BigTeams Raises Series B Round, Acquires Schedule Star To Expand Digital Offering
BigTeams plans to disrupt high school athletics with their acquisition of Schedule Star, from Gannett, after raising a $5 million Series B financial commitment, according to their CEO, Clay Walker. The Sports Techie community blog also spoke to Walker last April after he was hired to lead BigTeams, a website and software system provider for high school athletic programs, read more here. This latest business strategic step will skyrocket the sports technology company forward while continuing their digital expansion via a new platform after the scheduling software is integrated into their own tech in time for a June launch. The main reasons for acquiring Schedule Star are to give BigTeams the opportunity to sell a more robust scheduling, school-branded website and fundraising product to high school athletics directors for the first time to 20,000 high schools nationwide, while adding thousands of happy users across all 50 states to their bottom line. This is my fifth year of blogging and it humbles me when I reflect upon the sports technology Industry’s global growth pace, as well as remembering all the smart, driven and good-natured sport executives like Clay I have interviewed along the way over hundreds of blogs, thank you for being a loyal reader and follower.
BigTeams Unprecedented Growth
Walker has already guided BigTeams towards rapid growth throughout 43 states and Canada since last March, resulting in 100 million impressions per month. Based in McLean, VA, they are the official software of The National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) with sites that feature rosters, scores, game articles, photos, school merchandise and statistics for athletic departments across the country. The new BigTeams mobile responsive platform launched in September and the company is currently experiencing record traffic. Mobile apps designed for the iPhone and Android devices has given them additional revenue streams to share with users. Advertising inventory has more than tripled year-over-year with marketing and promotional deals that include The National Guard and Anthem, among others.
“The acquisition of Schedule Star, one of the iconic brands in high school sports for more than half a century, along with this additional funding, puts BigTeams in great position to accelerate our business in 2015,” BigTeams CEO Clay Walker said. “We are looking forward to serving an even larger and deeper list of schools with our combined product offering. In just a short time we have seen great interest from both high school athletics administrators in the BigTeams web platform and content management system. Now, we will have an even more robust package to offer high school athletics programs.”
BigTeams have a need to have product. It professionalizes an athletic department and brand, giving them a utility that in today’s world is a real necessity. The ability to digitize the management of parents and kids, boy’s and girl’s teams, as well as practice, fields and all the rest of the nuts and bolts of a program are well worth the investment.
Walker considers the two separate components to be complementary products, resulting in a simple integration process that will let them be disruptive in the space while meeting high school sports needs and demands to make money that can be used to purchase uniforms, pay coaches and purchase equipment, things that were once paid for by state and county government but not anymore. The onus to raise money has fallen on athletic departments and Walker has positioned BigTeams enhanced platform to be ready to deliver with easy to use tools to make it so.
Monetization will soon to be at hand for high schools by leveraging BigTeams local advertising sales funnel. Schedule Star kept 100 percent of advertising revue but Walker plans to change that and give users the option to sell units they keep the profits from. A typical page might have 3-4 inventory units so look for the other digital spaces to be controlled by BigTeams running their own ad campaigns with proactive partners. You have the option to opt out of unit ad sales and save costs but why would you when you make it back and more.
He shared the notion that 95 percent of people that see high school advertisements look at them as positive. This is not the same for the Phil Knight, Nike and University of Oregon like deals, or the NFL and sponsors Bose, Surface and Verizon. The fan disconnect is simply not there with high school ads.
I got a chuckle when he asked me to visualize the “Bad News Bears” movie and the Chico bails bond logo coach Buttermaker secured for the back of the uniforms. As funny as that is, this exact type of advertising opportunity is where they want to be. In other words, if a parents real estate company, local restaurant or funeral home wants to advertise in a high school environment, think of BigTeams ad space as an operation much like the church bulletin print ads I grew up reading every Sunday while attending Catholic churches. It is there to serve.
The new platform launching in June will be in HTML 5 format, an upgrade from the existing flash, enabling a mobile and cloud experience for users. Social media links to Twitter, Facebook and others will be integrated to Schedule Star to add further product diversity the millennials generation must have.
Schedule Star was founded in 1964 in Pittsburgh. They provide scheduling services to American high schools. Gannett purchased their operations in 2007 and today sells software for schools to schedule activities, practices, games and transportation. As a result of the newest change of ownership, the offering also allows multiple schools in a league to coordinate scheduling and share scheduling data online.
Walker sees this as an opportunity to rebuild a 54 year-old, trusted business in the high school space. BigTeams tools, in the Schedule Star environment, are a good fit.
Walker believes in Schedule Star and their existing people on staff. The culture there has changed with BigTeams leading the way allowing for more freedom to be creative and sell, without some of the shackles that existed with Gannett, resulting in greater responsibility for them all.
