Young team scores points with LinkedIn for sports
Recall last yearâ€™s Lionâ€™s Lair competition which featured a local software solutions company called Athelink (www.athelink.com)? A whole year has gone by since the small startup received all of that much-needed exposure. Question is, how are they doing now?
Iâ€™m here to report that DeGroote MBA graduate Gihan Fonseka and his team (Patrick Defazio, Stefan Schnablegger, and Shanel De Mel) continue down the long arduous road to success. For most of 2011, the team focused its efforts on creating a sports management software solution based on inherent assumptions the designers thought they knew based primarily on other existing tools in the marketplace. Early in 2012, I introduced Gihan to the Blessed Sacrament Basketball Club (www.blessedsacramentbasketball.ca) where I coach the novice boysâ€™ team. It was there that a new seed began to germinate.
Athelink began working closely with the club and soon developed a sports management social network model. Ultimately, Athelink realized it could become the LinkedIn for sports. This was a co-development initiative that aided both Blessed Sacrament as well as Athelink. By partnering directly with the end user from the conceptual stage, Athelink essentially invented a new market and client for itself.
Athelink now believes that working very closely with the customer right from the point of discovery is its inimitable competitive advantage. Gihan and his colleagues work endless hours in the early phases of project development so that all of the features are exactly specified from the beginning. This significantly reduces the workload later on for all of the volunteer conveners, coaches and league administrators.
Athelink has since beta tested its platform with more than 10,000 users, which is a remarkable feat for such a young startup company. By working closely with Blessed Sacrament Basketball right here in Hamilton, Athelink has been able to develop a software solution that can easily administer tournaments, leagues and even dynamic pickup games. Of course, this proof of concept has led the company to connect with other basketball clubs in Ontario as it continues to refine and improve its solution.
Now that the team of entrepreneurs has validated the market appetite for the end product, it is preparing a number of easy to use modules in order to make the software a â€śno brainerâ€ť for users. Whether you are running a recreational baseball league or trying to organize a casual golf tournament, Athelinkâ€™s aim is to have a solution that aggregates all of these tools into one platform. The bottom line: they can offer the solution for as low as $5 per season per player.
Even though all of this may sound like a lot for the team of young entrepreneurs to handle, the ambitious foursome has teamed up with business professionals Richard Maskobi and Natalie Promislow. Like many startups, the company still operates with minimal revenues. The hardest part for startups is staying optimistic through the tough times and making it to that first round of financing. So far, the team has managed to self-fund its platform through sweat equity and hard work.
Soon, Athelink will be participating in the Innovation Factoryâ€™s Startoff competition (www.startoff.ca/starthere). Startoff is a new local contest filled with the types of prizes startup software firms need. If you havenâ€™t done so yet, go take a look.