Steve Moore, co-founder of Flight Club
Flight Club co-founder Steve Moore explains how the innovative bar chain is turning the traditional sport of darts on its head...
What do you think of when you think of darts? For most, it’s that questionable sport which is usually played at the back of the pub whilst having a few pints and a packet of peanuts.
But that mightn’t be the case much longer, as a new version of the game, pioneered by London bar chain Flight Club, looks to change the way the sport is seen across the globe.
We caught up with Flight Club co-founder Steve Moore to hear how the company is turning darts on its head with its new rules and its hip fair ground-themed bars…
Tell us a little about Flight Club, what makes it different from other bars and restaurants?
We’ve taken the traditional game of darts and supercharged it. With fast-paced multiplayer games and instant scoring.
It’s all set in a beautiful bar where people can get stuck into an awesome selection of food and drinks while they play.
It’s competitive, lively and fun – ‘Social Darts’ really is a social experience like no other.
How did the business come about? What were you doing prior to launching Flight Club and what inspired you to launch the business?
In 2010, I got a group of friends together and set about completing a Guinness World Record status expedition to raise money for charity. The plan was to circumnavigate the globe in a fire engine.
I didn’t know anything about logistics or project management at the time but the crew was made up 200 support staff and 28 co-drivers who brought their own skills to the mix. It was then that I realised the potential of what can be achieved with a group of people working together.
Less than two years later, I was having a catch up with Paul [co-founder of Flight Club] in a pub in Devon. There was a group of young people going crazy over a game of Killer on a dart board. This wasn’t traditional darts – it was loud, fast and exciting and we saw an opportunity.
We’d always looked for more than just food and drink when we went out with friends, usually some kind of activity. Flight Club gave us the chance to have that all in one venue – great food and drinks with the high energy of darts.
How did you go about getting the business off the ground? Did you receive any support in terms of advice or funding?
As with the fire engine expedition, we leveraged our network of contacts and drew on other people’s expertise, from an old school friend who had experience running bars in Devon, to a mate from University who owned an accounting company.
What began as an idea dreamt up in a pub has only become a reality through calling in favours, roping in old school buddies and borrowing money from our friends and family (they’re our main investors).
How much of a help was this when starting up?
Calling in favours has been crucial. Flight Club only got off the ground because our friends and family backed us, they invested their time, their effort and their cash.
What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
The technology itself was the biggest challenge. We wanted to use dart-tracking technology, automated and instant scoring and an intuitive interface to guide players through the games. But this didn’t exist or seem possible, bigger companies had already tried and failed to do it.
Using our network again, we got in touch with a specialist who worked at NASA, Dr Jason Dale, who made it possible (he is now our technical director).
Once we’d built a working system, we ran it on a test board in my living room. We were constantly running focus groups for about 18 months.
We took a bit of a risk when we opened in 2014 as we’d only ever tested the tech in a limited environment before launching it commercially.
So, to avoid disappointment if there were any glitches, we sold the first few weeks as a hackathon. If people found bugs, we would offer them a free drink and they loved it, they were still having fun.
How did you go about changing the perception people have of darts? Was it hard?
We’ve re-branded darts for the twenty first century – it’s no longer an activity that just sits at the back of the bar for a couple of players, it’s front and centre of our venues for everyone to get involved.
We worked really hard on the setting and the décor for the Social Darts experience – we’ve created a bespoke environment that nods to the heritage of darts, the fairground and the pub, but housed it all in a beautiful setting. We think this attention to detail has really set us apart from any preconceptions that people might have about darts.
It’s accessible for everyone, from the unique technology that guides you through the game play to the multiple throwing lines which level the playing field - even a complete beginner can win on the day!
It has been two years since the business launched – just how much has it grown since then?
Since opening Flight Club Shoreditch in October 2015 we’ve had more than 250,000 guests, who have thrown over 20 million darts. We recently opened our second venue in the capital; Flight Club Bloomsbury in April 2017 and now employ around 180 people across the business.
What do you put this growth down to?
Constant innovation. We’re careful not to rest on our laurels and lose momentum because of the success we’ve had so far. We know that people lose interest quickly so, whether it’s the games, décor or the menu, we are constantly working to refresh and improve aspects of the Social Darts experience.
Our team (the Flight Club Family) also play a huge role. They are passionate about what we’re doing and they’re at the centre of everything we do. We invest a lot into the training and there are real opportunities for development here with how quickly we’re growing.
Looking forward, what are your plans for the future?
Flight Club Chicago is opening in Spring 2018. We’re also considering other locations both in the UK and abroad including Manchester and Bristol and Oslo, Melbourne and Hong Kong.
Finally, if you could give three nuggets of advice to an aspiring entrepreneur, what would they be?
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