Melbourne SportsTech startup helping teams play more and organise less

- October 31, 2014 6 MIN READ

The camaraderie and common goal to win are two key values that define Australia’s sporting culture. An idea that’s widely agreed upon is that sport plays a pivotal role in strengthening the social fabric of Australian society. In fact, in the 1999 Australian constitutional referendum, the then Prime Minister John Howard insisted the term ‘mateship’ be included in the new text as it had “a hallowed place in the Australian lexicon”. While he was unsuccessful, the term is reflective of what many view as ingrained in Australia’s sporting culture.

At the same time, the size and significance of sport to Australians and the national economy was reinforced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which showed that Australian sport was worth $12.8 billion in income and employed about 134,000 Australians in 2011-12. It’s no wonder that we’re seeing so many startups emerging in this space.

One of the latest startups to enter the SportsTech industry is Got a Team, founded by self-proclaimed “jock” and “geek”, James Mansfield, alongside co-founder Robert Postill. Mansfield, who has a love of playing and watching sports, felt there were inefficiencies that needed to be addressed when it comes to managing sport teams and organising games.

At first, you may wonder ‘how is this a big deal?’ But for those who are immersed in sporting culture, these inefficiencies can be likened to manually organising a meeting between 30 different individuals who have varying availabilities.

“When playing sport I noticed how difficult and disjointed it was for the team organiser to get a team together for a game. It was typically text messages or emails and these soon became unwieldy and deciphering if there were enough players to make a team was challenging,” says Mansfield.

So how exactly does Got a Team solve this problem? Organisers use the app to create a team and add players using their email addresses. Players aren’t required to sign up or download the app to enjoy its benefits. When a new game is added, all the players are notified of where and when the game is taking place and can reply if they are ‘IN’ or ‘OUT’ with a single click. Got a Team then becomes the central place for all team members to know all the critical details around a particular game.

In a way, at least in principle, Got a Team is similar to Foogi, a Sydney-based startup that makes business meetings easy to organise and focuses on the corporate market.

The initial version of Got A Team was launched in September this year; and Mansfield says it was important for them to create a website that functions well on desktop computers and mobile devices, but decided to release an MVP prior to completing and launching an iOS application. That’s not to say that the product hasn’t been developed well.

In fact, the co-founders spent 12 months chipping away at Got a Team during weekday nights and weekends, as both have full-time jobs and families to look after. Mansfield says that a dining table and a computer, along with beer, negronis and whiskey marked the humble beginnings of Got a Team.

“We’ve always had a clear vision of what we wanted to achieve but we’ve always had the doors open to customer feedback to make sure we’re achieving it,” he says.

Mansfield has 20 years of experience designing digital products. Of that, he spent four years working at one of Australia’s most renowned startups 99designs, helping expand the company’s internal design capabilities. He says he’s confident that he has the skills and experience to make Got a Team a success. For the past two decades, Postill has been developing the complex software behind large applications, currently working as a Development Manager for an accounting software provider.

The co-founders have done their due diligence throughout the development process, getting regular feedback along the way. The app even has an internal feedback tool called Intercom.

“[We’ve] gotten a lot of good directions and ideas that has helped guide what we are working on now and fuelled our desire to build Got a Team out further. This is my favourite part of software development, observing how users are interacting with a product, seeing how it’s helping and looking for opportunities to make it even more intuitive and helpful,” says Mansfield.

“I’m also really proud of the way we’re building Got a Team. As well as bringing a great business sense, Rob is well disciplined in terms of testing and from the beginning has embedding automated testing and builds into the product. This makes releasing updates easy but more importantly gives us a lot of confidence that when we do a release, it will all work for our customers as expected.”

Got a Team isn’t a product that’s exclusive to professional sports team. Mansfield says it doesn’t matter what type of team uses the platform – it could be a social or semi-professional team, or anywhere in between.

Mansfield also recognises a much younger market – children’s sports teams. “As both Rob and I are parents too, we know that parents with children who play sport is also a big target market,” says Mansfield.

“The app works for a much broader range of teams or meetup groups too which is great but I really wanted to focus on sport as it’s a market close to my heart. Being Australian and living in the sports capital of the world might have something to do with it.”

Got a Team has also been launched as a global product.

Like with all startups, moving on from development to customer acquisition is going to be a challenge for Got a Team, though Mansfield feels that they’ve got the advantage of having a product that is “inherently viral, in that the first thing you do is add a group of players to a team.”

He’s also confident that that UX will fuel word-of-mouth referrals. That said, the co-founders won’t be overlooking other channels to market their product. They’ll be focusing primarily on advertising via online channels to raise awareness and will very soon turn up at local sporting venues to spread the word guerrilla-style.

For a product as conceptually simple as Got a Team, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to assume there are others already doing something similar – like TeamStuff, TeamSite.io, Teamer, ArrangeMyGame, and SportsNoticeboard. However, Mansfield is cognisant of the fact that there are competitors in the market, but he feels nobody is really “owning the space at the moment”. During their initial market research, they weren’t able to find anything that matched their vision for Got a Team.

“The other products have gone down the path of building features instead of creating something simple and effective and that’s how we plan to differentiate: keep out product simple and broad in it’s appeal and delightful and cool to use. We’re looking to really engage with passionate users,” says Mansfield. “[But] users who are passionate about sport, not apps … we’re looking to engage their passion to play sport together.”

A good question is how exactly with Got a Team make money? Mansfield says it’s too early to tell exactly how they will monetise the application. They’re focusing first and foremost on generating traction, and are quietly confident that the product will be embraced and appreciated.

Although it’s only been a month since Got A Team launched, the startup has already found teams all over the world signing up to use the platform. Mansfield says they’ve got “a few hundreds customers” using the product at the moment from 40 locations around the world, but predominantly Australia, which they found to be “encouraging” given very little marketing effort on their behalf.

“It’s still early days and the feedback we are getting from these users is helping us shape the next iteration we deploy and we’ll be scaling up the marketing once we’ve got more confidence in the market fit,” Mansfield adds.

One of the biggest challenges for the startup to date has been feeling comfortable with releasing an MVP, and postponing the introduction of more advanced features and functionality.

“It’s a very common problem faced by anyone delivering software. You can do anything, but what should you do?” says Mansfield.

“We still have passionate discussions around what’s next, who would want it and what’s the best way to deliver it but that’s part of what we enjoy about having our own startup and building software.”

Now that Got a Team is out in the public, the co-founders can enter the next stage of development and allow user feedback to help the process.

“That’s not to say we’ll do what they ask, it’s to say we’ll listen to their views and opinions and use these as inputs,” Mansfield clarifies.

“Based on early customer feedback we’re about to integrate SMS into the product. This means as well as email notifications, players will be able to receive game notifications via SMS and even reply via SMS to let the team know of they can make it or not. This will be without the need for them to sign up to Got a Team and will make Got a Team much more accessible to everyone.”

The real challenge for the startup lies ahead. Mansfield says they still need to make sure that there is a big enough market for Got a Team.

“We have enough anecdotal feedback to give us confidence but whether we can can get the traction we need to make a profitable business is the ultimate challenge,” he says.

A major turning point for the startup, Mansfield predicts, will be the launch of Got a Team’s iOS app.

“Having a responsive web app is great but an app is where we’ve always being heading. It just makes things so much easier to open an app than it is to open a website on your mobile,” says Mansfield.