The Entrepreneur: Barry Houlihan, BreatheSport

Having sold his first company for $75m, the Scaleups Sessions speaker outlines his latest venture and explains why he won't be “chasing shadows”

Founders: Barry Houlihan
Company: BreatheSport
Website: https://www.breathesport.com/
Description in one line: BreatheSport is the new mobile-first download dedicated to the world of sport.
Previous companies: Mobile Interactive Group (MIG)

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • BreatheSport is a new mobile sports experience centering on sports personality and fan reaction to breaking news and live events, and is free to download.
  • We have a growing number of over 150 experts who work with us exclusively, including Gary Lineker, Gary Neville and Kevin Pietersen.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

My greatest achievement is that I’ve been entrepreneurial for over 20 years. I’ve managed to pay the mortgage from launching companies that I truly love.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

We look at customer visits, customer engagement and our content shares on social media. This is the data that drives our business.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

BreatheSport is currently available worldwide and we have seen users access the experience from over 150 countries. We also have very ambitious plans to create regional versions in core international markets.

Describe your growth funding path:

We have already raised $3m seed financing, and we are currently raising a Series A round.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Thanks to our mobile first content management system, we can publish content from any place at any time directly onto the platform. It also allows our sports personalities and emerging sports writers to publish to our vast audience in a matter minutes.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

In three years we expect to be heading towards 10 million monthly active users, to break even, and to have several companion apps. I hope we will have established one of the most respected brands in global sports media.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Selling a company you are truly in love with. It’s heartbreaking.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Chasing shadows. Pursuing things that you think are big opportunities but are actually a total waste of your time.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Corporate structuring; so SEIS, EIS, process, contracts, lawyers etc. It’s a nightmare!

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Not giving the really talented people enough opportunity to express themselves.

How will your market look in three years?

Traditional sports content experiences will struggle to compete with real human driven experiences and networks (such as ours) that get fans much closer to personalities and the real emotion of sport.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Don’t worry about experience. Stay passionate and stay creative. If your idea or concept is sound you have a real shot.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Sending my suits and shirts to the dry cleaners. I hate ironing!

Executive education or learn it on the job?

A little education will really help you to appreciate what you learn on the job. Work smart.

What would make you a better leader?

For me, having a great leadership team to work with is vitally important. I had this in my last company and we have it in spades at BreatheSport. Great leadership teams make leaders look very good.

Business book:

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden. It’s an easy read, two hours maximum, but it really makes you think.

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