Hey, I'm Jonas Urbonas and I'm the founder of Orfi Active, a matchmaking service between sports organizers and participants. So if you're somebody that's looking to join a sporting activity, just go to the app, you see what's going on around you, check details, and easily join. If you're a sports organizer, you easily create recurring activities, manage attendance and payments. You can use group chats and push notifications for communications, and take care of admin stuff for your sessions.
We're mostly focused on grassroots organizers for supply. So for example, somebody that's a team player and plays in an amateur league, and or somebody that just wants to have a game every Saturday with their mates. Also immigrants is a big one or somebody that moved to a new city or country, because they don't know anybody, but they do want to be part of a community.
How It All Got Started
I'm from Lithuania, so I'm an immigrant in this country. My sport is basketball and basketball is just not that popular in the UK, especially when I moved here. When I came, I didn't know anybody, my vehicle for getting to know new people and becoming part of a community was sports. But I just couldn't find anywhere to play basketball and who to play basketball with. I was desperately searching for something that will give me that community, and at that time there was nothing. I eventually found a basketball group but I just felt that it was wrong on so many levels.
Once I got into that basketball group, I saw the other side. I saw how tedious it was for the organizer to manage everything every single week. At that time it was emails, now it's getting better through WhatsApp groups, but it's actually not getting that much better. In some ways, it's even noisier. So essentially I realized that I'm a UI/UX designer, so I've got kind of half of that covered already. I might as well do something myself. And then it was just a case of supporting myself with the help of other people that are better at the things that I'm not, and that's how we were born.
Initially, I tried starting the business without investment, that didn't work. I tried bootstrapping first. I was working a nine to five and this was my side hustle. So the majority of my salary would go to developers, but obviously, my salary wasn't that high. I took out a bit of a loan as well, but still, developers are not cheap. One of my biggest mistakes was I didn't have a technical co-founder, so I actually had to pay for developers. I realized that after some time I didn't get to where I wanted to go quickly enough. I didn't get the quality that I wanted because you do get what you pay for. When we did agree on the investment, the first thing I did was hire the lead developer, who is a shareholder as well.
Learning To Be a Founder
There's a big misconception where founder won't start a business unless they get funding first. I got the funding, but I came in with a product first. There was already some groundwork done, call it MVP. So I would always start with a side hustle, especially in today's world, with the no code movement where we have the ability to create products without much knowledge of code. I probably, again, would start with bootstrapping, test out the markets, see what I can do, see what their reaction is. And only then decide whether an investment is the right move.
I'm not entrepreneurial at all. I never thought I'm going to have a business. I didn't start thinking I'm going to build a business. I started to try to solve my own problem. It was very egotistical. If I can't find anything, probably somebody else as well. I might as well build something as a designer. I just wanted to make something cool. One of the main reasons, we failed the first time was because I didn't have a business mindset. I was focused on building the coolest and most awesome product out there. I wasn't thinking about money or a business plan.
Now, after a couple of years of being an entrepreneur, I realize that I just couldn't get back to a regular job. Maybe I could if I were the fifth or sixth person at a startup where I really believed in the vision. I tried a proper office job once and it just didn't feel right. I was always working on something on the side, but I didn't think that's entrepreneurial. I didn't even know what that word meant.
My mother had a couple of jobs and I always felt kind of guilty asking her for money. I felt like I needed to bring in more money. So I tried to find ways to flip stuff. I remember I would buy used phones or clothing and then sell them. I wanted to make extra cash so I could buy stuff, I didn't think of it as doing business. Maybe there's something there, but it definitely didn't come naturally like having a lemonade stand.
How To Be a Successful Solopreneur
You need to surround yourself with people that are better than you at the things that you're really bad at. For example, I'm not great at numbers. I'm not good at analytics. I do the summarized, here's the overview in a colorful chart type of thing. So I have people in my team that are really good and love Excel sheets. Every single month I get a really nice rundown of where we are so that I can work on the big vision and make the decisions that will help us. Whereas before, if I were to do this completely alone, there would definitely be a gap. Obviously, you can always learn, but I think it's best to focus and double down on your strengths.
I've read lots of books, listened to lots of podcasts, webinars, and talked to people that are very business-minded and smart. Trying to steal 30 minutes from them on a zoom call on a coffee chat and just learning from them. I'm not a great reader but in today's world, there are people that are great educators that will digest that information and give it to you. So I started educating myself on everything from finances to HR, to getting funding, to planning. Entrepreneurship teaches you a bit of everything.
I think if you're able to be ahead and understand other people's journeys, then you can reverse engineer those and get insights from other people. I think that's going to be tremendously beneficial. And as somebody that has a lot of day-to-day distractions and day-to-day tasks, that's something I'm really working on. To read more books, to be more purposeful. I got rid of my TV so that I can replace it with reading and stuff like that.
How To Build a Fan Base
I think a lot of times a big barrier is that people think and plan and then plan a bit more and then find reasons why not to do something. Just start, don't overthink. Be consistent, authentic, and have a clear message for your particular niche. Understand your audience and what they like, and tailor the message to them. Design and branding should not be undervalued, but that also shouldn't be your starting point.
In terms of content, what matters is where you feel you are at your best. So if you're not great at video, maybe don't do video, do a newsletter. If you're not good at writing, do a podcast instead. And again, I come back to doubling down on those strengths. Being an immigrant, I was really self-conscious about language being a barrier. It was really hard for me to go into video. But with time I got better and better and now, I started a newsletter. I really want to improve my writing, and it gives us a completely different dynamic and I can go a lot more in-depth, and be more concise in my messaging than I possibly could through video. And again, listen to your audience and what they respond to.
Let's Talk Business
Currently, our product is completely free. We're lucky enough to have funding to support ourselves in the beginning. It's quite normal for early-stage tech startups to not be really profitable in the first couple of years. However, the very first place where we are going to start monetizing is in transaction fees. Those transaction fees will come out later this year, and they'll be the lowest in the market. And if there's somebody that does it lower we'll match that. Later on, we're gonna go into a subscription service where we provide additional features, individual branding for each team, essentially allowing teams to have an app within an app. Obviously, once you get the attention and user base, there are different ways of monetizing that as well, but that's more of a long-term game.
To grow our business, I really like taking a step-by-step approach. We started with Manchester, than the North, then London, then UK. The next step would be likely be Australia, which is a small barrier to entry as it's got the same language, similar mentality, and a very active culture. If we go to the US, it probably would be very specific cities as well because I think there's a bit of a risk when you try to go and grab everything at once. You have to have great customer service and customer experience to get feedback from a specific area. That's the way I approach it, but obviously, at the end of the day, we do want to be global. And the good thing about a product like ours, is that it's got a strong network effect. So if one team and one organizer really enjoy it, they will tell somebody else. If each organizer brings about 20-30 participants on the app and all of a sudden we're growing. So we'll see where the market will tell us to go next.
Where To Reach Jonas & Orfi Active
Jonas originally spoke with Jonny for 'The Go Solo Show' - you can listen to and watch the full recording here...
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