Gannett is splitting into two public companies next year, leaving the established publishing business intact and spinning off its broadcasting and digital businesses to create two separate, publicly traded companies that currently bring in $5 billion a year together. This turn of events created an opportunity for Walker to open discussions about the availability of Schedule Star leading to further negotiations with his former employers at USA Today Sports Groups.
The Series B funding was led by SWaN & Legend Venture Partners and Capital Sports Ventures, LLC. SWaN & Legend is based in Leesburg, VA and managed by partners Fred Schaufeld, David Bosserman, Todd Klein and Tony Nader. SWAN has invested in 50 different companies including, the Washington Capitals, Mystics, Nationals and Wizards.
Capital Sports Ventures, located in Arlington, VA is led by CEO Greg Bibb, former Executive Vice President of Business Operations for the Washington Wizards and Chief Operating Officer of the Washington Mystics. Bibb and Schaufeld launched CSV in January 2013. Capital Sports Ventures is a small startup, private equity firm. As a first round leader, they helped get the deal to the finish line using their resources and knowledge.
BigTeams develops the most advanced high school athletic websites and software available based on the belief the less time an athletic director has to spend disseminating information, raising funds and creating a website, the more time he or she has to spend with coaches and students. The BigTeams goal is to build and support powerful school-branded websites for high school athletics programs that help the school with administrative work, fundraising and generate community engagement. The BigTeams product features industry-leading administrative tools, including scheduling, online athlete registration and booster volunteer management systems. The platform also helps high school athletics programs generate revenue through features such as local online ad sales, photo sales, e-commerce sales, mobile app sales and more.
About Schedule Star LLC
Schedule Star, the leader in high school athletic scheduling, has been trusted by thousands of athletic departments across the country since 1964. For 50 years Schedule Star has provided a complete solution for managing team schedules, facilities, transportation, eligibility, rosters, officials, game help, contracts, awards, certificates, scores, stats and more while keeping the schools’ community up-to-date with real time schedules, detailed information and alerts of event changes.
About Capital Sports Ventures (CSV)
Capital Sports Ventures is a sports and lifestyle properties accelerator that advises, manages and provides capital for sports and lifestyle properties and events. Along with actively investing in the sports and lifestyle industry, CSV offers advisory services to a select number of clients. CSV is a member of the SWaN& Legend Fund 2, LP portfolio.
About SWaN& Legend Venture Partners
SWaN & Legend Venture Partners invest in emerging brands that earn consumer passions and companies that support those brands, including: Anonymous Content, Capital Sports Ventures, CustomInk, José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup, KIND Healthy Snacks, La Lumiere, NEW Asurion, Optoro, OrderGroove, Quad Learning, Social Radar, Tango Card and the Washington Capitals, Mystics, Nationals and Wizards. www.swanandlegend.com.
Sports Techie, the purchase of Schedule Star brings BigTeams user base to approximately 4,300 total users, spanning 50 states, reaching the size, scale and demographics Walker was hired to make happen for founders and shareholders. Almost 20 percent of the total U.S. target market is now under BigTeams umbrella. I asked if this pace would eventually make them become a monopoly. Walker assured me that word is not a consideration. International growth is not on the near-term agenda, other than new opportunities in Canada that will be announced shortly.
Perhaps the biggest competitive edge BigTeams brings to the table is their commitment to being a U.S. company, while their biggest competitor, Our School Today, has a large workforce located overseas. Walker was proud to share the fact that the executive team all played high school sports, coached or still coach. Customer support personnel also played HS athletics. When you call BigTeams, you will speak native English with enthusiastic employees who know the ins and outs of high school sports saving you valuable time while setting a standard unmatched in the Industry.
After the Series B round of funds and the acquisition of key assets I asked about their new exit strategy and what is it. Because of their savvy investors, there is no timeline to exit. Walker loves his job. BigTeams has a new project with the NFL in the works he is excited to work on. As long as they meet the needs of athletic directors and make a lot of money they will be attractive to other investors. Daily goals are to improve and enhance the product and ensure a smooth launch.
An online registration module is under consideration. Walker is not clear if they should build, buy or white label this next piece. In terms of hiring, since they are based in DC, and Schedule Star is in Pittsburgh with a two-year lease, the 3.5 hour commute is no biggie as long as they stay streamlined.
Walker believes that pro and college sports fan affinity is not as special as the lure of high school because the bonds are much stronger. Whether you are a UFC owner, a Seahawks, Falcons or the team from Washington season ticket holder, or a local business owner, the pull of watching a high schooler give his or her all, especially if they are a son, daughter, family friend or neighbor, is more impactful than watching players you do not personally know.
The price for Schedule Star has been $300 per year for the last ten years. BigTeams prices ranges from $300-$1,200 per year on a subscription basis. Look those numbers to stay steady as will free support.
Demo their products online and get more hands at a state athletic department conference sometime this year.
See y’all later in Seattle and here in Atlanta.
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