What is AirCourts and how did the idea come about?
AirCourts is a mobile App and website for discovering and booking sports venues. Users can browse hundreds of sports venues and instantly book a time to play. Our social features allow users to share the booking details with the other players and also to rate and review the venues after playing there. On the other end, AirCourts provides a powerful and easy to use web platform for sports facilities to manage their bookings and customers. The platform also includes marketing tools, hosted bookings and the unique opportunity to list the facilities on our leading marketplace, visited by thousands of people who actively play sports.
AirCourts was born in 2014, from a problem I had as a sports player. Every time I had to organize a tennis or soccer match (yes, I was always the martyr responsible for that), I had to go through the painful and time-consuming process of googling phone numbers and calling one club at a time. Sometimes the line was busy or no one was there to take the call. Then I would ask the usual questions: what’s the price for that day and time? do you have indoor courts? what is the surface of the courts? can we pay with credit card? is there a place to park the car nearby? can we have shower after the match? what is the exact location? the list goes on.. That’s when the idea came into my mind. I started to imagine a world where clubs and players would become more connected. That would be so great for both sides – players could discover venues and book easily, and clubs would raise their occupancy rate. There are literally thousands of sports facilities in any urban area but it’s just so hard to connect with them. Well, not anymore because we built AirCourts!
What is the main advantage of using your app?
The main advantage of using AirCourts is to instantly book a court, 24/7. All bookings are instantly confirmed, that means you don’t have to wait for a confirmation. This is only possible because the sports facilities use our EBS (Electronic Booking system) to manage bookings. We replaced the old pen and paper system (sometimes an Excel file) with a powerful platform where clubs can manage bookings, customers, payments, communications and many other club-related activities.
Your listed sports facilities include Football, Tennis, Padel and Squash, in Lisbon, Porto and Braga. Are there plans to expand sports and cities?
Yes! This year we’ll keep focused on expanding our service to more urban areas in Portugal. We decided to start with Porto and Lisbon because the demand for our service is higher. Next year we want to take AirCourts further, which means expanding internationally to bigger european cities.
What’s your take on the Portuguese startup scene today?
It’s growing! I personally believe we can grow a lot more by focusing on the startup’s needs. What is it that makes a good place for startups? Access to talent, investment, infrastructure, and a friendly environment for business. We have talent (at lower costs) and infrastructure but we still have poor access to capital. It’s also very hard to prove traction on a small market like Portugal, particularly in B2C segments. If you start from Berlin or London you’ll have a larger market to test your idea and also easier access to capital. Having said this… better access to capital, talent, etc will not create Silicon Valleys. Just because we have a red suspension bridge in Lisbon, it doesn’t mean we can compare to San Francisco. It takes years to build the kind of culture and drive that made so many entrepreneurs and businesses succeed in Silicon Valley.
What’s the most useful piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I know a guy who keeps constantly quoting Steve Jobs “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give them that. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new”. There’s a lot of truth here.
If you were starting right now, what would you do differently?
More things than I would like to admit 🙂 Every first time entrepreneur makes a lot of mistakes, but that’s an important part of the process. You learn from your mistakes. A lot. I made all kinds of mistakes: product, business model, team. I’ve got all fixed now. We have a great team at AirCourts, a predictable business model and a market leader product.
Find out more about AirCourts at http://www.aircourts.com