The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 5 months ago

Ep 197: Youth Sports SaaS w/ Brian Litvack

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Ep 197: Youth Sports SaaS w/ Brian Litvack 

Part of the "Is This A Good Time?" series hosted by Brandon Barton.

But hello everyone and welcome back to the pavilion podcast. I'm your host, friend of our and you are listening to is this a good time? The show where I hope AVILION members on the hot sea. Fifteen minutes we hear their incredible stories. Shows are out on Thursday, so please hit subscribe so you do not miss hearing from our experts. Our guess today is Brian Littback. He's a CEO and founder of League APPs, and we talked about everything from burtles vertical SASS companies to why St John's Mad Nep never make the tournament again to really just grinding on this passion of getting more people to play more sports and and youth sports. This one's sponsor is six sense. Six sense, the number one account engagement platform, helps you identify accounts that are in market for your solution, prioritize your efforts, engage buyers the right way with highly relevant messaging and measure what actually matters. Six sense customers reported to x increase in deal size, ten percent improvement in opportunity conversion rates, bit twenty five percent reduction and deal to close time and a hundred and twenty percent improven in revenue. Effectiveness. To learn more, visit NSCOM revenue collective. All right, let's do this episode ninety six. Is this a good time? All right, every want Tom. Honored to have Brian littback. Was Up with us. He is the CEO and Co founder of League APPS. Has Been at it for over a decade. And Brian, so great to have you on the pot. Thank you, Brad and I. It's awesome to be here. We're now pals in a pavilion, so that to be talking to you on this. I love it. Man. Well, look, all meet, no filler. We want to jump right in with the questions. Take us back to when you started. I want to know you know what was this the thing that the spark that got you going on league gaps to find this you know, to be the founder of this company. Tells, obviously, what leads a league gaps does, what it started to do. You know the early is and what it does today and can bring us through that whole kind of journey. Sure. So, Lea gaps is the leading you sports management platform. We make it easier for sports communities to do...

...things like registration, payments, messaging, communication, reporting, websites and mobile APPs. Team Management in you sports. There's a hundred thousand plus you sports communities in the US and that's really where our focus is. I've been working on this problem space for a while. We first had a company called sports fight, which was hard to pronounce. So when we want to league gaps it was easier. But the idea of sports fight, which was like evite for sports, was to make it easier to find other people in your area to connect and play sports with. And the big insight that we learned during sports fight is there are people in every community who care about making sports happen more than anybody else, and these are the program directors, or we often call them sports organizers, that really devote their life to enabling sports and creating sports programs. And we recognize that there was an ability to help the sports organizers by giving them more tools to manage all of the events and programs within their communities. And if you think about it as sports organizer, they're running around town making sports happen. They're almost like a concert producer, and that you know. And they have shows all over town and there's things like the weather and there's crazy parents and there's permits and government and all these things that they have to handle, so we wanted to build tools to make it easier for them to do that. What I like to say is that's how we started building tools for sports organizers and ten years later where SMB vertical SASS payments enabled platform, and that's how we've evolved, and I think that goes towards really the space that we're in. We are very much a software company. We want to use software technology in data to create great solutions, but we are also a US sports company and we want to be a leader in that and a thought leader, and most people at League gaps will more identify with us being a use sports company. One of our goals is to be the most impactful company in all of you sports company. Then we are as an SMB vertical SASS payments enabled platform, right. I mean, obviously it's funny because it sounds like you're doing the same thing that you were doing twelve years ago, but just the language around how to describe that maybe has changed.

Yes, you know what, when we did something like consumption pricing and that revenue attention automatically grows, we did not do that with that in mind. We thought that it would be great to allow sports organizers not to have to put a credit card down and just take a little piece of their payment and pay as you go because they have seasonality. So very much we are doing things that make sense for our partners, which is what we call our customers, and then we tie it back to you know, we are in more growth and scale mode. So we take a lot of lessons from what other vertical Sask platforms have done well and we look at mind body in fitness and spa, or we look at toast. I know you're in the restaurant space. Are there's you know, there is now software for doctors offices and for mechanics and for auto repair shops and and and for home field services and plumbers, and we see the ways that they build product, that they continue to provide solutions through better software, that they market, that they thought leadership, that they build community, and we often say, let's borrow all of the best ideas and apply it to you sports, and that's how we can have innovation and impact in the space that we're in. That's incredible. And you know, while we're talking about league as, before we go all the way back to you starting, it might as well mentioned two people what you know, the amazing achievement that you had today in terms of this fund raise, because also being a brand that's going to be synonymous with Youth Sports, you're also giving back to the community. So I want to highlight that. Yeah, I appreciate you bring that up and thank you for your generous contribution to helping us build a soccer field in the Bronx. We have something called fun play. So fun play is US giving away our software and services at no cost to organizations that are most in need and oftentimes in a more complicated areas urban development, right more traditionally poorer districts. You Sports is not as advanced or there's not as enough playing spaces or it's not as organized. So we bring our software. We often try to do more than just bring our software, whether it's services or connections. are other resources, and one out of every twelve partner ships are show that we form is for a fun play partnership...

