Friday, October 6, 2017
Why Hopscotch Is Behind Your Favorite Mobile Sports App, with Laurence Sotsky
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
If you're an NCAA fan, and you've loaded the app for your favorite team, there's a high likelihood that the app is actually the product of El Segundo-based Hopscotch (www.gohopscotch.com). Hopscotch, led by Laurence Sotsky, has built software which enables sports teams, venues, and others to rapidly create mobile apps for their fans. We caught up with Laurence to hear about Hopscotch, and why teams and schools are turning to the company to power their mobile apps.
What is Hopscotch?
Laurence Sotsky: I started the company about two and a half years ago, with the intent of connecting people to their passions. We got our start in sports, with a ton of mobile applications for sports fans. We naturally progressed into live events, their passionate fan base, and to the venues themselves, where we are helping fans to navigate game day or the event day experience. Most recently, we've been laser-focused on college, the culmination of sports and events. We've really been blessed over here to sign 40 schools for the seasons, with some of the biggest names in the NCAA. That includes Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA, and others. We're now the biggest provider of mobile applications in college.
What do your apps do?
Laurence Sotsky: The applications themselves do a number of different things. We're the official mobile app for whatever our customer is. For example, we're the official mobile app of UCLA, even though behind the scenes is actually Hopscotch. We focus on the fan experience, for your favorite team or event, and whatever you're passionate about before the game, during the game itself, and also provide all of the post-event, wrapup commentary. We have exclusive content, including videos that people can download in the app itself to watch, and if you're at an away game, you can even listen to your own announcer and turn down the audio when you are watching TV. We let you listen to the feed from your favorite announcer from your school's own point of view. We also do lots of things in-venue, including mobile ticketing, integrating with Ticketmaster, Comcast, and many other ticketing providers. We can give you access to your season tickets, and even let you give your season tickets to someone else. Once you're inside, we do a lot of things during an event or on game day. You can navigate to your seat and find concessions. We've built an open architecture, so we can pull in the latest and greatest technology. For example, you might be aware of another LA-based company, Appetize, and we brought them into Old Miss, so you can order concessions at your basketball or baseball game, because Appetize is the concession there. We're also experimenting with food delivery, providing wait times on food, and more. You can use your phone to really guide yourself through game day or through a live event.
How did you get into this?
Laurence Sotsky: I've been working in the software-as-a-service space for some time, in medium-sized, venture capital-backed companies. Previous to this, I ran a custom, mobile application development shop. I was working with Madison Square Garden, the Knicks, the Rangers, and others. Combining that with my previous experience, which was in the platform and SaaS market, and sports, was really a home run. I wound down my old company, and spun up Hopscotch, to build a better platform that could be used by not just the biggest operators, but everyone. We wanted to let people connect with even minor league teams, small market pro teams, college, everybody. We want them to be able to engage their fans and their avid fan base.
Why are these colleges using you, rather than investing in their own custom applications?
Laurence Sotsky: That's a great question. From what I've seen, from my vantage point, is it's pretty difficult to build an excellent mobile platform, without spending millions and millions of dollars. The platform approach we took allows teams and companies and venues to access the best functionality, at a subscription price, rather than a custom development price. To build their own solution, it would take hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions to do correctly. For them to use us, it's a fraction of that to subscribe to our service. Because we have so many customers across these primary verticals, in sports, private events, and colleges, that means we are improving the platform every week and adding new functionality.
For example, if we add functionality for T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, we're immediately able to take that same functionality and ideas from that venue, and apply that to college venues. Everyone benefits from the collective experience. Every two weeks, we have a new release, which is new and fresh and where we offer new things. That's one of the reasons why people are coming our way. The other reason, is it's also a money-making solution. We have what is called a multi-dimensional, segmentation engine, that helps them understand their fans on the platform, and provide advertisers with specifics. For example, if you are looking at the roster of the Oregon Ducks, if you are a woman in New York, you may see a different ad than if you are a man in Southern California. Depending on who you are, and where you are, we can deliver different advertising. We split that advertising revenue with our partners. Additionally, in-venue, we are doing some very interesting things. Because everyone has a mobile phone attached to them these days, there are lots of things we can do in venues. For example, Taco Bell sponsors the Lakers. When they keep an opponent under 100 points, instead of them handing out coupons for Taco Bell, we are able to provide geofenced, mobile coupons that sit on their phones. We know who exactly downloaded those coupons, and who is using it and redeeming those coupons. That provides much better reporting to sponsors. We allow them to shift from paper-based, old-school sports sponsorships into the mobile area.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned here so far as an entrepreneur?
Laurence Sotsky: Great question. I think the biggest lesson I have learned is, you have to work with and carefully vet your customer, and make sure you're getting things absolutely right for your huge proponents. I think that's really important before you go after a much larger market. I think we did a good job in colleges by doing that, getting things right for a couple of customers last sason. We made sure our product was supporting them first, before we pushed into the larger college market. That really helped us to get to a dominant position in college. Beta customers are key, and listening close to make sure you have product-market-fit with that beta, before you expand lots of sales and marketing effort.
Finally, what's the big goal for you now?
Laurence Sotsky: The big goal for us now, is to continue to drive monthly active users. We want to keep it growing every quarter. We will continue to have a huge presence in college, and we're now starting to think about where the next vertical is that we'll go after. We'll probably go after some of the pro sports leagues, and see how we do there.
Thanks, and good luck!