LeagueFab was my first real attempt at a startup, and one that taught me several important lessons. I co-founded LeagueFab in 2015 with a friend who was an avid ping-pong player.
He often traveled, and lamented the fact that it was difficult to discover where people in the areas he was visiting gathered to play games. We envisioned an app that would connect players to recreational sports games of any type, and facilitate the scheduling & scoring of competitions.
Lesson 1: Do one thing excellently
We dove in head first building. I worked on the backend API, writing it in Python with Django and Django-REST-Framework. My co-founder focused on the frontend, using Angular and Ionic to build interfaces for both web and mobile.
We spent time pondering the best way to model our database to account for the quirks of different sports, and how we could handle anything under the sun generically. Soccer has two halves. Hockey has three periods. Football has four quarters. Baseball has nine innings. Scoring “events” are worth different amounts in different games. Etc. etc. etc.
None of this was relevant to ping-pong. None of this would solve the original problem of connecting people who want to play ping-pong. And it wouldn’t solve the scheduling & scoring of competitions very well either if we were going to shoe-horn every single sport under the sun into one model.
Lesson 2: Don’t waste time
After six or seven months, we had a working “MVP” that we wanted users to start testing. I believe we had a single-digit handful of people who we were going to try to get to start using the tool to manage an informal ping-pong “league.”
The most straightforward option would have been to point users to our web app and use that for initial testing.
Instead, we thought we had to launch as an app in the App Store and Play Store. As a business account. So, we went through the process of incorporating as a Delaware C-corp, because that’s what real startups do, right? And of course we had to agree on a share ownership split and vesting schedule for our own equity. And then we had to go get an EIN from the IRS, and then jump through a bunch of hoops to prove to Apple that we were a “real” business.
All so that we could publish a mobile app on the stores for our five test users.
Lesson 3: Talk to users!
By this point, it’s probably clear that we did not have any sort of organic user adoption and we did not do much at all to drive adoption or get in front of more prospective users.
It’s awfully hard to build a product that people love if you never talk to the people who will use your product. Even the original iPhone had room for improvement, and I’m not Steve Jobs.
After about a year, our motivation and level of effort had tapered off pretty dramatically. We made the decision to cease work on the application and formally wind down the company in early 2017 rather than continue to pay various registrations and annual fees associated with the business, since we still didn’t have any clear path to revenue at that point.
I don’t even know if I realized at the time that it was a path to revenue that was missing.
In retrospect, the issues are pretty obvious. We spent all of our time writing code and worrying about how to be a “business” but didn’t do the one thing businesses are meant to do: make money.
Around the time we wound down LeagueFab, I had another idea come up that I was interested in pursuing. Datascover was my next venture, where I was able to apply some of the lessons I learned from working on LeagueFab.