Footylight provides football fans on the internet a one-stop solution for all their football content needs. They’ve grown to be in the top 20 in the App Store and Play Store in more than 10 countries around the world.
We caught up with their co-founder Niloy Das, about the development of the app, the impact of COVID-19 on their business, and much more.
This is part two of a two-part series with our friends at Bullpen, read part one here.
Zushan Hashmi: Tell me a bit about yourself and the co-founders. How did each of you get involved in the SportsTech?
Niloy Das: Alongside me, my two other friends, MD and Erfan, wefounded Footylight in 2016. We have been friends since our time at school; we went to the same school, college, university and are now working in the same startup!
All of us have an engineering background. We were born in Bangladesh. Later, Erfan and I moved to Australia. MD lives in the USA now.
We have always been passionate about sports. Cricket and Football (Soccer) were our favourite sports. After graduation, we got involved in different sectors. One day we were having a casual chat and MD was talking about his frustrations with sourcing football content on different platforms.
He had to move from livescore.com to goal.com to league websites to see all the related content. Also to check on the social update or fantasy, he had to surf a few more websites!
This fragmentation of content was tiring and frustrating, for sure. So, Erfan, the tech guru (now CTO of Footylight), proposed an app to aggregate all that content in a single platform. In a couple of weeks, MD had the app on his phone and he shared that with his peers. It organically grew and now we have more than half a million downloads without any campaign!
At the beginning of Footylight, it was just an aggregating platform of news, live scores, YouTube highlights, podcasts and the likes.
However, over time, we shifted to an AI-driven platform to suggest personalised contents to the users based on preference. Footylight has become a matchmaking platform between football fans and brands.
What have been some of the challenges for you, personally, but also with your partners, in running and growing Footylight?
For me, the first challenge was to adopt to the new business environment, especially with the app business. As for the team, we faced a learning curve with the startup ecosystem – the investment terms (finance), the growth model (marketing), and other stuff that is required to run a startup. And I must say, the whole journey has been adventurous and full of challenges.
Building a competent team was our first challenge. It took us time to build a balanced team with technical and business background. Our team has been scattered in different countries with different cultural backgrounds which gave us an added advantage.
Another challenge that every startup faces is funding. Fortunately, Footylight is bootstrapped so far, and that gave us the provision not to dilute the equity.
And finally, the biggest challenge is to keep the balance between Problem-Solution fit, Product Market-Fit and Business Model Fit. The technology-driven market is very dynamic, the user requirement changes as frequently as technology. So, to cope up with the market demand and to adopt the technology is the biggest challenge.
Tenacity – that’s the biggest lesson I learned from the startup ecosystem. And I will rephase that to my fellow colleagues who are or willing to join in the clan: Be tenacious and pivot with the situation, you will be able to create the value that you are craving for.
And how have you been managing during the pandemic, particularly when we had no live football?
The Pandemic was a big blow for the whole world, as well as for us. The leagues were shut down during peak time, the advertisers shrunk their budgets and all of these affected a lot in our growth.
We quickly shifted our strategy and pivoted to product development and partnership development during the pandemic. We made some key partnership during this time, for example, we partnered with Global Sports Innovation Center (GSIC) powered by Microsoft for strategic access to global football (Soccer) market.
We also recruited new developers and advisors in our team to expedite product development and explored new business models. We made strategic partnerships with a series of football (soccer) centric platforms to reach out an audience of 20M via content syndication.
We launched 10 new languages in Footylight. Previously, news content was available in English only, now we have news contents in other languages that cover a big portion of the football audience.
We also provided non-live content to our users during this pandemic: historical highlights, social media content, match analysis, alternative statistics and so on, to keep the fans engaged. We listened to our audience, attended many conferences and talks with the stakeholders, and prepared ourselves for the post-COVID exploration.
What goes into developing relationships with sporting organizations and data companies, whom you are involved with?
Building relationships and partnerships IS vital for us. Footylight is a matchmaking platform between fans and football brands. By brands we mean, content creators, merchandisers, leagues, teams, bloggers, influencers, advertisers and sponsors.
So, creating a partnership is a regular task for us. We add new content on a regular basis to ensure the influx of quality contents over time. Also, Footylight provides official content of a few leagues, as well, through its partners.
READ: Insights into Global Football Content Platform: Footylight by Bullpen
We partner with many providers from all around the world such as Stats Perform, Minute Media, Tribal Football and Dugout. We are also one of the key members of the GSIC (Microsoft) ecosystem.
We often take part in multiple events arranged by the following sporting organizations, such as Sport Singapore, Winarize, Launch, Sport Tech World Series (STSW).
Footylight is in a market that is quite saturated, with a lot of apps providing football content, but you are unique in what you provide, how are you and/or how do you intend to make sure you stand out amongst all the noise?
Certainly, there are a lot of competitors who provide great football content; but we have some advantages over them that distinguish our platform.
First of all, we are video-centric, primarily targeting younger audiences which is still quite unique in this space. Second, Footylight doesn’t provide content alone but also curates the content according to personal preferences.
Our proprietary AI-engine is the key for fan-profiling and recommends content with utmost relevancy that ensures deeper engagement. Footylight is also developing a similar fan community, where users can connect among themselves, unlike social media where you often get distracted with other activities. We can say that Footylight is definitely a new fan engagement platform with an alternative approach.
Additionally, we see a huge market opportunity for the football video assets coming forward with the penetration of 5G. The football business is also growing beyond European and Latin American leagues and territories like the USA, China, Korea, Japan, India, MENA, Sub-Sahara and Australia are gaining popularity on the global scale.
Womens football has taken a big shift within the last few years as well. We see the leagues, clubs and entities are going through digital transformation and the content is readily available now, relative to five years ago. So we have a very big market to explore in the coming years. Footylight is focused on its vision and that keeps us standing out amongst all the noise.
With the focus on opening up the app in various languages, are there any particular areas/regions you are seeing growth or are interested in growing further, outside of the English-speaking world? And why do you think that is the case?
Definitely. We see a huge opportunity in non-English speaking countries over the time. Currently, 65% of our audience is from English speaking countries such as USA, UK, Australia, Canada and Singapore. But for further growth, we are focusing on South East Asia, China, Japan, Korea, Latin America and Africa.
At the end, fans love content in their native language. The football industry is going through a significant digital transformation. That means, more content will be available in the digital platform. This content needs innovative features and experience to keep the fans engaged. So, we see a huge potential for fan engagement in non-English speaking countries.
What would you say to aspiring startup founders, particularly from your own personal experiences in the space?
Tenacity – that’s the biggest lesson I learned from the startup ecosystem. And I will rephrase that to my fellow colleagues who are or willing to join in the clan: Be tenacious and pivot with the situation, you will be able to create the value that you are craving for.
What do you envision for the future of Footylight?
We view Footylight as a one-stop platform for football fans and brands. Over time, content will be more available in the digital space but curating the right content at the right moment will be the key factor for fan engagement.
Footylight’s vision is to be that platform where brands can provide their contents and users can get the right content that they are looking for.
Any other thoughts/comments?
Footylight is a platform connecting football fans and brands. So, we are open to collaboration with similar minds who feel football in the same way we do. If you think we can work together and explore football as a tool to connect people- don’t hesitate to get in touch!