The weeks that followed my initial ‘light bulb moment’ felt like they flew by with excitement. Every lockdown evening after work and each weekend was spent trying to progress the idea. I had never-ending lists of bullet points blue-tacked to the walls detailing how the product would evolve over time. Sticky post-it notes covered my walls and desk. In my head, I was planning world domination of the golf market and already composing my pitch for when coming face-to-face with Peter Jones in Dragons Den! 🙂
I may or may not have also googled whether Peter Jones was a keen golfer (just in case!)…
Anyway, back to reality and I needed to slow down a bit (or a lot!). In an attempt to reign myself in, I spent the next weekend putting a plan in place, so I could tackle this properly with a bit of structure. There were so many questions I kept asking myself and the list seemed to be multiplying by the hour.
I had questions about the initial idea…
Would people want and would they use a product like what I had in mind?
Would this product solve a genuine existing problem or is it something I have just made up in my head?
Would people want to play golf with total strangers?
I had questions about the broader strategy and ultimately how I would realise the long-term vision…
How would I seed the app with enough users to make this work?
How long would it take to seed the app with enough users and how much would it cost?
How do I retain the users long-term?
How do I scale this to new regions and markets?
Then the scarier bit, the questions that involved money…
How much does it cost to build a good app?
How would I fund a project like this?
How would I monetise this and generate revenue longer-term?
As you can probably already tell, I had far too much spinning around in my head, so I needed to simplify things (and simplify them quickly!). I needed to get my head down and research my idea, research the golf market and try to validate some of my original assumptions. I decided that if I got far enough down the line and faced the challenge of trying to build and market the product, then these would be nice problems to have in the grand scheme of things. Essentially validate the original idea and focus on cementing the long-term broad vision, rather than worrying about the ‘how’ at this early stage.
First things first then, the desk research. I trawled the Internet. Endless google searches. Lots of speculative emails sent. Phone calls with those who responded and anyone else I could get introduced to. I set out to answer questions from several broad strategic buckets…
Market size – stats and trends regarding golf participation.
Looking at various splits of this data – location, sex, age, members versus non-members, etc.
Target market – behaviours and motivations of golfers that would fall within my key target demographic.
Validate my original assumptions that led to the idea.
E.g. any data to reinforce my assumption that a lack of playing partners is a key barrier to golfers playing the game.
E.g. would golfers be happy playing with a stranger if it meant they could play more often.
It was actually amazing how much recent and relevant data I was able to find online. It was also pleasing to find the data was largely very positive and gave me the reassurance needed to continue pursuing the idea.
The next step was the primary research. I needed to try and get more qualitative research to help sense check my original assumptions and what I’d found via the desk research. Importantly, I also wanted to delve a bit deeper and ask questions specifically related to my idea and long-term vision. I took a two pronged approach – an online survey and 1:1 interviews. The online survey consisted of 10 questions (using survey monkey to facilitate) and I shared this amongst my personal network, with those who I knew played golf. Several contacts volunteered to extend the reach to their networks too, so I ended up with 143 people completing the survey. I was very happy with this result. I was trying to be as resourceful as possible and do everything on a shoe-string / non-existent budget, so this felt like a win (it only cost £19 to set-up and run the survey!).
Following the survey monkey and the desk research and despite the findings being encouraging, I was already spotting potential flaws or complications in the original idea that I was keen to avoid and overcome. It was like I was constantly making mini pivots to the idea in my head as I gained further insights. The idea evolved further following the series of one-to-one online interviews. I interviewed 10 contacts from my personal network via Zoom, with each one taking 1-2 hours, so going into lots of detail. I spoke through my initial idea and then probed with a number of related questions. This was hugely valuable. It felt like the idea was continuing to evolve in my head in real time, after each conversation. I was also particularly struck by just how much people are willing to help and support one another. I was very grateful and appreciative.
Not being deterred by my findings so far, the final step of the jigsaw at this early stage, was to explore the competitor landscape. Having been caught up in the excitement of everything so far, I hadn’t even stopped to think that somebody else might have already beaten me to it. I nervously started to trawl back through the Google searches and App Store listings, plotting out my results into an excel sheet. My conclusions were again largely positive. Although there were some brands and products that already existed, that had subtle links or similarities to my vision, I still felt there was a big gap and opportunity in the market. Nobody was doing exactly what my original idea was. Nobody was doing what my idea quickly evolved into either (more on that topic to follow). Interestingly, between having the original idea and the time of writing this post, I have seen two apps come into the market, trying to launch the exact ‘Tinder for golf’ model.
Despite some small similarities, each execution I could find gave me reason to believe that I could still be successful. For example, they were targeting different markets (US or Asia), they were older web-based offerings rather than app, they were targeting a different demographic (much older). I also had to remind myself of learnings from my day job in terms of the fact that there is always going to be competition and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are a good example of this.
One of my key conclusions was that the vast majority of competitors were trying to do far too much in terms of the execution, and as a result, in my opinion, really detracted from a good user experience. My immediate gut instinct was that ‘less is more’ and a ‘do the basics brilliantly’ approach would likely give a much better chance of success. At the end of the day, the idea is to enhance the general golfing experience, not detract from it.
Given I was only able to work on this in the evenings and weekends, it wasn’t a quick job (especially as my day job was especially intense at the time), but I had finally done enough research to satisfy the nagging questions in my mind and give me the confidence to crack on. The seeds of doubt were pushed to the side (for the time being!), and it was all systems go. The project was set to continue. The only thing that had changed as a result of the research (and it was a pretty fundamental thing to change!) was that the go-to-market product would no longer be the ‘Tinder for golf’ model. Connecting golfers, helping golfers grow their golf social circle and ultimately helping them play the game they love more frequently is still absolutely the long-term vision, but I had a new strategic plan in terms of how I was going to get there and it no longer involved swiping left and right!
When starting out on this journey, I didn’t really know where or how to start and found the prospect of it all quite daunting and intimidating. I think a lot of people will have had similar experiences and I think a lot of people probably give up on really good ideas, very early on, simply because they don’t know how to progress. That’s why I wanted to document my ParUp Golf story, because regardless of whether it proves to be a success or not, I can share my learnings and experience and hopefully help other people who are trying to go on their own entrepreneurial journey. To read the next chapter of my journey (creating a brand), please click here or alternatively click here to see a list of all the chapters posted so far.
About the ParUp Golf app
ParUp Golf is the ultimate free golf app for society golfing. Find and join a local golf society or golf group near you. Alternatively, you can also just use the platform to host and facilitate your existing golf society events, whilst enjoying a range of features including a digital golf scorecard and live leaderboards. Check out the full range of features on the ParUp Golf app by clicking here. The latest version of the app can be downloaded on both iPhone and Android mobile devices.
We have lots of new features coming very soon to the app, but are also constantly looking to improve the current offering, so if you have any feedback or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you – please email us at email@example.com