...and our team gets more excited to really connect with youth based sports development companies that are doing this the best for the right reasons that align with our beliefs in these fun play grants and there is inspiring to us. As you know any of our partner so we're we're our goal by the end of this year is to get to a hundred fun play partnerships where we take one percent of our revenue and we donated towards fun play. Jared Cooper, who is a member of our team, runs the fun play program but need to Fitzgerald Mosley, who is an Olympic gold medalist, is in charge of all community impact at league gaps and, as kind of you, supports to elevate her lives and her life and many others. So this week one of our fun play partners is South Bronch united. They're building a new clubhouse on a hundred and seventy seven and river up in the Bronx and they want to build a mini pitch or a field inside the clubhouse. They have two hundred kids on their waitings, a list. They don't have enough space. So we did a fund raiser as part of our team meetings to help them raise the funds needed to build this mini pitch inside the clubhouse and indoor place for the kids to play year around. And as of today we hit our goal to this just start on Monday to raise a hundred thousand dollars, which were extremely proud of. Over five hundred different contributions from far and why? The lead gaps community. We talked about community a lot. It obviously is tied to use sports. So very prideful of one being able to support South branch united. We've never built a field before. We talked about technology, data and software. We don't talk about, you know, turf and grass and goals, but we're going to be able to build a field and I guess we got to start playing the ribbing cutting ceremony and and the celebration to actually build a physical play space. That's cool, man, that's cool. Well, go back all the way. What was the impetus for this idea? I mean, did you did you have the challenge yourself? Did you just say, Hey, this is something that my friends are going through with their kids or something? What got you into this in the first place? Yeah, what if I take it all the way back? You know, you mentioned that your wife also worked at College Sports Television and I was working in sports media and I we were talking about college basketball right before the show and I'm a huge sports fan. I created a college basketball blog in college. We were lamenting...

...around St John's never being good again in the future of the history. was what you were explaining to me, which is probably true, but you know, hurts my heart as much as just about anything in the world. But I was excited about is how can we use software to help people play sports, not just watch sports? And you know, there's like this form for like moment in thinking about my career when I was leaving college sports television, whereas like, can I go down a path of doing fantasy sports? I had done a lot of that, I knew that market. Or should I help help this company actually allow people to play sports? And it seemed like so much more of putting good into the world. If you could help people play sports, then if you can help them, you know, enjoy being a fan more. And I wasn't even gambling at that point, right, I know, but it what? But it all was on the side. Yes, the idea sports fight was to help people find other people in their community play sports with. I had moved to California early in my right after school, and I didn't know anybody, and I will im it's some friends. I didn't play as much sports as I should have, because that would have been a great way to meet people. So when we came back, you know, this was this was two thousand and six, two thousand and seven, the idea of using like a facebook or my space or a dating site just for sports made a lot of sense and that was the problem that we were immediately solving and that quickly, as we were building up that business, helped us recognize that there are sports organizers within communities for both adult and you sports, that are just the ones that really make it happen, and that's how it evolved into wit is league. Guests. Got It, got it, I mean even yeah, I think I'll. I still play pick up basketball at my advanced age and I always wish there was like this thing that would get people together. But I will tell you, in the forty years I've been playing hoops, it's never piece of technology. It's always some money. WHO's the connector who's going to get ten guys to show up on a court at one time? So that makes total sense to me. Yeah, we're so where our business really went from like being this cute little business to having the opportunity to grow in scale is that, you, sports is...

