RosterBot, a startup from Ian Andrew Bell founded in 2008 that began as a side project and grew into something with real traction that has a natural viral growth model, this week unveiled a brand new version. Bell, who also founded dating app Tingle, said in an interview that he was motivated by an avid user base to turn his attention to recreational sports team management platform RosterBot full-time. A number of sports management apps and services have sprung up since, including Bluefields, Huddlers, and others, but Bell thinks he has a considerable advantage.
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest that we invented the category,” he said. “All I ever did was when I finished 1.0, I emailed a number of my friends, and one of them was Michael Arrington, who wrote a very short article about it on TechCrunch on a Saturday, and within a week I had 300 teams on the service and it grew organically to about 2,000 teams.”
Bell thinks that had the site had more spit and polish, in terms of both features and appearance, it could’ve grown much further still, but in the beginning it was little more than a hobby that stemmed from personal need. The response it did get prompted scaling problems, which Bell said eventually “forced [his] hand to do something about it.” Which is where the new changes come in.
Part of those changes lie behind the scenes, in a new architecture that should help Rosterbot scale, but there are also new features. Part of RosterBot’s big appeal will be its tailored control over roster management, which now allows users to specify not just who’s on their team, but what position they occupy, and whether they’re a full-time player or an occasional sub. RosterBot isn’t limited by strict categories, either, allowing team runners to create their own positions so that if a sport isn’t explicitly covered, they’re free to generate their own, and set rules about how many are allowed per team, etc. Also, they can eschew them altogether if they’re playing something less traditional like dodgeball.
The new changes to RosterBot and the new drive behind it isn’t strictly because users were asking for it. Bell also got connected with former NHL player Brett Hedican, who came on board as an investor and a partner. The two got connected through a notable tech industry fixture.
“Guy [Kawasaki] started playing hockey nine years ago, and for a guy who started playing hockey at 48 he’s pretty awesome,” Bell explained. “He knows Brett because Brett now lives in the Bay Area and he’s really interested in being involved in technology. He was three-quarters of the way through a university degree when he got drafted into the NHL, so he’s not your average hockey player. So the two of them came up for the Olympics and Guy asked me if I wanted organize a pick-up game and that’s how we got together.”
Another big change is that RosterBot 2.0 is designed to be used by kids as well as adults, which will help families manage their team memberships and attendance. Those changes are especially important to Hedican, who is heavily involved in little league sports.
Eventually, the plan is to make it possible to accept payments right in RosterBot, closing the loop for recreational sports team managers. Bell says that’s also the time the company will start looking at developing native mobile apps (the site right now is designed to work well on mobile browsers), since it’ll make sense to process and initiate payments right from a device when players are all in attendance at a game or team meeting. Once RosterBot realizes its goal of becoming an end-to-end solution for rec sports, it could be the go-to choice for amateur athletes.