Written by:
Georgia Harris

Revoco Talks…getting from side hustle to 10,000 users with RacketPal’s Robert Rizea

We recently caught up with Robert Rizea for our Revoco Talks Q&A series.

Robert is a Romanian entrepreneur who started RacketPal as a side hustle alongside Bogdan, another Romanian entrepreneur, just 2 years ago in London. Together, their ambition was to solve the challenge of finding a tennis partner.

Two years on, RacketPal is no longer a side project, but now a fully-fledged, investor backed sports community app, with over 10,000 users!

Robert shares with us more about his journey as a founder, including challenges he’s faced along the way. Have a read below…

Thanks for joining us, Robert! Can you tell us about your career background?

Sure. I come from a pure marketing background with a focus on the digital side. From organic (SEO, ASO) to paid advertising, paid acquisition, and remarketing. I’ve worked with a lot of other channels including Google Ads, social media, display and video advertising.

I think this has helped us a lot with where RacketPal has reached in terms of user base. So far we’ve reached almost 10k registered users in London, only one year since we launched the app.

Can you tell us more about RacketPal and how the idea for it came about?

So, the idea came from myself and my co-founder. I am an ex-pro tennis player, I played professionally for 15 years, then due to some injuries I stopped and moved to London. After I moved, I still wanted to play tennis but had no one to play with. I tried to find ways to find people on my level, but without much success. Shortly after I met Bogdan, my co-founder (who was a squash player) and we realised we both had the same issue, but for different racket sports. As a joke, we said ‘why don’t we create an app’, to solve this problem. And I guess, from that, the idea was born and we started working at it part-time, as a passion project/side hustle.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far as a start-up founder and how did you overcome these?

I believe there have been a lot of challenges, every day I am faced with a new one, but I would say there have been 4 big ones:

1.Finding good, hard-working people. I believe everyone who wants to create a team around a product/business will probably find this to be the main challenge. It’s time-consuming and complicated to find people you can work well with and that have the skills you need to drive the business further.

2.Prioritisation. There are so many things to be done all the time that you can be continually busy, without really getting anywhere. It’s important to take a step back and prioritise your projects. I still think this is a big challenge for me today, yet not as much as it used to be. I have started to realise that I cannot do everything and that not every little thing requires my immediate attention.

3.Time management. This is related to the one above, but this has a lot to do with the art of knowing when to say “no”. It is a hard thing to learn as you believe everything is important and everything requires your time, but it is not true 90% of the time. Without realising, a day passes, a week passes and you have not only not managed to complete the tasks you said you would at the beginning of the week, but also you have wasted time on irrelevant ones. Be focused. For me, the following formula works: one hour 100% focused and then a 15-minute break. This is the way I work best at my highest efficiency. You cannot give 100% all the time if you don’t allow yourself to take a break.

4. Embrace time off. I know, your business is like your baby and you feel like being around it 24/7. Yet it’s actually in your detriment to do so. I have learned this the hard way – working 20 hours a day alongside a full-time job, while working on RacketPal in my spare time was hard. You get to a point where you’re tired mentally and your attitude towards your friends and the people you care about changes in a negative way. Make sure you sleep, have fun, go out and take time for YOU. All this is helpful for your entrepreneurial journey – believe me.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?

Don’t quit your full-time job. Especially if you’re just starting out and you’ve not yet started earning a steady income from your venture. I’d suggest trying to work on your venture alongside your full-time job up until you’re in a position to do one without the other.

Make sure that your idea solves a real issue. What does it solve for your users? It’s so important to speak to people and do your research. Secondary research, interviews, and quantitative research are a must. If 80% of people find your solution useful, then you might have something. I’d also suggest not overthinking it, just try it. Work on it for a few months, release a beta, MVP version and see how people react to it. Get feedback from as many users/people as possible and move on from there.

Prepare for some crazy days ahead and working long hours. It’s all about passion at the end of the day. How much do you wish to solve this challenge for your users/consumers and how much are you willing to compromise? It’s not easy, it will be way more stressful than at your 9-5 role, but the end result is more worthwhile. You will also learn so much more than you thought you would from accounting and finance, product management, to public speaking and team management and so much more. You’re learning constantly.

Find a co-founder that complements you. If you are a good developer, find a commercially-minded one. If you are analytical, find a developer. It’s much easier to split the work in two and to have support, rather than doing it all on your own. I believe that 2 co-founders is the magic number, but I’ve seen it work with 3 as well.

Lastly, enjoy the journey. Be realistic, yet don’t be afraid to dream. Look at how your product can change the world and make sure that every decision you make, brings you one step closer to that goal.

What’s next for RacketPal?

Good question. We’ve finished our pre-seed round of £150k. We have an amazing team of 10 people and we’ve reached 10k registered users (mostly in London). BUT, there is much more work to be done and many years before we reach our goal, to be a global sports matchmaking platform and the biggest online sports community. To get there, we’ve got to take gradual steps.

We are now working hard on improving the app based on user feedback – adding new functionality, and gamifying the RacketPal experience, so that we can ensure that users are returning to the app. As we are a B2C community-based app, user engagement is everything and this needs to remain our focus. We want to give our users an experience they cannot forget, make it as easy as possible for everyone to find a racket sports partner in a few minutes, based on skill level, location, and availability.

Roadmap and product are not the only thing we’re focusing on – userbase and increasing our registered users is also something that we’re looking at. From organic to the paid acquisition, posters, and word of mouth, we are doing it all to grow our community so that every user has at least 20 players all the time, available to play, within their location. It’s all about localisation and helping people be more active.

Soon enough we will also be starting to prepare for next seed round, in Q1 2021. There’s a lot of work for that as well. We’re ready to expand both in the UK and overseas. I’m really excited for the future of RacketPal.

Find out more about ‘RacketPal’ here.

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