“We have to be united in the SportsTech industry”: Interview with Playtomic’s co-CEO and co-founder Pedro Clavería

SportsTech has had an interesting past few months. With home exercise technologies booming for obvious social distancing reasons, there remains a question mark over how the ‘outdoor’ sports startups have been fairing.

Playtomic, Europe’s largest racket sports booking app, already caught our eye last year, being included in our list of 10 Madrid-based startups to watch out for in 2020 and beyond. Over the last 12 months, this startup has closed two funding rounds and also acquired two other SportsTech startups, even throughout the pandemic. Now the question begs, how have they been managing their presence in 13+ countries and across 1000 (mostly closed) sports venues, considering recent events?

We spoke with co-CEO and co-founder Pedro Clavería about the fast international growth of this Madrid-based startup, how they ensured continued forward movement over the past few months, and their predictions for the future of SportsTech.

Pedro, thank you for joining us! To get started, how did you start Playtomic?

Well, we have a clear goal. We want people to play and do more sport. Most of the people who leave sports is because they don’t have a court to play or do not find people of their same level to play with. So we decided to be the ultimate tool to connect both: clubs (with courts) and players all together. Until now, it was easier to get cinema tickets than to find someone to play with.

As a startup that relies on people going out to play, how have you adapted to the pandemic?

We are all working remotely and at home because of this situation and we believe it was a huge opportunity for Playtomic. Our managers were at home during the quarantine and it was the best time for them to learn how to use our SaaS and app much better. So we organized live webinars with all of them with tremendous feedback. We were using the time to help them and make them better managers after the pandemic at the same time players could not be playing because of the pandemic as sports venues were closed in many countries like Spain. 

How will Playtomic expand in the future with the pandemic in mind? 

Although we have the pandemic in mind (we will see what happens next autumn), we have to keep working hard. We want to be the leading racket sports app globally. That’s our purpose. Our goal is to expand to other sports in the future but right now we are focused on the racket sports industry. We are so proud of our work as we are Europe’s largest racket sports app right now.

You’ve closed two funding rounds to expand internationally. Could you talk us through which locations you went for first, and why you chose them?

Absolutely. We chose to go first to the Nordics, Mexico and Benelux. That is because they are fast-growing countries in the padel landscape. Our app currently allows for bookings at more than 2,000 sports venues specially after our latest acquisition: PrenotaUnCampo, the #1 booking system for sports venues in Italy. Now, we are bigger than a month ago. Italy is so important as they are one of the most active countries for the racket sports industry. This is a great step forward for us and will allow us to strengthen our uncontested leadership in Europe.

Also, we are continuously working on new releases. Through the app, players can book courts but also split the payment, find other players with similar skill levels, chat with them and join a social community dedicated to playing with thousands of players around the world.

What 3 pieces of advice would you give to similar founders hoping to expand abroad?

  1. Your product has to be ready technologically to expand abroad.
  2. Take care of your users. User-centric philosophy.
  3. Patience. Your product takes time to adapt to the different markets you chose to expand.

Was it always your plan to close a funding round at this point in your growth, and do you have plans to raise more in the future?

We are honoured by the confidence that our main owners show us by continuing to invest in Playtomic. They see enormous potential in Playtomic and are convinced that exciting times await the company. We closed a new funding round although Covid-19 puts many social sports activities on pause right now, because we know how great the need will be to play racket sports once this is over. We don’t know the future in terms of new funding rounds, as we are evolving in this unusual situation, as you know.

You also acquired Playven, who built a tennis and paddle courts marketplace app and club management tool. Could you tell us how this came about and how your team/product integration is going now?

Playven’s cutting-edge CRM tool radically simplifies sports venue management. So it fits perfectly with us. Together we will be able to offer an even better experience and more exciting opportunities to our customers – players and clubs – beyond reservations. Incorporating their technology into ours will allow us to keep growing to become the uncontested leader. Our team is working right now in the integration step by step. It’s difficult to merge every platform but we have the best team.

How do you think the SportsTech industry (and its startups) can respond, collaborate or evolve to survive the pandemic?

It’s difficult to predict the future right now. We have to help each other. We have to collaborate. But in general. Not only in these difficult times. So, I consider we have to be united and pivot our perspectives if it’s necessary to save the situation.

What do you think will be the next trend in SportsTech?

In our industry, I consider it will be everything related to scheduling the sports activities. Which day do you want to play? Who you want to play with? Suggested matches considering your preferences, location, level…Kind of artificial intelligence applied to the sports market.

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