Monday, November 14, 2011
Interview with Dave DuPont, TeamSnap
If you've ever been involved in a community or youth sports team, you know how much of a pain it is to track when games and practices are, where you are supposed to play each week, if practices have moved or have been cancelled, who is handling what and bringing what to the game or practice, and so on. That's what Boulder-based TeamSnap (www.teamsnap.com) is all about. Last week, the firm raised a round of funding for the service, so we thought we'd catch up with Dave DuPont, President and CEO of the firm, to learn more about the company.
What is TeamSnap?
Dave DuPont: We make life easy for coaches, managers, and anyone associated with a sports team. That's our goal in life. What that means, is we track schedules, rosters, and everything else to do with a team, including who is bringing pretzels to the next game, who is bringing drinks, tracking money, all of those sorts of things. It allows coaches to communicate with their teams and other individuals, effectively and quickly via email, text, or through our online website.
How did the company start?
Dave DuPont: It's really a story about scratching one's own itch. I was interested in solving my own problem, as a coach and manager working with a variety of sports teams. That involves getting people to show up at the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment--which has always been a pain. I spent a lot of time doing that, and did not always work out well. I did some looking around, and initially thought I'd start from scratch, but in my investigation found some guys who had already started down that path, and already had an application to address the problem. We met, and after almost two quarters, decided the best way for us to move forward was to form our own company. We all quit our day jobs, formed a new company, TeamSnap Inc., and it's been up and to the right ever since.
Talk about your background--it looks like you, like many in Colorado, were once in the storage industry?
Dave DuPont: I characterize myself as a technology professional. I've got an engineering degree, and I've always been focused on how people use technology. It's true, I was brought to Colorado to be the member of the founding team at Lefthand Networks, a storage company, but before that, I was in the PC workstation world with HP. My background really is delivering technology to consumers and businesses, and I saw it's completely consistent that in the years leading up to TeamSnap, even though I was working on more of the plumbing for the Internet than the Internet itself, I have an excellent background in determining requirements and putting together solutions. We're not just software, but a whole company, and offer up services, support to address our customers needs, an area I've had lots of experiences across different functions and technology areas.
There are other services providing web sites for sports teams -- how are you different?
Dave DuPont: There are a gaggle of companies in this area, and it's a very competitive market. That's because it's a huge need, and whenever there is a highly recognized need, people see it and try to address it. Our differentiation is really in a couple of different areas. We have at the core of our team and our whole business philosophy, that we are here to make it easier for coaches and managers. We've designed the software at that level for ease of use, usability, and user experience for people on the team and the team itself. That differentiates from many of the players in the market, especially those that have been out for awhile. We've taken a grassroots approach, rather than the top down approach from the league, or a club focused approach, which is the bulk of the market today.
The second is, we're focused across different kinds of sports teams. Although about 10 percent of our users are non-sports entities, like Girl Scout Troops, book clubs, and church organizations, we do specifically focus on sports team. Many of our customers start out using us for one sport, but we find that managing all sorts of sports teams are pretty consistent. Managing a baseball team, other than the nature of the statistics, is not all that different from managing a soccer team or hockey team. There are a lot of competitors who provide functionality for a single sport, whether that is hockey, swimming, or soccer, and another one of our advantages is the breadth of our capabilities and functions. We do everything that a team needs, not just text messaging, or not just handling payments.
The third, is our approach to the customer. We take care of that customer pretty seriously, but we don't take ourselves seriously at all. We take a light hearted approach to our website. Everyone here spends time in support, including me, and we tell everyone to imagine they are helping out their sister--how would you explain how to solve that particular problem, being respectful but at the same time helpful and friendly. If you go through our website, you see that we're especially aiming at customers who are not all that familiar with online technology.
What will you be using the new funding for?
Dave Dupont: We're actually at cash flow break even, and don't need any more money. But, we recognized the opportunity to grow fast. We're investing the money in a few specific areas. Today we have online, and iPhone app, and we will be expanding to other mobile devices including Android. That's probably our most common support request now, which is support for other platforms. We'll also be expanding our club functionality.