Start-ups can be resistant to rethinks – SportsCarver did a reboot and it changed its business
‘We discovered our technology could be adapted to fit and fix emerging problems with in-game advertising’
Ciaran Davies: “SportsCarver made more money in its first month than our original product made since launch”
Tunnel vision is a classic mistake of start-ups. Founders cling tightly to their original idea and won’t budge even though a change in direction could be the difference between success and failure.
Had Ciaran Davies, founder of SportsCarver adopted this mindset he would have missed a golden opportunity to fast track his company’s development and revenues. Davies listened to what the market was telling him and three years after its foundation his company is heading in an entirely different direction. Customers are now are knocking on his door rather than the other way around.
Davies originally set up his company to develop a product for the computer games community. He is a computer engineer and software developer as well as a passionate gamer and he had come up with an authoring tool for mobile game development that facilitated multi location collaboration between artists, engineers and game designers. Pleased with the result the team showed up at last year’s Web Summit full of expectation. By the end of the Summit, everything had changed and the team was back at the drawing board.
“We talked to various industry heads at the Web Summit and found they were less interested in our actual product and more interested in how the technology could be used elsewhere and in advertising in particular,” Davies says. “We listened, brainstormed about it and took the bull by the horns and made the classic ‘start-up pivot’. We haven’t looked back since. SportsCarver made more money in its first month than our original product made since launch.
“We discovered our technology could be adapted to fit and fix emerging problems with in-game advertising,” Davies says. “There are currently two main forms of advertising within mobile games: banner advertising and interstitial advertising. Both are completely disruptive to the user and have limited efficacy in terms of brand recall. Both also generate negative responses with users. With our technology, gamers are not interrupted by advertising. Instead the brands are active within the game world and form part of the realistic virtual environment.”
It took about nine months to complete the reboot and additional costs ran to around €150,000. Funding came from private investors and Enterprise Ireland’s high potential start-ups fund. Davies is a graduate of the Synergy Centre’s New Frontiers programme and prior to establishing his own business had been involved in a number of start-ups.
The business employs five people and supplements this with contractors when required. Revenue is generated on a cost per impression basis and Davies says the company’s initial target market is international sports such as rugby, cricket, soccer and basketball. However, the product can be applied to numerous sectors and the company is planning a VC funding round in early 2016 in the US to help develop further niches.
In Ireland SportsCarver has linked up with the GAA to release an official mobile game to coincide with the semi-finals and final of this year’s Gaelic football championship.
“Within this game we were able to dynamically place brand advertising on the virtual hoarding. This makes the brands look natural to the gamer and both brand recall and positive association has been vastly improved. We even sell the logo-space on the football!” Davies says.
“Our technology enables advertisers to show a particular hoarding image to a targeted demographic. For example, we could show one brand if you are a gamer from Mayo and another to a gamer living in Dublin. Sponsors are always looking for new ways to engage with fans and we provide a novel way of achieving that.