My name is Peter Kratsios, I am the Founder & CEO of GolfMatch, and I want the supporters of GolfMatch to know that our app is not merely a product, but rather a tool that serves as the key to our mission. A mission that solves the fundamental problems of both golfers and courses, breaks the barriers of entry for new golfers, and diminishes the incentives for golfers to leave the game.
I’ve never been more stressed, I’ve never had so many sleepless nights, but I’ve also never been happier. Every day is an opportunity to get better, to grow, and to offer a product that I truly believe in. People say, “now is the time to do it”, which is a comment directed towards me, but one that I love for reasons that have nothing to do with myself. The time for golf to innovate is now. The time to grow participation is now. The time to create solutions to glaring problems is now. And my vision is for GolfMatch to be a part of the journey.
To best understand where we are at right now, you need to understand the history behind the venture. When I was 11, my next-door neighbor suggested we rent clubs at a local driving range, which I wasn’t all that thrilled about. The way I saw it, golf was a lame sport, and I was a ‘real’ athlete! Low-and-behold we went to the range, I hit 1 shot, and I was hooked. HOOKED. Maybe that’s the case with most people, but I just couldn’t believe how much fun I was having while being so terrible at something.
I decided I needed some lessons, which is how Mike Wade came into my life. He was a local golf pro who taught junior players on Long Island. He helped carve out a path to keep golf in my life forever, and is now one of our main advisors for GolfMatch. I took what Mike taught me and was fortunate enough to qualify for the New York State High School Championship 3 times, which helped paved the way to Gettysburg College, where I played on their varsity team for 4 years. What a blast that was!
Once I graduated I found a job in Digital Advertising on the Business Development side. My role was to sign publishers onto our ad network to expand our reach across the internet. The bigger the reach, the better we were able to effectively target the audience for our advertising clients. The concept of bringing publishers and advertisers together for mutual benefit is the same approach I envision for golfers and courses. Connect golfers and then help them organize matches at the courses they wish to play at. Simple.
As fate would have it, on a rainy day, sans umbrella, on my way to Long Island for the weekend, I sprinted from work to Penn Station. When I finally made it to the train, soaked and looking completely ridiculous, I got myself together, and sat down next to Jessica Brondo, who would end up turning my vision into a coherent game plan. Having just recently released an app herself, Jessica helped me to think through ideas and strategies for success. She has had a tremendous influence on the company, is a close advisor to GolfMatch, and also a trusted friend.
Shortly after meeting Jessica, I was offered a promotion to the Media Sales team as an account executive, which would have been a tremendous opportunity for someone at 24 years old, but I turned it down, quit my job, and moved home. Needless to say, my parents were a little bit confused.
So there I was, no money, no product, and no “job”. However, I had a vision, wireframes drawn out, a go-to-market strategy in place, and the hunger to make it work. I knew the golf industry inside-and-out, I knew participation was down, and I knew there were specific problems that caused that decline. My job was to create a simple solution to solve the big problems.
Golfers are either time constrained, price sensitive, or experience driven. Meaning they want to find courses in their price range, play at times that are convenient, while having that ‘ideal’ experience they envision. For example, my hope is to find other golfers my age, under a 5 handicap, who want to play a competitive game, from the back tees, at a course in my price range, no more than 20 miles away from me, on Saturday morning. I want this all to happen seamlessly through an app, be able to keep track of all the golfers I have played with, and rate the courses I have played at. I also want to be able to message individuals, or multiple people, while having unique group chats for each specific match to get the chatter going beforehand. That to me is my ideal golfing experience, so I wanted to create a product that made it all possible. We then took it a step further and incorporated algorithms that takes profile information, and digests it through similarity rankings to suggest the best golfers for each user without them having to do anything.
GolfMatch also has the ability to drive awareness to local courses by geo-locating every golfer and showing them a list of courses that surround them. They can filter out courses based on name, price, location, and soon, rating. We then give golfers all the information they would need to find and contact the course to book tee times. Our next step is to work with golf courses to help them better market their local golfers. We know the cities people live in, where they play, and where they want to play. We want to help courses attract the golfers in their area by putting them in the driver seat to decide the type of deals they are willing to give local golfers, and in turn, all parties are satisfied.
By the grace of God I was able to raise some initial capital that would turn my vision into a product. A product I could sell, a product that helps connect golfers, a product that drives awareness to local courses, and a product that would change the approach to golf…one day. Julio Rivera was the man for the job. I was introduced to Julio by a mutual friend, at a bar, and the rest was history. He created the GolfMatch iOS app from scratch and I will forever be grateful for the work he did.
Where We Stand Now
I have spent the last 12 months forging relationships, connecting the dots, listening to feedback, implementing changes, growing our brand, and shamelessly spreading the word of GolfMatch. Anyone who has built a startup knows the feeling of wearing multiple hats. Being the head of marketing, sales, partnerships, social media, research, and tracking investor leads, is not easy; you have to love it. Most recently, I was lucky enough to meet a man by the name of Christopher Klamkin, now an advisor and board member of GolfMatch. Chris has been the #1 club review writer at Golf Magazine the past 8 years, bosts an impressive amateur golf resume, and is equally as hungry to grow the game of golf as I am. Naturally, we met at a tech meet-up, then played golf the next day and sealed the deal. It is crucial that I have someone like Chris to provide experience and invaluable connections, while complimenting my weaknesses with his strengths.
As of right now we have just under 10,000 users, we have 13,000 followers across our social feeds (10K on Instagram alone), we reach a 10K plus audience for our weekly newsletter, and we have aligned ourselves with some of the biggest names in golf. We have been featured in Golf Digest, Golf WRX, Back9Network and The Bunkers Paradise, to name a few. We have sparked the curiosity of the golf industry, we have gotten on the radar of the right people, and we have only just begun.
Plans For The Future
We want to expand to web and Android this offseason, we want to grow our tournament presence in more cities (http://golfmat.ch/ZksPLW), we want to continue aligning ourselves with larger organizations as a value-added service for their golfers, and we are looking to raise more capital to blow it out of the water in 2015. The golf industry needs innovation, they need it now, and we want to be the company that makes it happen.
Please help spread the word of GolfMatch. E-mail me directly ([email protected]) if you’re interested in joining our team of Brand Ambassadors, and let me know your feedback! This is not a mission that can be accomplished by 1,2, or 10 people…it is a group effort to better the game we all love.