When food lovers want to find a 5-star restaurant, Yelp is a solid option. When travel junkies are looking for a nice hotel, TripAdvisor might be a good place to start.
But what about avid runners who want to participate in a marathon? Jon Tam and Don Le didn’t think there was a good answer to that question, so the pair decided to ditch their corporate jobs and do something about it.
The result is Gametiime, a Seattle startup that serves as a one-stop shop for marathon information. The idea is to make it easier for runners to pick which races they want to participate in, rather than relying on word-of-mouth, print and email marketing, or older online directories.
The website design mimics Pinterest, but for races. Each marathon has an individual page with a bevy of information, from location to photos to registration instructions. Users can create their own personal pages and track which events they’ve participated in and future races that they are signed up for.
Gametiime — the two “i’s” signify two or more participating together — actually first started as Tenacity Sports, an event management company focused on recreational athletics. But Tam and Le, who both graduated from the University of Washington, started to realize how difficult it was for participants to find relevant event information, and for events to market and differentiate within the sports vertical.
“We explored the pain point more closely, talking with hundreds of potential customers, and realized that there is a big opportunity to help events stand out amongst a growing pool of competitors,” Tam said. “Furthermore, we discovered an opportunity to create promotional exposure for products and services within the vertical as well.”
The long term goal for Gametiime is to build a social discovery service for the world’s $262 billion participatory sports market — a “Yelp for sports,” as the founders describe it. For now, though, they’ve focused on runners and marathons. After testing the product on the West Coast, Gametiime just made its service available nationwide last week.
We caught up with Tam for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Gametiime is Yelp for sports — a social discovery service that connects the everyday athlete with events, products, and services empowering them to pursue their passion.
Inspiration hit us when: We faced the problem of distribution as an event management company. After balancing the operational and promotional aspects of Tenacity Sports, we realized how difficult it was for participants to find relevant event information, and for events to market and differentiate within the sports/fitness vertical.
We explored the pain point more closely, talking with hundreds of potential customers, and realized that there is a big opportunity to help events stand out amongst a growing pool of competitors. Furthermore, we discovered an opportunity to create promotional exposure for products and services within the vertical as well.
Our visitor traction from people searching for events, as well as daily inquiries from organizations looking to market them, continues to validate the notion.
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrap. We are believers in taking money only when needed and for the purpose of taking the company to the next level. With no outside investment, we’ve launched a marketplace nationally and have grown at over 20 percent weekly since the start of the year. When the time is right, we’ll likely pursue conversations with investors that believe in our mission and can help Gametiime succeed.
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Our team. We bring complementary strengths to the table and have a tremendous amount of trust and respect between each other. This allows us to approach problems from differing angles and come to better solutions quickly. We’re deeply passionate about this space and are solving problems we’ve faced ourselves (both as recreational athletes and event providers in the past).
The smartest move we’ve made so far: Investing in data to solve the “chicken-or-egg” problem of an early-stage marketplace. Gametiime aggregates data from a wide range of sources, including APIs and user-generated contributions. Building systems and processes to do this efficiently has been huge for us. It directly impacts the quality and growth of our service, and it will help even more as we scale our service.
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Trying to make things too perfect early on. We’ve learned to move and iterate faster since we started, and it has helped tremendously.
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: It’s a hard question, but we would probably have to go with the Zuck. WIth our long-term focus on community-building and socialization — supported by the power of data — there’s probably not a better person in this world to have in our corner than him.
Our world domination strategy starts when: We are able to building a thriving ecosystem of content contribution and consumption. Though we’ve published over 35,000 running events to date, there is so much more opportunity for data from a wider range of information within our market. Crowd-sourced information will continuously be a larger and larger part of our offering, and we are actively working on ways to allow users to help make their own experience with Gametiime even better.
Rivals should fear us because: We are taking a laser-focused approach in attacking this market and executing quickly. We’re passion about what we’re building and are developing a strong community of loyal supporters along the way.
We are truly unique because: We are focusing on social discovery in a vertical that, while expansive and highly engaged, doesn’t currently have a great solution for it.
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: Distribution. Early on, we heard amazing feedback from a small pool of users who loved their experience. While that was very rewarding and telling on many levels, it was an early challenge for us to find ways (especially as a bootstrapped startup without a massive marketing budget) to get our service out in front of thousands of people.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and keep iterating. You can only truly know how well something will perform by putting it out there and getting it out in front of others to experience. This holds true for new features, messaging, and all other things you’re building.