4 Startup Lessons; a Post Brexit Case Study of a Football Startup

Startups post Brexit face many challenges, i.e. from the availability of funding to access to European markets and to talent as well. A lot of startups had to shut down operations while others managed to run at break even by compromising either on profit or else slowing down on quality or growth. However, I came across a startup beating the odds and so thought to explore it in detail.

The startup being discussed here is Social442, a social media platform that is ‘dedicated’ to football fans and advertisers. (Available on the App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/app/apple-store/id1086291409)

Lesson 1: A Startup has to be dedicated:

Be dedicated! The word ‘dedicated’ is the theme of this first lesson and an absolute mind-set for new and established businesses in a world of competition, lack of specific business advice and funding. The same way football fans are ‘dedicated’, Social442 has had to be just as ‘dedicated’ if not more. It is a given that any new business, site or app will have a lot to prove and often with minimal budgets and resources before someone is willing to step in and take it to the next level. This requires a lot of time, effort and dedication. This was the case for the dedicated Social442 team. Who ever said running a successful startup would be easy?

Lesson 2: Think BIG – Target a global market:

Lesson 2 is to think big because simply being dedicated is not enough. On face value, Social442 makes sense. It is designed for football fans and there are plenty of them, over a billion to be more precise and the number of fans growing daily. Most of the growth is coming from emerging markets including the USA who uniquely call the game the British invented, soccer. The movement of global stars playing in the American soccer league has helped ignite this. David Beckham was a key English football player who did exactly this back in 2007.

So, if your startup is looking to rise during a recession period, do not limit your product/service idea to a local market unless that is your niche. Think big and reach a broader audience. You can though start locally, master that market and your approach before expanding. Social442 began with just the English Premier League, before expanding to other English leagues and now covers leagues from all around the world using the lessons learnt from the discovery period.

Lesson 3: Offer something highly valuable:

Honestly, you may find hundreds of websites or apps related to what you are offering, why should someone be using your app/website? You would be surprised how many startups fail to research their competition and fall short due to this. If the competition lack features you can add those or you can think about offering a different experience which might be more relevant for a particular audience. This is exactly how Social442 attracts football enthusiasts away from main stream social platforms. For instance;

  • It’s a dedicated football social network which brings 50 times more news for your favourite club, which you can’t find on mainstream news site like BBC sports!
  • Just in case you can’t watch the match live, you can watch goals just minutes after they happen through their live score updates
  • Connect with other fans and enjoy interacting with others in different forums.
  • Create formations, predict scores, see other match predictions and enjoy the game like never before.
  • Moreover, you can watch funny football videos and use a variety of local football tools to find local teams to play for.

Lesson 4: Does your startup really need to exist?

The answer is yes if you can tailor or improve an existing experience sufficiently enough for users to quit the popular methods and turn to your startup. So let’s take a closer look at Social442, what this football social network is all about and why does it exist? Well to begin, what dedicated social platform do you think of when it comes to football? If you think about a social platform for self-expression you think of the social giants and if you think of a social network for professionals/businesses then LinkedIn comes to mind. Consequently, if you are an advertiser in the B2B industry, the most obvious solution is LinkedIn.

For football, there hasn’t been one up until now, and that is what Social442 is filling. While it is still new it has survived longer than other football social platforms which were inadequately tailored to the passions and needs of football fans. They quickly had to shut down. Social442 has got it right with the mass combination of club updates, stats, app notifications, free football live streaming and fan interaction all in one platform.

A Quick Comparison of Social Giants & the Niche Social Media

Meanwhile while the social giants are busy being generalists, with 1 in 3 minutes online now spent on Social Media, many experts have rightly predicted a continued increase in niche social sites and apps. We have also witnessed the acquisition of many niche social media tools by the giant platforms, i.e. Instagram, Tumblr, WhatsApp, Zomato and the list goes on. But we have also witnessed many Giant killers, i.e. how Facebook outclassed Orkut and Myspace. As a start-up supporter and a fan of the approach Social442 has taken, I am very much hopeful that Social442 is going to be the next big thing!

Leicester City football club were crowned the official giant killers in the 2015/16 season. They did what no one expected, and Social442 founder, Alam Hosseinbor admits that he felt it was just a matter of time before they would slip up, but they didn’t, and they won. They shocked the world and were crowned English premiership champions in England. Alam Hosseinbor continued and said ‘we are like how Leicester City were in their winning season, we are fearless, quick, fast and have an approach that works’.

Coming to the conclusion:

There are many lessons which can be observed and we don’t hear enough about what has made successful brands in recent times grow. Honestly, I liked the idea of Social442, especially because it is designed considering the “fan engagement” factor, which is crucial for a social media startup. The founder says there is a lot more to come and I have to admit he is one of the most ‘creative’ and ‘technical’ founders I have had the pleasure of meeting. On a less serious note, the only issue that I observed was that he was a Blackburn Rovers fan, but he says their current lack of success makes him even more motivated. Who knows, I sensed that he has it in the back of his mind to one day buy out The Venkys (current owners of Blackburn Rovers FC, a football club based in Lancashire, England).