Wednesday, 12 June 2013
The Trials and Tribulations of Setting Up a Social Network by Andy Meikle, Co-Founder of Sportlobster
If you’ve watched the Hollywood blockbuster, The Social Network, you probably have the opinion that the business of setting up a social network involves parties, secret societies, legal rifts and power struggles. The reality is quite different, something myself and my Sportlobster co-founder Arron Shepherd have experienced for ourselves since we conceived the idea of the site just over a year ago.
The concept of setting the site up can be linked to the Facebook founders, but little else of our story is the same. Zuckerberg started out with a site based on his passion: attractive female college students, giving his users on campus the chance to rate the students on Facemash. Arron and myself also found the seed of our idea in our passion. But this time the passion was sport.
It was one day when I came across a random blog about Novak Djokovic that the seed of the idea started to grow. I thought to myself ‘how do fans know this exists, and how does the blogger attract readers?’ I realised how disjointed the online experience is for following sports, especially if you’re a fan of multiple disciplines. I wanted to bring it all into one place and make it a one-stop shop. At the time I was running a technology company that I had founded in Dubai and I had finally found an investor to help the business grow.
Then I met Arron and we approached a potential investor with the concept of Sportlobster. We raised US$750,000 in two days to get the site started. It was at that point I decided to close down my other company, as the investment opportunity only existed if I remained CEO there, but I had decided the future was Sportlobster and I wanted to focus entirely on that.
Arron and I then spent the next year developing the site. We launched Sportlobster on 9 April 2013 and it was a proud day as we went live with the British media looking on at Wembley Stadium.
Of course, it hasn’t been simple. We have created a complex network and with that there are technological challenges that come with that. We are also perfectionists, so the pressure was on to have Sportlobster in a good place by the time of the launch, and we did all of that in eleven months, a very short space of time to create a network of this complexity and quality.
The response has been amazing, we have thousands of users from 126 countries and we have projected user numbers to reach 1 million by the end of this year. The aspects of the site that have proved most popular are the prediction function, which allows users to predict sport fixture outcomes which earns them points, and the news and fan article section, which allows users to write their own articles, just like that Djokovic blogger which, through a points scoring process, allows quality content to be brought to the attention of more Sportlobster users.
We launched with discussion forums for 32 sports and news content on football, rugby, tennis, cricket, golf, basketball and Formula One. We are expanding to 94 sports over the coming weeks to meet the demand of the users.
It was quite obvious people thought we were crazy. Two guys in their early twenties with a vision to fulfil the needs of sports fans globally. But we have created the first stage of this with the initial launch of Sportlobster. The next step is the mobile app which will be launched in the autumn and we are deep into the development for that.
For us, the challenge now is to keep spreading the good word about Sportlobster and get people to experience the site for themselves. The feedback from everyone that has joined the site has been so positive that we're confident that if sports fans try the site they will be hooked! It's been an incredible first couple of months and we can't wait to see what the future holds.
To find out more about Sportlobster, the social network dedicated to sport that is tailored to your preferences, visit sportlobster.com.