Sports software startup Jersey Watch initially aimed to be a middle man between large corporations wanting to sponsor youth teams and organizations across the country.
“Big Fortune 500 companies had no way to be involved with youth sports,” cofounder Tim Gusweiler said. “They wanted to be involved, but there was no easy way to do it.”
But, as their staff worked to develop that idea, they discovered instead that there was more work to be done to help parents and their student athletes save more time for the fun stuff, and not “another 40 hour a week job” organizing all the elements of student athletics, Gusweiler said.
As a result, they developed a software that enables youth teams, organizations and the volunteers who power it to “manage a professional, mobile-friendly website … [and] save time registering players, collecting payments, building schedules and communicating with parents and coaches,” according to its website.
“There was no light bulb moment like, ‘we should build a youth sports software.’ It was more like a winding road.”
Ultimately, the software aims to be user-friendly, so that any coach or volunteer approaching it can have a website up and running within a few minutes.
“It is a simple system,” Gusweiler said. “You don’t have to be some tech wizard to set up a page on our system.”
The Jersey Watch platform has a few different elements. First, it is a website builder, so users can create a specific online hub for their team or organization, with pictures and logos.
Second, its a fee-collecting entity, allowing clients to, well, collect fees associated with their sport. Additionally, users can insert players’ data, like their name, date of birth and more, as well as contact information for parents and guardians so they may be reached for cancellations, schedule changes or other important notifications. Users can send messages via email and SMS text message, reaching parents in just a matter of seconds.
The program came together when Jersey Watch was founded in 2012, by Gusweiler and David Carter, who is no longer involved with the business. Both came from college athletics, and in Gusweiler’s case, he liked working in sports, but wanted to do something more impactful.
“We, from being in the world of college sports, noticed that high school and youth sports were the area of opportunity,” he said. “It is pretty disorganized. A lot of volunteers [are] running the programs, and so we wanted to start something … to help youth volunteers or coaches.”
They had the software and a business idea, but were lacking ideas on what they should do next. “We had a product, but we weren’t sure on how to make it grow,” he said. A few mentors suggested they apply to The Brandery.
Once accepted into The Brandery’s class of 2015, the pair moved to Cincinnati and became both hyper-focused on making Jersey Watch a success and connecting with other small business founders who showed them the ropes. Along the way, CincyTech and TechGROWTH Ohio became core investors.
When they first started, Jersey Watch was mostly concentrated in Ohio, but now it’s primarily focused in the Midwest, with representation in 25 states. It’s the result of Jersey Watch’s nontraditional approach to approaching a market; its team doesn’t research a new place to launch and then roll out, they just let sign-ups happen organically.
“Whereever we can go, we’re happy to help people,” he said. “So any state, we’ll sign anybody up, anytime.”
As a result, they service over 100,000 athletes and 10,000 sports teams. Both these statistics make for a small percentage across the United States, so there’s plenty of room for growth, according to Gusweiler.
This current model wasn’t the first and only, he added. The initial financial plan focused on making money from advertising sales on the website, which meant they had to target advertisements to certain areas, which kept Jersey Watch’s services limited to certain cities. Now, their model now focuses on a subscription-based service, which allows for this “all signups anywhere within the U.S.” approach.
These changes are reflective of Jersey Watch’s overarching growth narrative. “There was no light bulb moment like, ‘we should build a youth sports software,'” Gusweiler said. “It was more like a winding road.”