...a seventy billion dollar market. There's more time and passion and money being spent on you sports and you know almost anything in the United States and it is larger than all the professional sports leagues put together. And the trend has been that parents invest a lot into their kids sports lives. It goes beyond just, you know, the traditional what you would think of a volunteers and community leagues, and that's because they want premium experiences, they want social and emotional learning. They they want coaches that are certified into play in a safe and healthy environment. Now, there are some things that you come into a company like ours and all debate all day about accessibility, and that's why we talked about fun play. But you sports is no longer just you know, these small volunteer sports organizations. They're more similar to how restaurants operate their half million to two, three, four million dollar organizations that have budgets and processes and are essential within communities. That's so cool. And and look throughout your career, and at least you know it may be your time at league gaps, was there anything any like strokes of luck or, you know, instances of just extreme kind of challenge that you overcame to get to where you are today? Yeah, I think some of those goes hand in hand, because we were running this business for eight or nine years when covid hit in March of two thousand and twenty and our revenue went down ninety percent. We make money when organizations process transactions from parents and all of a sudden in the middle of March there was no more transactions for you sports. In fact, there was, you know, massive refunds where we give back our fee as well. We funded about fifty million dollars that spring so difficult. You know, our revenue dropped off a cliff, ninety percent or so. A lot of tough decisions in that March, April, May of two thousand and twenty when there was a lot of uncertainty. But to really lucky parts of that. One is we had raised around the closed in February where gave us the cash to get through that period and and to youth sports came back really quickly and by...

July and August it was something that families and communities deemed essential. We did a lot of great thought leadership around how a sports organization to get a PPP loan or how they could handle refunds or waivers or liabilities. You build the features for health checks. We put round tables and forms together. So I think that we had joked for years that you sports this recession proof, because there's a lot of like, you know, data around in two thousand and eight even as family stopped spending, they still kept on going on these sports and then all these sports complexes were built. We had never kind of conceived of is it pandemic proof, which at first it wasn't but quickly became pandemic group because fortunately, most of the country has figured out how to really create great sports experiences in a safe and healthy way, even as that kind of pandemic continues. And it's been good for a business. Hopefully it's good for the health and of kids and families and community. So I look at that as both on unlucky and a lucky situation for us. Yeah, that sounds like it. I'm sure things were not looking great at for so super cold and know that you rebounded so greatly and you know there's there's a lot of you and I were talking about vertical SASS companies. It's a little different than when you have a generalist product that can work with any business, like a counting software or were or hiring software or something like that. I'm really curious about, you know, what's a vertical SASS marketing tactic that you feel like as effective in getting, you know, SMB's and people who may not even have the full time job be running the these leagues? How do you get them to pay attention? Yeah, that's the question we spend most of our time thinking through on the marketing side. So when I think of sports organizers, what I like to say is almost like video game characters that have like different attributes or like powers. Every sports organizer has a combination of philanthropy, that doing it for something bigger than themselves, passion, they are coach or they just love being on the field, influence. They're important in their community. They know the mayor, they know how to get permanence there. You know, all the parents are coming to them to help get the kids into...

...college. Our organization right. More and more they have to be efficient and how they run their organization or their business. So they're on the field a lot. They some of them are full time, some of them are part times, some of them are volunteers and not sitting in front their computer searching for software all day. So the marketing tactics are the ways that you have to reach a has to be very authentic, right. You have to be able to say we are sports organizers to we do that through software, but we understand your situations and what's going on. Sometimes I'm traditional sets, platforms or something to all these different markets. So you're like, we know, sales, enablement, we don't know. You know, we don't even care what you're selling. Right. But here you got to really bulliet understand. You got to be experts on the market. You have to know how to speak to them and communicate them. You got to know where they are. You know, we go to a lot of tournaments. We're not doing demos on tournaments. If we try to pull out a computer and do a demo in the middle of a tournament, you know you get left at right or they'd spill their gatorade on you. But we're at tournaments handing out gatorades, getting to know them, understanding with tournaments they're playing in, connecting them with other people, and then we're figuring out the ways that, you know, through that relationship, we can you get it, get them to ultimately a demo. Just like many other companies are create an opportunity around that. So, you know, referrals are big than being offending to the network is big. You know, word of mouth is so huge. We've overused a tactic assend in cheese boards to sports organization facilities talking about hey, share this with your community, and we've done that, like you know, too many times. But the cheese board was something that people appreciated and opened up a conversation. You know, we're very confident and we know our metrics. If we can get them to see our software and understand the use cases, that will have a lot of success in ultimately forming a partnership. And even when they don't sign up the demo a sometimes they're just staying on the things that they've been using because they it's a lot of work and mindset and to switch operating systems or system of records. So it's almost just continue to build the relationship with them. You don't ever really lose. You just kind of keep on getting to know them better until they're ready to, you know, invest in...

