Jason Stoop, CEO of VPAR
A London tech start-up which is changing the way people across the world play golf has successfully finished a £1m crowdfunding round.
Golf enthusiasts turned entrepreneurs Jason Stoop and Julian Sykes co-founded VPAR in a bid to revolutionise golf through the introduction of new technologies.
“Start-ups have always interested me,” Jason told BQ, “the thought of growing a concept to global business has driven me from a young age.
“I studied business decision analysis at UWE Bristol as it included business analysis and a year in industry, this was my first opportunity to explore the start-up ecosystem.
“This is also where I connected with golf commercially as I was one of the first employees at Golfbreaks.com.
“I grew the sales team from 1 person to 27 and the company soon became Europe’s largest golf travel business.
“I was then approached to take on the role of head of sales and operations for eviivo, who offer online booking software for small to medium sized hotels.
“Here I learned that the business requirement for high level reporting and what actually makes a business tick behind the scenes.
“I began to understand the technology landscape and what it takes to build a successful development team. It was my first exposure to technology roadmaps the development process and sprint planning.”
It was whilst working at eviivo that Jason decided it was time to launch his own business and got i touch with Julian: “Our lightbulb moment was on the golf course playing in a corporate golf event.
“We were on the 14th hole and were feeling pretty good about our round but had no idea of our standing compared to the rest of our competitors.
“It didn’t feel right that the pros know exactly what they need to do in that situation, but us poor amateurs are left in the dark.
“Out of that frustration VPAR was born and shortly afterwards we launched our live scoring system for corporate and pro-am events.”
VPAR’s first product was a live scoring service; giving amateur golfers the ability to see where they stand on a live leaderboard on course, in the clubhouse and online - something only previously available to professionals such as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
Sixty million people worldwide play golf, and VPAR enhances the game for everyone, giving players access to real-time information they’ve never had before - both on and off the course. It brings the passion of the professional game to an amateur golfer irrespective of their Handicap.
Perceptions of stuffy members’ clubs and paper scorecards are a reflection of an industry that has previously been slow to adapt, but VPAR’s technology has inspired change, by satisfying both the traditionalist and the new, demanding modern golf fan.
Seven years on and VPAR is now the No.1 provider of Live Golf Scoring in Europe and the USA with more than half a million golfers experiencing its innovative scoring. VPAR has even scored events for the likes of Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Gary Player, Danny Willett, Rickie Fowler, Arnold Palmer and even One Direction’s Niall Horan.
The company now also supplies some of the most recognised brands (HSBC, PWC, Audi, ESPN and Samsung) and renowned golf courses (Pebble Beach, Winged Foot, Celtic Manor, Gleneagles and Wentworth) in the world. This includes scoring events for The PGA Tour, The LPGA Tour and The European Tour as well as thousands of corporate tournaments across 22 countries.
This rapid-growth has seen the London start-up increase its headcount to a team of 27 people and generate revenues of £1.3m. And with ambitious plans to grow the business, Jason and his team decided to look to the crowd in an ambitious bid to raise £1m to help drive the company forward.
Jason added: “We were confident that we could raise all of the money for this round from our existing and institutional investors but we’re building a great community of golfers who are incredible champions of our brand. It only seemed right that we offer them the opportunity to invest in VPAR too.
“From that realisation it made sense to do a full crowdfunding campaign and have our new investors be our greatest advocates. There’s nothing like word of mouth when it comes to building a community and brand.”
After successfully finishing the round of crowdfunding, Jason is now hoping to cement VPAR’s position as one of the world’s most innovative sport technology brands and is looking to continue developing new products and services.
He concluded: “VPAR is without a doubt at the forefront of technological innovation in golf and our mission is to become the No.1 technology brand in golf.
“When you look at each product and the potential market scale, there are hundreds of thousands of golf events for our Tournament Live Scoring Service, 30,000 courses for our Club Platform and over 60 million active participants in the game to become app users.
“This year we’ll continue to connect golfers, and provide the best experience on and off the course possible, motivating them to compete day in, day out.
“We believe the VPAR app will have been downloaded more than 3 million times and will provide club technology to 1,350 clubs and generate over £11m of annual revenue by the end of 2020.”