John Hyland is a very determined entrepreneur. Based in Cavan he is the Founder of ClubSpot. In an interview with IIBN John said, we provide volunteer run clubs e.g. a Sports Club with a customised GDPR compliant online club management platform, that reduces the administration workload on volunteers, while also increasing engagement with members and growing recurring revenues.

You can visit the ClubSpot website here

What are your main priorities and goals in your role? 

As a founder of a start-up my role encompasses everything. One minute its product development, next it’s sales and marketing and then it could be anything from accounting to legal. Starting a business is a great learning curve as you gain exposure in so many different areas and no two days are the same. Recently, I have added two new staff members to my team and this is allowing me to focus more on the business strategy and be less involved in the day to day activities.

What are your biggest challenges? 

We are currently completing our second funding round and given the current climate it is a challenge to find investors. We are lucky in that we received tremendous support from Cavan LEO and Zoosh Ventures when securing our first round of funding. We have now moved to our seed round and have received support from Enterprise Ireland as we look to grow the company and go from strength to strength.

How has your business strategy been adapted in the context of the Covid-19 crisis?

Covid-19 has increased the need for a digital club management service such as ours. It has resulted in much higher demand than expected which has meant we have had to secure more funding and grow the team faster than expected. We have also grown our product offering to include digital ticketing for grassroots sporting events, this will allow fans have a “contactless” entry to stadiums upon their return to sport. This addition will help to promote confidence in fans as they look to return to sporting events.

What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?

Our industry is still in its infancy and as such there are many challenges facing us as we aim to establish the need for our product. Proving the merits of our product and showcasing to clubs how our product can save time and make money for them is a challenge we are currently overcoming. We are compiling case studies now to illustrate the benefits of our products to clubs and how we have already helped our existing customers.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

The need for digitization in the industry has become apparent in the last few years. GDPR was a big driver in this as before this, many clubs did not store their members data in a safe and secure manner. The growing commercial power of grassroots clubs has also led to clubs exploring ways to fundraise online and seeking new revenue streams. Now since Covid-19 the digital space has exploded with product like ours no longer just a “nice to have” but now becoming a necessity.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

We would like to see National Governing Bodies becoming more aware of how technology could be used to help their sports grow at grassroots levels and to support the volunteers that are the lifeblood of each association.

Are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

A lot of products in the market are “functional” type products, where as we tried to create a product that would provide value to both members and clubs.

How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

Brexit has not yet had an impact on us as such, as we are launching the product in Ireland we have not yet been affected by it. We are keeping an eye on the GDPR and data laws that Britain will adopt post Brexit as this could potentially affect our product and its features.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

As a start-up, we measure our success in terms of growth. We want to continue to grow at a fast pace, this includes raising funds, onboarding customers, developing new product features. Personally, I want to create jobs in a digital space in Cavan. Typically a lot of our skilled workforce migrates to Dublin looking for work, it would be fantastic to be able to contribute to our local community by providing jobs and proving that companies be successful without locating in Dublin or one of the major cities.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

“If you’re going to do it, do it right”, we don’t cut corners here. There are very fine margins between being the best and being average, I try to encourage my employees to look at the fine details and aim for perfection. It’s these small details that can help you stand out from the crowd.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

Winning the Cavan section of “IBYE” was a big stepping stone for me last year, if I hadn’t won that and got the opportunity to progress with my idea, who knows how it would have ended up. The support I have received from Cavan LEO has been amazing and getting funding approvals from them allowed us to fully develop our product. Another highlight was progressing from Phase 1-3 with New Frontiers. The education and support provided by the programme helped us develop the business as we passed through the stages.

What’s next for your company?

We are currently completing a seed round which will allow us to further develop the product and enter the UK market in early 2021. With support from Enterprise Ireland we are confident of closing out the round within the next 2/3 weeks and securing our medium term future as we look to continue to grow,

What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2020/21?

We have recently completed a partnership deal with Tixserve to add a digital ticketing platform to our product. We expect to grow our digital ticketing side of the business next year, with our custom apps providing the perfect solution for digital ticket sales. We plan to enter the UK market in early 2021 and given its size in comparison to the Irish market, naturally it presents good opportunities for growth.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

In 12 month’s time, we plan to have established ourselves as the leading online club management platform in Ireland and have our operations set up in the UK market as we begin to internationalise the business.

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