Mobile app designed to solve problems for golfers
Like many entrepreneurs, Jason Pearsall started his company — which offers a mobile golf app — to solve a problem.
The 31-year-old attorney, whose father was a golf course general manager, said he had given a lot of thought about mobile phones and the on-demand economy; and one day last fall, inspiration stuck. He was on a golf course with his buddies, chasing an attendant without success around the course to get some beers.
“I thought: ‘There has to be a better way,’ ” he recalled.
Pearsall, who had owned and then sold a custom-computer company before he became an attorney, said he realized there was an opportunity to create Golfler, a free golf course app that — in addition to giving you course, weather and other information other phone apps did — would let golfers order food, drinks and whatever else they might want from the clubhouse.
His company, which is based in Detroit, employs about 25 full and part-time people. So far it has raised about $300,000, not including an undisclosed investment deal that was reached last week from New York firm Solidea Capital, and has agreements with more than 20 courses nationally.
It isn’t generating much revenue yet, Pearsall said; but hopes to be profitable by the middle of next year.
Perhaps though, what is more significant, is that Pearsall realizes that the geolocation feature in phones can help courses track players and manage pace of play — a selling point that may help get them to use the app.
Here’s our conversation with him, edited for brevity and clarity:
Q: Do you have any other apps?
A: We recognized that a basic expectation of a golfer who used an app is that it has a good range finder, a distance calculator between the golfer and the target and the shot, and in order to have a range finder that might be competitive with what existed, we had to have all the coordinates of the holes. You’d be surprised at how hard those are to acquire. There’s maybe 15, 16 companies globally that have all the coordinates for all the golf courses. It’s proprietary information. You can’t go out and license a database online. So, we acquired a company called Ninja Caddie — it’s located out of Australia — in April. We have the coordinates for up to 86% of the courses in the U.S.
Q: How can you afford employees if you don’t have revenues?
A: There’s a balance of finding the right investors, the right team to minimize the outside spend — by doing that, you don’t need as much money as a lot of people think you do to start a business. You just have to be creative with figuring out problems. We do have investors and operating money, but there have been times we’ve been cash strapped between funding rounds. The nature of a start up is you have money sometimes, you don’t other. You go from round to round trying to hit certain metrics that show you deserve more money.
Q: Your app does a lot of things. What are the main features?
A: The two core features are that it’s designed for golfers, and it’s designed for golf courses. The golfers are able to order food and beverage, as well as golf merchandise, anywhere on the course using their phone. Or they can preorder things. You pay by credit card through the app. We’ve also combined all the core features of the other apps: range finder, weather, messaging, scorecard and leader board. In the United States, 90% of core golfers — people who play more than 25 rounds of golf a year and they make up 75% of the rounds played — have identified the largest problem in golf is pace of play. Technology can monitor pace of play and notify the course. The goal is to equip golf courses so they can address a problem.
Q: So in effect, you’re turning the mobile devices into tracking devices for the courses.
A: Courses have been doing this since the early 2000s. But there’s been a problem. The primary way to do it has been through cart GPS monitoring systems, and that’s cost courses up to $300,000 to equip their whole fleet. But, the courses that have adopted cart monitoring systems to monitor pace of play have improved pace of play by 8% to 12%. That speeds the average round up 17 to 35 minutes. If a course is able to improve that, they can increase the number of rounds and the bottom line.
Q: So how does your company make money?
A: Originally, we started off with food and beverage delivery as the core feature. But, we also had to provide additional incentives for golf courses. But, for that to work golfers have to use it, that’s why we included all those other features. Our competition charges for the app. Our model is different. We partner with golf courses for free. We make 99 cents off the golf course, and 99 cents from the golfer for every order that’s placed.
Q: Do you have advice for other entrepreneurs?
A: If you are going to make the decision to start a business, plan for a little bit and save some money. You are going to go through funding constraints. It’s important you have a big picture and be prepared to go through times without some resources. In Detroit, there are a lot of people who are willing to work, and a lot of talent. If people are really interested in becoming an entrepreneur, we’re at a good time to take those steps.
Title: President, chief legal officer
Experience: Started and sold business, Performance PC, that built custom computers for video editing; corporate counsel for Nexteer Automotive; started Golfler earlier this year
Education: Wayne State University, bachelor’s and law degrees
Car: 2013 Mercedes GLK 350
Hobbies: Golf, sports fan
Michigan courses using app
Chandler Park Golf Course in Detroit
Hidden Oaks Golf Club in St. Louis
Inkster Valley Golf Course in Inkster
Oceana Golf Club in Shelby
Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods
Riverwood Resort in Mt. Pleasant
Rolling Meadows Golf Course in Whitmore Lake
Rouge Park Golf Course in Detroit
Wabeek Country Club in Bloomfield Hills
Warren Valley Golf Course in Dearborn Heights