Find A Player: Jim Law
After moving to Scotland and struggling to find a five-a-side game to play, this entrepreneur came up with his sporting social network app
Name: Jim Law
Company Name: Find A Player
Date Launched: 18/01/16
No. of employees: 4 (plus numerous outsourced developers, designers and marketers.)
Tell us what your business does:
Find a Player is essentially a social network for sports people.
We deliver this via an app which connects you to your friends and other sports people and events in your local area.
We help match actual sports people and games together where games are short of players and players are looking for games.
We basically act as the hub in the middle between the two groups. It also automates the whole game administration process to try and take the pain out of the game admin for organisers.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
When my now wife moved up to Scotland, we moved to Glasgow and I was no longer able to participate in games of five a side I had built up over the years.
I was also unable to play squash with one of my friends at my badminton club.
I’m an avid sportsman, having been involved in lots of different sports, at various levels, from a young age so I didn’t want to just stop playing.
I was constantly on the lookout for new games to get involved in and I was getting quite a lot of invites to new games but they always seemed to be at the wrong time or on the wrong night.
As a result, I was frequently seeing people sending messages on Facebook and Twitter desperately looking for players after people had dropped out at the last minute and I realised the whole thing was totally inefficient.
Players and games were always looking for each other but the whole thing didn’t quite match up, so I thought I would try and build something to fix it.
Anyone who has ever played a team sport knows the hassle that comes with finding players when someone drops out last minute, there’s also a load of other problems relating to game organisation.
So no-one ever wants to be the person that gets stuck doing it.
How did you know there was a market for it?
I was pretty confident that the issue was a real one, however we still did a fair bit of market research and across pretty much all sports everyone was having the same problem – “people struggled to find players”, “they hated organising games”, “and they couldn’t find new games.
We also had to validate that people were happy to do sports with people they don’t know, that was essential and much to my relief just under 90% of the people we polled said they were happy to play
What were you doing before starting up?
I never liked learning things just for the sake of learning it so I lost interest in school by the time I was 17.
I had no real desire to go to university as I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.
I ended up working for a bank and then from there working in finance.
However, I could see them mapping out my future and I knew I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life so I quit and decided to go travelling instead.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I have always had plans to run my own business.
I started my first business when I was 27 with my Dad, then we started another business a few years after that.
Both businesses are still going and we now have another person managing the one I used to run.
The existing businesses paid for the development of Find a Player and from the outset allowed me to work on it full time.
I think once you’ve been your own boss it would be very hard to go back to working for someone else.
I absolutely hate the idea of not being able to have an influence on the company I’m working in.
How did you raise the money?
We raised £150,000 through our crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs, hitting our £110,000 target just two days after we went public.
A lot of the money came from friends and family so it was actually pretty emotional when I closed the round knowing that so many of them believed in me and what we’re doing.
Backing also came from a number of experienced investors including our newly appointed Chairman, Owen O’Donnell and Music Magpie Founder and Group CEO Steve Oliver.
Owen was previously chairman of FanDuel, who have just gone through the $1bn valuation mark.
He was also involved at board level with Betfair and King.com, who own Candy Crush. Owen has a wealth of start-up experience especially in tech and sports, which is fantastic for us.
Steve and I go back quite a long way and I have been getting advice from him about Find a Player informally for a few years and it was great to have him more formally involved.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We have three main routes.
Advertising – Our user base, who are casual sports players, are notoriously difficult to reach with advertising so we are already in a number of discussions about being able to market to our base through the app.
Licensing fees from venues – Venues generally have a lot of spare capacity in their facilities. So if we can provide users who can fill their pitches, courts and classes at the quiet times then that’s worth quite a lot of money to them, so we would license use of an admin system to them for commercial use.
Premium upgrades – In app purchases of a few premium features.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Where do I even start with that one!
Every day there’s new challenges that need to be overcome, as soon as you fix something or reach a set of goals you’re immediately onto the next one.
There’s no time for celebration or self-congratulation.
Given the nature of PR, people only hear about the success and progress and they have no idea of all the other stuff that’s going on behind the scenes in terms of the number of barriers you have to overcome and the stress you have to go through to get there.
When you’re on the inside you really don’t see the success, you’re just constantly there with your head down looking for the next thing that needs fixed or improved.
The challenge we face is mainly to do with the product in terms of getting it out there and getting people to start using the app.
At the same time there are always questions in your mind about money, have we got enough, do we need to need to be looking at another round of funding, what’s coming in, that never really ends!
What was your first big breakthrough?
There have been quite a few over the years.
Bringing the right people into the team is key and we have been lucky that from a technical point of view, we have guys heading up front and back end development that really know what they’re doing, without these individuals we would have nothing.
From a money raising perspective, several things have made a big difference.
When we released version 2 of the app and it was good enough to actually test on users, we were able to see that there was a demand for it.
From there we were able to nail down a pretty accurate CAC and the combination of having delivered an app, validated the demand and established our acquisition cost, gave us a lot more credibility when raising money.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
- Make sure you love what you’re doing because it’s a really hard gig if you don’t.
- Build a good team– No matter how smart you are you can’t do everything.
- Hire people that are smarter than you.
- Accept the things you’re not good at (or know you won’t do) and hire to overcome them.
- Get a mentor or join an accelerator – (I have been part of Entrepreneurial Spark in Glasgow for 18 months and it’s been invaluable.)
- Read business books.
- Build your network – go to events, conferences, lunches whatever with and open mind and think about how you can help other people.
- Just stick at it, keep getting better, learning and building
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
Still working on Find a Player but from a house in the Alps or South East Asia after selling some equity against a big valuation.
I don’t get to snowboard or lie on the beach enough!