As boardrooms go, MatchPint has a pretty cool one. The pub-finding app’s co-founder Leo MacLehose says most of his serious business decisions are made over beers at The Regent in Islington.
The entrepreneur laughs and adds: “Those pub walls will have heard a lot of our hopes and fears over the years. But we do speak quietly. I promise you we are not annoying all the punters.”
Those get-togethers have helped to build up seven-year-old MatchPint. The online business allows pubs to list all sports they are showing, while users can hunt down where specific games are being broadcast in their area. On top of that the website and app feature games, reviews, and promotions to entice drinkers, such as happy-hour deals. Subscriptions per pub range between £179 and £899 per year.
Today it has around 3500 watering holes signed up, and two million consumers using the site. It had one of its record days this month when some 24,000 people used MatchPint to find where the England v Argentina game in the Rugby World Cup was on.
The day-to-day operations happen in Finsbury Square, where MacLehose and business partner Dom Collingwood are sipping coffee in office space they lease from co-working firm Huckletree.
The lads, who are 30, outline what a busy year they have had: buying a French rival, launching in Ireland, and soon they will enter the Australian market.
MacLehose and Collingwood first met at King’s School, Canterbury, where they played in the same rugby team. The former, in his words, was a “very lanky second row”, and the latter a prop.
The duo remained pals throughout their studies. Collingwood, who once worked as a door-to-door salesman for Sky, did theology at Cambridge, where he was a countertenor in the choir.
He says: “I recognised the difference between my ability and people that were clearly going to be opera stars of the future. Singing would not be my career.”
Collingwood was approached in 2011 by MacLehose, who has a degree in international business, finance and economics from Manchester university, about setting up MatchPint. MacLehose, who grew up in Islington with his Scottish dad and French mother, got the business idea while working in a bar in Paris during his gap year. Matches being shown in pubs there were advertised on a local website.
Says MacLehose: “I thought there was serious potential to set up a professional online platform that could boost footfall for pubs. London is home to so many sports fans, so it seemed like a service that would appeal hugely to consumers.”
MacLehose and Collingwood invested their savings and got family and friends to back them, launching in 2012 with £15,000. They paid to get the tech set up and knocked on pub doors to get operators on board.
Collingwood grins as he recalls: “One of the first pubs to sign up was The Bowler in Clerkenwell. We were so thrilled.”
It wasn’t all fun though. As money was poured into development and hiring staff, losses widened. Collingwood says: “There were three months in the earlier years where me and Leo didn’t take a salary. I took to refereeing tag rugby in the evenings because you got paid a tenner.”
The entrepreneurs have since raised around £3.5 million of funding from private investors in the leisure and tech sectors.
Backers include Betfair founder Mark Davies. Davies says: "The idea fitted the type of thing I invest in, in that it solved a recognised problem that could not otherwise be solved, through a new technology. That tech has become mainstream now but at the time it was brand new, and they were applying it to a specific market which I felt was likely to take it up."
Collingwood and MacLehose still own around 45% of the firm.
Recent expansion has seen it buy smaller French rival Allomatch, and it is set to launch in Melbourne.
Collingwood is convinced there is more room for growth in Britain. “MatchPint is going to become more relevant as sports broadcasting rights become more and more fragmented.” He refers to Amazon looking to stream more and compete with Sky and BT Sport and says Brits won’t want to pay for several different packages at home.
As for MacLehose’s own local, with plenty of expansion to plot, the “boardroom” will be busy.
Turnover: £1.1 million in 2018. £1.7 million forecast this year.
Business idol: Leo: “My parents, who are in publishing. Now in their seventies, they are working harder than ever.”
Dom: “Radical Candor author Kim Scott. Kim’s approach to teamwork and leadership is game changing.”