Sometimes being a passionate and talented athlete is not enough. Showcasing skills is still a challenge, no matter how hard you work; many athletes ask themselves “why play?” and end up quitting. Afonso Coimbra, André Gonçalves and Tiago Trindade decided to found sqill, an AI-based video app that strives to change how athletes are showcased and discovered by promoting their talent and connecting them with agents, scouts, clubs and brands.
Q: Tell us about Sqill
Sqill is the video app for sports talent, disrupting how athletes showcase their talents digitally through short-form videos (sqills). sqill provides the video tools so that all athletes can autonomously create quality content and get discovered, both socially and professionally. At Sqill, we are totally committed to giving athletes the right of owning their future, by helping them connect better with sports demand (fans, brands, clubs and agents) for scouting or sponsorship purposes.
Q: What did you find investors valued most about your startup?
Hard to point out one reason. It is somewhere at the intersection of these three factors:
Huge untapped market – estimations point to 800 million athletes worldwide who still use little or no digital tools. Sport brands for physical products have been among the most loved brands for many decades, as the obvious space for new digital love brands in sports represents an exciting global opportunity.
The right moment… – while other talent industries (musicians, designers, etc) found a way for digitally showcasing supply, the sports world has not. The digital transformation is arriving late but intensely in the sports sector, and our solution capitalizes on some newly created opportunities e.g. the massification of live streamed competitions.
… with the right team – pre-seed investments are above all team investments. We believe this was no exception. It was an investment in the team’s capacity to solve daily problems, its resilience to keep on trying and its common sense to understand when it is time to pivot. Sqill founders have 24 years of combined experience in leading teams and building great products and are moved by a deep belief and purpose of giving power to athletes. Moreover, as a very young company, we were able to attract top-notch talent as early employees who turned out to be crucial to attracting investors.
Q: What will you focus your initial funding on?
Essentially, technology and marketing. We have two main short term goals: keep introducing innovative product video-related features and grow our athletes data basis aggressively. In practice, this initial funding will be used to pay salaries in order to keep on attracting and retaining a top-tier tech team and marketing investments, mainly social media – as this represents our main acquisition channel.
Q: What’s next for Sqill?
We are creating the biggest and most differentiated sports talent database. In the next few months, one can expect plenty of news from sqill either about signing relevant partnerships, revamping our brand communications or entering new markets. As a globally born company, we will start our internationalization by early 2022.
But most of all, we are committed to becoming the go-to app for every athlete and thus focus on offering them a strong standalone value proposition in terms of video tools. This way, we can promise that the next few months will be extremely exciting in terms of new cut-through product features releases, to help athletes create amazing video content.
Q: How has been your experience in Demium so far?
Very exciting and crucial to our growth.
The entrepreneurial journey can be overwhelming, from customer service, to product strategy, technology development, brand positioning, partnerships, marketing, fundraising etc. Time is extremely scarce and – in early-stage startups – money too. Focusing on the right concerns, optimizing the allocation of every minute and allocating money efficiently is critical for success but quite hard, mainly for first-time founders. Working together with Demium and drinking from their accumulated experience with hundreds of startups in the same stage, first of all allowed us to focus on what mattered with no regrets of being stopped/standing by other components. Their guidance gave us a sense of purpose as well as security, that ended up being vital to the speed and quality we managed to achieve.
Just as important, Demium is composed by a team of entrepreneurs. Their drive to succeed, vivacity, authenticity and hands-on approach differentiate them from other accelerators. They will work together with you on whatever you need and they organically become part of the team. This young team is complemented by a well-oiled machine, with presence in 8 cities. This has resulted in a group of individuals that are the first ones cheering for your success as well as the first ones challenging you to go bigger and think differently.
Q: What role did Demium play in this first investment round?
Besides helping us out with thorough research (for example in terms of competitors), Demium trained us to master our Pitch, making sure our pitch content and delivery are immaculate. Demium also advised us on financial topics as for example structuring our funding timeline and conditions, and developing our financial model. On top of this, Demium provides all legal support needed for the investment round and company incorporation.
Q: What advice would you offer other entrepreneurs looking for first round funding?
Make sure you know exactly what kind of financing you are looking for and stick to that strategy. In our case, to support our growth strategy, it was very important to find a partner with a global presence and past experience with B2C startups. We, too, valued a like-minded partner who would work closely with our team.
In not-so developed entrepreneurial ecosystems, it is always hard to raise money for first-time founders. Things will take longer than expected but the whole process is very enriching for your business and yourself.
And one more thing: it’s hard to be lucky when reaching out to investors spontaneously.