Last week BetaKit covered TeamSnap, a sports team management platform, when it raised $2.75 million. Today competitor Bluefields is staking its claim in the amateur team management space, adding $1 million in seed funding and launching out of beta. The company, which was part of the 500 Startups startup accelerator in the summer of 2012 and was also previously part of Seedcamp’s accelerator program, has several investors on board for the round, including Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s VegasTechFund, 500 Startups, early Yammer employee Elliot Loh, and other angel investors and seed funds.
The London-based company was founded in 2010 and originally launched targeting the UK soccer market, and since then has onboarded over 60,000 sports team players across a variety of sports. It aims to give players, organizers, and parents an easy place to connect, letting organizers schedule games and send out reminders and track players’ availability, and helping players to message each other and stay in touch when games, venues, or other details are changed. Every team gets a devoted page, where the organizer can update info, and teams can track upcoming games, see their results, or chat with team members. Right now the platform is available on the web and mobile web, though the company is developing soon-to-be-released iPhone and Android apps.
“With amateur sports, this whole thing already happens offline, we have a structure in place, we have an association that manages leagues, then within the leagues there’s clubs, then within the clubs there’s teams, and within the teams there’s players and parents,” co-founder Andrew Crump said in an interview. “Ultimately our big goal is to bring the whole structure that’s offline online.”
Crump said the funding will primarily be used for targeting leagues and clubs, as opposed to individual teams, so a sports league could message several teams at the same time, or just send a message to one individual team.
“The bigger picture is those people generally…are part of some form of club or league organization,” he said. “Club and league organizations face the same problems…and as we move up that structure it allows us to do more for more people.”
Since part of the funding comes from Hsieh’s VegasTechFund, the company also plans to move its operations to Las Vegas, despite having a solid base of UK players on the platform, and several UK-based investors as part of this funding round. Crump said that participating in the 500 Startups program gave them an opportunity to understand the U.S. market, and they realize that it’s their biggest target audience.
The company’s platform is free for teams and players, and they plan to eventually charge for premium features, whether built by Bluefields or other developers through the API. They could charge for fee collection, letting players pay their annual dues, but Crump said that’s not a focus for them right now, and that communication and organization are bigger problems. In terms of how they are monetizing, the company is working with companies like Gatorade to build out experiences on the platform.
Moving its headquarters to Las Vegas should help Bluefields refocus on the U.S. market, but whether they can do that without alienating their early UK-based users remains to be seen, especially because Crump notes that the two markets and how they approach amateur sports are quite different. With competitors like TeamSnap building in the ability to pay fees, Bluefields will have to make sure it’s keeping up with what players come to expect from a team management app. Today’s funding should help them approach leagues, which will be key since they likely take a top-down approach to player adoption.