Using business angel investment to grow our business - Pitchbooking
Pitchbooking is an online system that aims to simplify the process for customers booking sports facilities, and for organisations managing the amenities and booking process. The platform is used by over 1,000 sports facilities in over 100 locations across the UK.
Founded by childhood friends, Fearghal Campbell, Chris McCann and Shea O'Hagan, the idea came out of a need to solve their problem. Booking and paying for a casual game of 5-a side football in their hometown of Lurgan was a bigger ordeal than it should have been.
Pitchbooking allows customers to browse the availability of facilities and book spaces online while aiming to eliminate the administrative burden for sport facilities managers by giving them the tools to manage bookings and payments.
Fearghal explains how the company has grown through business angel investment.
Starting the business
"We have always been amazed at how much money is spent on building and maintaining sports facilities in the UK and Ireland, but the processes for booking and paying to use them are so time-consuming. So, we created Pitchbooking to solve this problem."
"In the initial stages, as a fledgling tech company, we received great support through the Propel Accelerator Programme. Invest NI was also a source of financial and advisory support in helping us to establish the business."
Decide on the help you need and connect with investors
"We had a strong vision of what our product could do for sports facilities across the country, and an aggressive plan of how quickly we could get there. Approximately nine months following our product launch, and with positive feedback from our customers, we decided that business angel investment was needed to realise this growth."
"We were able to get in touch with potential investors through introductions from connections - reaching out to the local networks and even some cold emailing and LinkedIn approaches to angels, who we believed would be suitable for us."
"We found that warm introductions were superior to cold outreach. The chance of a reply multiplies when you have someone to make an introduction for you. Putting in the time to find a mutual connection, and asking them to make the introduction, is well worth the effort."
Prepare your business for investment
"We are a software as well as a service business, so understanding our cost to acquire a new paying customer plus their life-time value to us was important to potential investors. I believe the fact that we were so diligent and well prepared with our numbers impressed our investors."
"When we presented to potential investors, we explained why the challenge we aimed to address was such a significant issue, and why we are the team to solve it. We highlighted how lucrative it would be to the company that gets it right. We also covered our product and customer traction."
"It takes longer than you would think to finalise a deal, months not days, and this appears to be the consensus with our peer group too."
Capitalise on the investment and support you receive
"Officially, we speak with our investors quarterly, but we will turn to them when we need advice on a challenge or an opportunity. Our investors are varied in their experience - some are from the world of tech start-ups, others have a background in sports facility management. So we turn to the individual we think can give the best input on the particular situation."
"We would not have had the financial or advisory backing to grow without our team of investors. In simple terms, we would not have been able to capitalise on key business opportunities without investor backing."
"It's important to remember to keep your investors updated regularly on how the company is progressing. It's often one of the first tasks that slide off the to-do list when things get busy, but they are a part of your company and are there to help."
Fearghal's top tips:
- "Have one person lead the investment project, so others can focus on customers and running the business."
- "Instil some urgency in potential investors - a “no” is better than a “maybe”!"
- "Use your first commitment as ‘investment traction’ to speed the process up."