Where does one go to buy sporting equipment at great prices? There’s Etsy for arts and crafts, Poshmark for fashion, and Reverb for music equipment, eBay for everything else but where do you go for a hockey stick or golf club. NYC startup Sideline Swap offers a marketplace for pre-owned sporting equipment. The offers on Sideline Swap are endless and a great way to focus on playing sports for the sake of sports. The company is a graduate of 500 Startups and just picked up a seed round.
AlleyWatchspoke with Founder and CEO Brendan Candon about the company’s vision as well as their most recent round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised $1.5M with participation from Fabrice Grinda, 500 Startups, Christopher Dean of Summit Partners, Haystack Partners, Fullstack Sports Ventures, Maria Thomas (former CEO of Etsy), Sean Bratches (former EVP at ESPN), Nnamdi Okike (645 Ventures), and Marc Michel (Runway Ventures). This was our seed round.
Tell us about your product or service.
SidelineSwap is a peer-to-peer marketplace where athletes buy and sell their sports gear.
What inspired you to start the company?
After finishing my college lacrosse career I stayed involved with the sport by coaching youth teams and playing in men’s league. It was the first time since college I had to purchase my own gear. Rather than spending $400+ at a retail store I bought a set of equipment off a friend for less than $100. That purchase led to a larger conversation about the cost of equipment and how it should be easier to buy and sell online. That’s when SidelineSwap was born.
How is it different?
First it’s important to understand who uses SidelineSwap. 80% of our users are under 24 years old, and the vast majority of them have never sold online before. We’re activating a completely new customer. Second, 90% of sporting goods purchases take place in sports stores (think Dicks Sporting Goods as opposed to Walmart.) Shopping on eBay is like going to Walmart, and athletes want a better online shopping experience. Our platform makes it easy to buy and sell, but more importantly we make it easy for athletes to ask questions and exchange expertise through messaging. We’re building a community marketplace.
What market are you targeting and how big is it?
90M Americans participate in some sports activity each year, and together they spend over $60B on sporting goods. It’s a massive market where more and more business is shifting online.
What’s your business model?
We charge a 12% fee to the seller in each transaction. Buyers pay for shipping, so once the transaction is complete all the seller needs to do is print, pack, and ship.
What gear is most popular?
For now we’re focused on high-cost equipment sports like lacrosse, hockey, skiing, baseball, and golf. Athletes are welcome to buy and sell whatever they’d like, but that’s where we’ve seen the most traction since buyers can save the most, and sellers earn the most on high-ticket items.
What was the funding process like?
It was a grind, but also a great learning experience. We participated in a few incubators and accelerators (MassChallenge, Harvard Innovation Lab, and 500 Startups.) Through those, and a lot of time pounding the pavement, we were able to secure funding from a great group of investors.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
As first time founders, we had to spend a lot of time building relationships and proving we could execute in order to raise capital. We grew ~20% for 7 months before we closed our round.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
I think it was a combination of our vision, and our ability to execute. After our first meeting, investors received monthly updates that helped them get to know us, and better understand our business. I’m a big believer in Mark Suster’s “ Lines not dots ” philosophy.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’re really focused on growth in new sports, like hockey, skiing, baseball, and golf. Additionally, we’re making big investments in our product that we’re really excited about including our iOS and Android apps. Our goal is to build the best peer-to-peer marketplace, period… it just so happens to be in sports.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
If you believe in what you’re building, don’t quit. Persistence is everything. I also love a line one our mentors at 500 Startups shared with us, “Maximize your luck surface area.” Get out there, go to meetups, do the things that don’t scale, preach your vision, and eventually you’ll get your break.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Our goal is to build THE marketplace for sports. We really admire what Etsy has done in arts & crafts, Poshmark in fashion, and Reverb in music equipment. They’ve built powerful community marketplaces in industries where customers are passionate about the products they buy. We plan to do the same in sports. And at the end of the day, our mission is to make sports more affordable.
What’s your favorite rooftop bar in NYC to unwind?
I’m more of a dive bar guy. Bud Lights and a few games of darts at Kettle of Fish in Greenwich Village always does the trick