Our Start-up of the Week is ClubSpot, a Cavan-based business that wants to help sports clubs reduce admin while increasing revenues.
John Hyland founded ClubSpot after studying business in the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and sports management at University College Dublin (UCD).
An avid GAA player, he also managed an under-20s GAA club in Cavan, and saw the opportunity to create a product designed around the core activities of different sports clubs.
ClubSpot, a management software platform, now aims to help clubs reduce admin and boost membership. Its app provides space for member registration, upcoming events and news, details of fixtures and results, and group messaging.
“As we develop the business, we intend to develop sector-specific products as each different type of club has unique needs individual to their respective sport,” Hyland told Siliconrepublic.com. “Our product has the ability to help any type of membership organisation across a broad spectrum of sports and societies.”
Helping clubs to thrive
Hyland explained that ClubSpot is based on the relationship between a club and its members. As part of his thesis, he studied sustainable personal brand strategies and realised that “sport has the power to defy the laws of business”, due to the emotional bond that may exist between a club and its fans or members.
“These principles have guided the development of our product,” Hyland said. “We set out to create a product that has a greater purpose than simply completing a function. ClubSpot will strengthen the bond between a member and their club. We also spent a lot of time studying habit loops to understand why club members will or will not complete an action.”
Hyland said the platform will enable clubs to build these habit loops with members, with the goal of increasing engagement and revenue.
“Sports clubs contribute massively to society, both to our physical and mental health, so it is important that we can help these clubs to continue to thrive in what is now a very challenging market.”
Growing in difficult circumstances
As coronavirus restrictions and distancing measures continue, nearly all businesses are feeling the pressure, but the world of sport has almost been brought to a standstill. For now, ClubSpot is focused on development and growth, and trying to help customers navigate challenges in the coming months.
“Since the disruption caused by Covid-19, we have had to adapt to the changing needs of our customers and we are now offering a more basic version of our product at a reduced cost, with the aim of helping clubs maintain an online presence in these difficult times,” Hyland said.
ClubSpot launched its website in early April, with 25 clubs signing up in the first week. Hyland is aiming for a full launch of the platform by the end of the year, followed by the launch of ClubSpot’s second platform, which he said is due in early 2021.
‘It is important that we can help these clubs to continue to thrive in what is now a very challenging market’
– JOHN HYLAND
At the moment, the start-up is helping clubs to communicate with members and raise vital funds to maintain their facilities.
“The change in circumstances and free time that people now have has worked to our advantage,” Hyland said. “We have received a positive response to our product, which is the validation we were seeking from the launch and we reached our monthly target in just 10 days.”
He added that the start-up received backing from Zoosh Ventures while at concept stage, but plans to seek further investment soon. Hyland said he is particularly interested in bringing on board investors with industry experience and contacts, such as former sports professionals.
The start-up scene in Cavan
Hyland acknowledged that start-ups might seem few and far apart in Cavan, but this is something he believes is quickly changing.
“I think Cavan LEO deserve a lot of credit for that. The mentoring and financial supports they have available for entrepreneurs are excellent,” Hyland explained. “Our offices are based in the new Cavan Digital Hub and the facilities are comparable to anything in Dublin, but with much more favourable rent.
“I think there’s a lot of people who don’t realise the level of supports and facilities that are available regionally. In my opinion, there are many advantages to starting a business in your home region.”
Hyland won Best Business Idea at the Cavan regional final of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur 2019, which provided the funding to develop a clickable ClubSpot demo. He said that this helped get the business off the ground.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Hyland advised. “I couldn’t have possibly realised how much help I would need and how happy people were to help me along the way.
“People like to see each other succeed. Ireland is such a small country that it’s not hard to get in touch with anyone! I have reached out to people through LinkedIn or got in touch with a friend of a friend. Your network is your biggest tool starting out, so make use of it by trying to grow it at every available opportunity.”
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