Seed Golf is a Carlow start-up teeing up to change the game

30 Dec 2019

Founder and CEO of Seed Golf, Dean Klatt. Image: Seed Golf

Our Start-up of the Week is Seed Golf, a business based in the Institute of Technology Carlow, that designs and develops premium performance golf equipment.

We spoke to Seed Golf founder and CEO Dean Klatt about his company, which designs and develops premium performance golf equipment and utilises e-commerce to offer tour-grade products direct to consumers for around half of the normal cost.

Prior to founding Seed Golf, Klatt worked with several global golf brands in Ireland, the UK, Europe and Australia. With 25 years’ experience in the golf industry in a variety of senior management positions, the CEO has always had a strong interest in product design, consumer behaviour and digital transformation.

Klatt told “Seed Golf is probably a reflection of that.”

Design and development

We asked him to talk a little bit about the technology and science behind Seed Golf. Klatt said: “Our first product is a premium-grade, tour-level golf ball. That’s quite a difficult product to develop, and developing the design skills in-house prior to launch would have been cost prohibitive so we utilised external resources to develop the technology we required.”

He continued: “We came through the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme and I have been based in the Institute of Technology Carlow since that development phase. Carlow IT has great R&D and design skills on campus, with EngCore and DesignCore labs and a wind tunnel on site, so it’s been a great place for us to be based.”

The founder said that as a digital brand, the company has been developing “a raft of data analytical skills” to help the business find new customers online. Besides that, the business is putting its efforts into putting research and development into plastics and aeronautics engineering.

The market

Klatt told us that golf is recovering from a period of declining participation numbers. He said: “Our market research showed the top three reasons people left the game were because it’s too expensive, it takes too long and it’s tough to master. We felt we could address two of those three, by making the game more affordable and enjoyable for more people.

“Everything we do is based around that, and we’ve targeted our branding towards a younger audience.”

The founder said that Seed Golf’s mission is to fundamentally change the way people buy their golf equipment and the way that people have traditionally perceived golf brands. Klatt said: “Golf is a very conservative game and the industry has been slow to adapt to change, so we’re pushing to be at the forefront of this sports digital transformation.”

The long-term plan is to develop world-class products in all categories, not just golf balls. Klatt added: “I’d also see us developing world-class skills in the data and digital areas to help continue to grow the business in the online realm.”

Another idea Klatt has is golf-themed entertainment venues.

The CEO said: “As we move more into the hardware products, such as golf clubs, I could see us developing Seed Golf branded golf-themed entertainment venues that utilise simulator technology to provide a more modern golf experience.

“Golf balls have been a great place to launch from, but we have ambition beyond that category!”

Business so far

“We launched in mid-2017 with one ball and no marketing budget,” Klatt said. “We relied heavily on organic growth and cultivated an element of discovery and social sharing to get us off the ground. All of this was highly unusual for a golf brand. Social media played a big part in our early success, as did YouTube.”

A quick search of Seed Golf on YouTube will bring up several reviews from golf channels, some of which have upwards of 45,000 views. Klatt said that this helped immensely when it came to getting international exposure, and the company is now receiving around 12,500 orders per month.

Klatt remarked: “We’ve travelled a long way with no marketing budget. We now have customers in 31 countries and there are now four golf ball designs in the Seed range, and we’re working on Seed designs in two new product categories.”

In 2020, Seed Golf plans to launch in the US market, a move that will be paid for with crowdfunding. Klatt said: “What we’re doing at Seed is very different to how this is ‘supposed’ to be done. So I’ve found you’re often dealing with people who don’t quite see your vision and that can present challenges.

“If it happens often enough, you can lose confidence in what you’re doing and lead to a classic case of over-thinking every decision. That tends to slow down progress, or even worse, send you down the wrong path. We’ve been lucky to receive a lot of great advice along the way, but sticking to your guns is the most important thing.”

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic