re serious about entering the start-up world. From first-hand experience, and from talking to the community around us, no company seems to avoid a few shattering setbacks at the beginning or, at the very least, a very steep slope to success. We’re most definitely not over this phase but we have learned a lot about our ability to respond to setbacks.
“The key is to stay in the game.”
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