Suppose you sponsor a few sports clubs as a company and regularly have seats to give away to your business associates. What do you do when you keep failing to fill your business seats? You figure out why and build your own solution. At least, that is what Marc Schriemer and Jeroen van Rij of Tckl have done. And with success: after a year of intensive collaboration with a major soccer club, they came up with a version that demonstrably adds value for all parties.
Meanwhile, Tckl has become much more than an app to fill empty business seats. It is the solution for all kinds of practical issues involved in sponsoring sports events: from finding the right contacts to sending e-tickets. Relations can also see who is coming to the same event, allowing them to network in a more targeted way.
Get more out of sponsorship
Marc explains, "To get the most out of your sponsorship, you want your business seats to all be filled during every match. In practice, this turns out to be quite a job. You call and e-mail a lot and spend a lot of time sending the tickets around. As a result, you regularly have empty seats, and we thought that was a shame. So we came up with Tckl. Filling those empty seats turned out not to be the only problem we could solve with our app. Since then, Tckl has become a platform for almost everything related to sponsorship."
Starting at the minimum
The biggest pitfall for technology start-ups, is that they develop too long. Marc and Jeroen were very aware of that. But that didn't mean it was easy to avoid the pitfall. Jeroen: "If you have a good idea, you prefer to develop that idea completely and only then show it to others. You then develop far too far, and only find out when you go live that 30% of what you came up with is total nonsense."
To avoid that, they turned it around at Tckl: "First we completely crushed our idea. What is the minimum we need to show our idea to the world without spending unnecessary time developing it? With that so-called Minimum Viable Product, we then went to sponsors and sports clubs."
Marc adds: "How we saved ourselves from the pitfall of developing too far? First, by putting together a development team with a lot of experience. People who have made these kinds of apps many times before and know what it takes to make it a success. But much more important, and I want to pass this on to other entrepreneurs, is your own attitude. Temper your own enthusiasm, dare to look honestly at what is really needed and absorb all the input you can get.
Pictured left Jeroen van Rij and right Marc Schriemer
Yes, it is a risk to go out with a product that has not yet been developed through. But it's just as much a risk to develop through before you know if your idea will work. It's about balance."
Corporate meets startup
The men from Tckl soon knocked on the door of FC Groningen. It was precisely to test their idea against reality that they wanted to put themselves in their customers' shoes. FC Groningen gave them that opportunity.
Jeroen: "We knew we had to become our own customer. But we needed some help with that. We very boldly knocked on FC Groningen's door asking if we could work together. We wanted to further develop our app in 'real' life and FC Groningen gave us the opportunity to do so. The club was open to an intensive collaboration. That attitude ensured that we learned an enormous amount in one year, back and forth. Startups and corporates don't normally work together in this way, but it would be nice if that happened more often. For that, both parties have to dare to step over their own shadows."
Not without a fight
"For a startup, it's kind of 2nd nature to make mistakes and learn from them. That's part of the job. But for a corporate like FC Groningen that's a little more sensitive. There are more things you need to know before you raise the alarm as a startup with a corporate. Read up, learn how such a company works and be aware of the political side of the story. Many apps are developed to eliminate existing inefficiencies, which can come at the expense of jobs within a company."
Marc talks about teething problems, challenges they would have discovered far too late without the help of FC Groningen: "For example, in an early version of the app, it was the case that an event disappeared from the app as soon as the match had started. But that meant that people who were slightly late were immediately unable to enter. You don't just think of something like that in the office, whereas now we figured it out very quickly."
Tckl is rapidly becoming a platform where sponsors and sports clubs can find each other. Jeroen: "Many companies want to start sponsoring, but don't know how. With Tckl we make that transparent, by showing in an overview which opportunities are available at which sports clubs. It also works the other way, because sports clubs also see which companies are looking for events to sponsor."
At Tckl, they are convinced that anyone who uses the app a few times is sold. The same happened to Marc with a parking app: "I had it unused on my phone for a while. Until one time I had to park without money, then I was only too glad I already knew the app. After that time I never did it any other way and I can't imagine what life was like without the parking app. This is also how I see the future of Tckl: we have now shown that we have a valuable product, because it is being used more and more. From now on it's a matter of showing everyone that they really can't live without Tckl!"
Tckl received early-stage funding through NOM earlier this year. This funding enabled them to further develop their software.