CoachUp Launches to Connect Athletes with Private Coaches

Selling your skills online is becoming a standard for service-based professionals and people willing to do odd-jobs to make some extra income, via startups like Zaarly, TaskRabbit and Exec. More and more, niche players are also seeing big opportunities to collect related skill offerings in a central online marketplace, and Cambridge, MA-based CoachUp is launching today to appeal to private sport coaches and athletes looking for training.

Private sports coaching is a large industry in the U.S.; a recent report suggests that it’s a $6 billion market, with positive annual growth and hundreds of thousands of coaches working in the space. CoachUp wants to become a central hub for all that activity, providing a place online where professional sports coaches can offer their services, be rated and reviewed by students and broaden their potential reach. CoachUp CEO Jordan Fliegel, an active personal basketball coach and former college and professional basketball player, told BetaKit in an interview that the idea behind the company just came naturally from his own experiences coaching, and working in and around the online skill marketplace space.

“I was a professional basketball player, and have been a private coach in basketball part-time for the past five years,” Fliegel said. “Then I actually started working for Zintro, another online marketplace in information sourcing. I headed up their business development team there, so I learned a lot about online marketplaces as a business model, and I knew about private coaching, and immediately recognized that there was a real pain on both sides, for people trying to find students and for people trying to find qualified coaches.”

To address those needs, Fliegel teamed up with technical partner and co-founder Arian Radmand to create an online tool that allows students to search for coaches by a variety of criteria, including location, specific sport, price or rating, and students can then book them directly through the site or by calling a 1-800 number. For now, CoachUp makes money by charging a mark-up on the coach’s fee for each session booked in exchange for its services, but the company also intends to offer premium services for a recurring subscription on both sides of the equation in the future.

CoachUp’s biggest challenge might be proving its worth to coaches and athletes in terms of forming a lasting relationship; after all, once connected through the service, both sides could arrange future sessions privately and avoid CoachUp’s fee. But Fliegel believes that CoachUp offers more than just matchmaking services, including streamlining the payment process and offering package booking of multiple sessions, helping coaches source new clients, and providing a feedback and analytics tool for coaches that could help them significantly improve their practice in the long-term.

There’s another challenge for CoachUp, too; services like UK-based Teddle provide general-purpose online booking tools for service professionals like online coaches, and general purpose tools like Zaarly and others mentioned above provide not only the opportunity to find private coaches, but also to have them bid on lessons for a potentially better deal.

CoachUp offers a couple things that those other services don’t provide, however, including a knowledge and familiarity with the specific industry of professional sports coaching, as well as an application and vetting process for new coaches, who are also subject to perennial review and de-listing should any red flags get raised about their service. The site also promises a full refund to any student athlete disappointed in the results of their first training session with a coach booked through CoachUp.

Backed by an undisclosed amount of funding from angel investors including Michael Dornbrook, Ron Rubbico and Scott Heller, CoachUp is debuting in the greater Boston area with over 100 coaches on board, and plans to expand to the rest of U.S. in time. The market it’s targeting is definitely a big one, so we’ll see if the startup has what it takes to bring together this currently scattered and unfocused space.

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