Startup Spotlight: Clubify

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Clubify is a communications platform for sports clubs which aims to revolutionise club fundraising and allows clubs to better engage their members and supporters, plus manage membership and subscription payments. We talk to its creators Aidan Quilligan and Declan Murphy.

What did you do before Clubify?
Aidan and Declan hail from Sixmilebridge in County Clare and would have played for the same hurling club. Both of us have had great success on the field of play Winning County and Munster senior championships as well as carrying out a number of admin roles in the club. Aidan is a past pupil of Ard Scoil Ris where he played Harty Cup and SeniorSchools rugby. Declan recently worked for Limerick based Tango Telecom who are based out in the National Technology Park in Castletroy where he managed the Technical PreSales team. Since retiring from hurling he is an active member of local Triathlon Club GoTri based in Shannon as well as coaching young hurlers at home in the Bridge. Aidan has 9 years of experience building software applications including web and mobile applications, research tools and advanced mathematical models of dynamic systems, while Declan has 16 years Telecoms experience in Sales/Support/Development.

When did you first venture into entrepreneurship and spot the need for the Clubify app?
Declan built and maintained the first version of our local club website back in 2005 and while it was very well updated with content it needed a makeover to become more responsive for the newer devices that were driving the traffic to the site. Aidan had been programming in the mobile app space and understood the growing trend in content delivery and together we decided to create an app for our own club. And so the birth of Clubify!

After we rolled out the solution more and more clubs registered on the platform and we soon realised that based on the state of existing club websites (derelict or non-existent) there was a real business opportunity here in providing not just the app but a content delivery system that simplifies communication, which we have achieved with our 1 Click 4 Updates philosophy (App, Website, Facebook, Twitter).

How long did it take to get the business off the ground? What stage are you at now?
The idea started in Autumn 2014, with a beta version available in Summer 2015 for testing before we rolled out with our own club in September 2015, in time for the county final. All the code was developed in-house and the app was built for iOS and Android. We now have a mature product in the market for 16 months and have 304 clubs across 6 countries and 10 genres of sport using our solution. What is great about this is all this traction is based on organic growth with no marketing or advertising. This is something we are looking to address now as we have committed to the company full time since January 2017.

Are you involved with the local startup community?
We spent 12 weeks in Dublin on the NDRC Launchpad program and this opened up our eyes to the networking opportunities at events such as Startup Grind which we are delighted to see is now running in Limerick under the stewardship of Pat Carroll. When we are back in Clare we spend a lot of time hot desking and regularly visit the workbench at Bank of Ireland on O’Connell Street Limerick where the place is abuzz with entrepreneurs.

This is a great drop in area to get a few hours of work done between meetings and Roisin Crotty and Maria Walsh will look after any start-ups looking for help. Events like Founder Friday which we were honoured to feature at earlier this month are essential for generating contacts and networking in a relaxed environment.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
The biggest challenge is educating clubs on the importance of communication. Local sports clubs are under estimating the power of their brand. Supporters want to hear news about their clubs but the current forms of communication such as social media means their message is being drowned out by other brands. Clubs do not see the value in paying for communication but based on our experience from existing customers, clubs who communicate well regarding events like fundraising find attendance grows which means income grows.

Who are your role models in life and work?
Declan: Michael O’Leary has to be admired, obviously he turned around a business in a hugely competitive and expensive market with Ryanair but I admire who he is now getting his rewards for working hard and enjoying life with his race horses. Far too many business people go to the grave without having rewarded themselves for working hard. Aidan and I have a long road to go yet and we are under no illusions but I keep reminding him he can land his helicopter on my yacht anytime when we make it big!

Aidan: Mark Zuckerberg was told Facebook would never work as it was already done but he went on and reinvented the term Social Media. We get similar comments when we talk about Clubify with people saying Sports Club communication is a crowded space. Now I’m not comparing us to Facebook, but there is a similar analogy where we see the difference between existing club communication and what we do in terms of engagement, and when we educate people on this we believe we will revolutionise the market.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out?
Be prepared for doors being closed on you – your brilliant idea may not resonate with others. Talk to your potential customers and survey the market – build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and get feedback if you’re going in the right direction rather than having tunnel vision and going off on a solo run. Always treat your smallest customer with the same respect as your biggest customer. Follow up when you say you will – we try to make it an unwritten rule that straight after a meeting while things are fresh we will follow up with the attendees including action items. Research companies and attendees before meetings – people will warm to you a lot faster if you have a common interest or a mutual connection. Finally, don’t live with the fear of some day meeting the person you dreamed you could be: Carpe Diem.

What does success look like to you?
Success right now is when clubs come back with positive feedback and tell you their supporters love using the product. Obviously monetary success is where we all strive for but on days when the sales calls are not going well it’s good to switch over to customer development calls and get some reassurance you’re going in the right direction.

What does the future hold for you and Clubify?
At the end of last month we started rolling out the next release of the platform which includes version 2 of our Content Delivery Engine, as well as a new version of the app for supporters’ clubs which will include options for exclusive content and online membership, event & match ticket payments. Live video is also being run as a pilot project and we have signed up the supporters club for one of the biggest names in Irish sport as our first customer so watch this space. After that we will follow up on the interest being generated in the US and specifically high school sports which resonate in a number of ways to local sports clubs in Ireland and the UK, including the requirement for online payments for the fundraising model of their booster clubs.

Article by: Kayleigh Ziolo

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