...in new software. Yeah, that's great. It's always great advice. It's like there there's no close lose, there's just that's a new opportunity for later. Well, they're not, I think to that they're not switching platforms as much as like I got to build buy a sales enable and platform and there's three of them and I'm going to buy one and once I buy one, I'm not going to buy the other. A lot of times the look at Lee gaps and keep on using with their using. So they're they not evaluating software. No one's job in a sports organization usually is to evaluate software. Right are to to implement you software. The job is to make sports happen and software just enables them to do that. Yeah, yeah, so until they have a real pain point and then you're they're waiting for them. Well, look, just some quick hitters here. Any keep positions you're hiring for? Yes, so, speaking of that, we are looking for a VPA marketing, someone who can go deep into a vertical can go beyond some of the more basic tactics and really figure out how to engage with you sports organizers throughout the country. Love it, man, and and any shoutouts that you want to give people that you just love kind of what they're doing. Yes, so, as I said, I follow many of the vertical Sass Company, so I love reading about things that the story behind my body are with toast is doing and it's just so aggressive. But some of the things slice here in New York. I like how they get really deep into pizza, you know, even companies like ZOC DOC we've looked at over the years. We learned a lot of sales and in the early stages from single platform guys like Adam leadman and whilie. So appreciate it. Kind of just a community of help thinking through some of this within you sports. Tom Ferry runs the Aspen Institute project play, which I think is a great thought leader in this space and really going out of like the stories at when I was a kid. This is how it worked, and thinking about what creates healthy sports experiences here in the US. I read, I nerd out on, you know, things like saster. You know, if for those who don't know, check out pavilion and all the amazing community that Sam has built here, because it's been it's been cool. You know, as our company scales, I...

...go from, you know, being a hacker, se entrepreneur to a CEO. So I'm reading lots of books of skill developments. So things like getting to yes, which is around negotiation right now. Thanks for the feedback. A lot of I'm working on active listening. So a book called I hear you. We had a cool session in pavilion called one life to lead that SAM help facilitate. And then today with radical candor. So continuously trying to figure out how to learn and grow as our organization does. Love that you're shotting out some real, really good stuff. I hope somebody's taken notes and and and look last but now these, although you sports is quite important to me. I love it. I was a product of youth sports. I grew up to be somebody who appreciates restaurants more than anything in this world's give us a spot to go eat. So we have a union square hospitality connection. I don't know if you know that, but one of our investors and advisors and friends is Jeff Fluge, who was the sea if CFO of, I guess, Ush gmn of Shakeshack, and Jeff is constantly sharing stories about fifty one per centers and all the and Danny being electro magnet for talent and all the other things around service. So it's been awesome to bring Jeff into our company in all different ways and and so one of my spots to to USHG, and it is an unknown one, is daily provisions, because that's right by our office and I would go into all the time and just to pick up something that is so delicious and for takeout was one of the highlights of pre pandemic walking to work every morning. Love it, man. Well, look shoutout, Danny Myers. Put put the if you're writing down books to put on the list, you gotta put setting the table on on that list. From just so just don't even think of it as a restaurant or hospitality book, but just as a leadership book. I refer to that thing every you know every quarter on how to handle and you know an organization, how to deal with people, how to deal with your employees and motivate them. So my own little shout out, Bryan. So good to have you on. Man. I love what you do. I want more of it in my community to make fooking sports easier for my kids and you know,...

I really you know, I appreciate kind of all that you're up to and how getting to know more about you and your businessmen. But thank you for having me. Until you have the College Basketball Pod, will talk vertical Sass, but look forward having some more conversations soon. All right, Bro, all right, that's our show. Thank you so much for listening. If you love the show, rate reviewing the apple podcast or spotify, absent it to friends and just smash that subscribe button. This episode is rough to you by s powered by AI and predictive analytics. Six sense helps you unite your entire revenue team with a shared set of data to achieve predictable revenue grow I had so much fun today. I hope you did too. Now get out and crushing numbers.

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