Sunday August 9, 2020

Making It Work: ClubSpot app is just the ticket for sports clubs

Cavan start-up opens €400,000 funding round for its customisable club management platform

12th July, 2020
John Hyland, founder, Bernard Jackman, investor and advisor, and Podge Gill, account manager of ClubSpot, a customisable club management platform.

ClubSpot has opened a €400,000 funding round having agreed a new e-ticketing partnership with Cavan GAA. The Cavan start-up has also signed up Bernard Jackman, the former rugby player, as an adviser.

ClubSpot is a customisable club management platform brought to market last year by John Hyland, its founder.

The 26-year-old has designed the app-based system to help clubs engage members, boost revenues and reduce administration. Features include online registration, notifications and fundraising tools.

“Our competitors have centralised platforms with low engagement rates. With our system, each club gets their own unique app. It’s a customisable system,” Hyland said.

“We have 35 clubs signed up in Ireland and we’ve just agreed a deal with our first county board in Cavan.”

The e-ticketing partnership with Cavan GAA will give match-goers contactless entry to sporting events as they re-enter club grounds next month.

“They can use the system to buy e-tickets on the Cavan GAA app. The stewards at the club gates just scan the ticket using their smartphone,” Hyland said.

ClubSpot partnered with Tixserve in Maynooth, Co Kildare, to develop the e-ticketing solution.

“Once the e-ticket is saved on your phone, it can be scanned at venues without wifi or mobile data,” Hyland said.

He came up with the idea for ClubSpot when he was doing a masters in sports management at University College Dublin. The product is subscription-based and clubs pay a monthly fee.

At present it has an early bird offer of €50 for the first 12 months while standard fees are €100 per month for clubs with less than 1,000 members and €150 for clubs with over 1,000 members. It also intends to take a percentage on tickets sold, but the details have yet to be finalised.

“I knew that clubs, even grassroots clubs, have a lot of commercial power,” Hyland said.

“I was part of a committee in my own club that raised over €120,000 in one fundraiser and we’re a small club here in Cavan with only half a parish.

“Despite that commercial power, many clubs have no systems in place to help with fundraising. When you look at the amount of work that goes into fundraisers and the day-to-day management of clubs, I thought there had to be a better way to do things and help volunteers.”

Hyland met Jackman while he was doing his masters and began to work full-time on ClubSpot in January 2019.

“I’d studied sustainable athlete brand management strategy for my thesis and that gave me a good understanding of why people are connected to clubs and athletes,” he said.

“The emotional connection and affinity a person has with their club is really important. I realised that, not only did we need to develop a management system, we also needed to build a personalised member-facing platform.”

Hyland developed a demo version of ClubSpot and topped the best business idea category at the Cavan regional final of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur last year, winning €7,000.

He also took part in the New Frontiers programme run by Enterprise Ireland and, through that, secured early funding of €40,000 from Zoosh Ventures in Mullingar. The start-up also got a €45,000 priming grant from Cavan Local Enterprise Office.

“We got another €20,000 from Zoosh a few months later and they are taking part now in our seed round. We have about €150,000 committed already and we want to close it before the year is out,” said Hyland.

“Covid-19 has accelerated the need for our product, so we need to invest in software development and take on more staff. We also want to get into the British market.

“Our strategy for the UK is similar. We’ll be targeting local clubs across rugby, soccer, cricket, athletics and basketball. All of them share very similar core activities.”

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