When brothers Chris and Andrew Clark moved to Colorado Springs from Australia just over a year ago, they knew one person here. In the past year, the founders of fuseSPORT, a software solution developer for sports events and federations, have grown the company they seeded thousands of miles away into one of Colorado Springs’ most promising startups.
FuseSPORT has increased its revenues some 700 percent and, according to a news release, has done so by “implementing strategies to ignite and accelerate high levels of growth. It is anticipated the North American team size will double annually for at least the next three years.”
“Americans aren’t the only ones who have the American dream,” Chris Clark told the Business Journal, adding that moving fuseSPORT halfway around the world made perfect sense for multiple reasons.
“We were doing well in Australia,” he said, adding the business then had four employees. “But we wanted to take it to the big time and looked internationally to grow.”
Clark said the U.S. has the world’s largest sports market and, being service focused, he wanted to be close to organizations that might one day be clients.
“Colorado Springs is the epicenter of the sports industry in the U.S.,” he said. “The [U.S. Olympic Committee] is here; most major sporting organizations are headquartered here. This is generally a sports-oriented and sports-minded community.”
Clark said despite the fact that the sports influence was considerable, other aspects drew them to Colorado Springs, including access to the rest of the country, as well as the globe.
“The geographic location is pretty centralized,” Clark said. “You can fly nonstop to Europe, and Asia is accessible.”
Clark added that local colleges provide talent pools, which fuseSPORT has already tapped, hiring a full-time tech developer who was introduced to fuseSPORT through a UCCS outreach program.
Finally, Clark said he was drawn to Colorado Springs because of the city’s tech history, which included campuses for companies like Honeywell and Intel.
“Some circles see the Springs as not as tech-focused as other areas,” Clark said. “That’s not true. It’s developing and we’re trying to push that along.”
All in one
FuseSPORT, according to Clark, provides “end-to-end marketing, administration, registration and financial management so, instead of having to go to a bunch of different providers, organizations just use our solutions to make events happen.”
He said the company began as a result of the Clarks’ passion for sports, technology and business.
“There’s an excitement of starting something from nothing,” he said. “It was little more than an idea and now it’s real and tangible.”
He said the community, including local investors, has been extremely supportive. One such investor, attorney Ken Jaray, was recently appointed by fuseSPORT as community advisor and legal counsel.
“I saw that this was a company doing this right,” Jaray said. “The first thing for me is [fuseSPORT] met my passion for sports and fitness and well-being. Typically I invest in organizations where I’m passionate about what they do. The second thing was the fuseSPORT team. It was a good group of people to work with and they were also open to my input, which was important to me.”
Jaray said Colorado Springs is attractive to startups for a variety of reasons, including its lower cost of living compared to other entrepreneurial meccas like Boulder and Denver.
“For most people that’s huge,” Jaray said. “And the infrastructure is here. We will have millions of dollars invested locally in the next one to three years. And that’s just what I know of.”
Sports is sports
“Culturally, Australia and the U.S. are very similar, especially our love and passion for sports,” Clark said. “At the World Cup, the U.S. was the No. 1 purchaser of tickets, and No. 2 was Australia. That shows the same-mindedness of the cultures when it comes to sports.”
Clark said passion and talent drive the business, and the latter was one reason he chose Colorado Springs.
“There’s an abundance of talent locally,” Clark said. “There’s a plethora of great people here with great ideas and a lot of people here who can be nurtured. It’s about connecting dots for those people and giving them the proper assistance and mentorship to help make their dream come true. People might be skilled technically or in certain subject matters they’re passionate about, but don’t know how to turn that into a valid business.”
Clark said utilizing local resources, including the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, Peak Startup, UCCS and High Altitude Investors, proved to be the difference-maker between success and failure.
“Find groups that are fostering the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Clark said.
The big leagues
Clark said, within the last year, fuseSPORT has earned large contracts, “which has been validating.”
One project is the National Senior Games, which means the Clarks’ software will be used in 35 states. FuseSPORT has also contracted with a USOC affiliate and is working with The Color Run, which boasts 1.6 million participants over 170 annual events in more than 30 countries.
“It shows our solutions can operate at the highest levels and in the biggest markets,” Clark said. “Now we’re out to raise capital. Recently we’ve been fully funded by reinvesting our profits. At the end of April, we secured $1 million in financing, which predominately came from local investors. We specifically sought investments from the local community.”
Both Clark and Jaray see an abundance of entrepreneurs who need capital but aren’t sure where to find investors or how to approach them. Meanwhile, investors are seeking opportunities without knowing how to find those with the ideas.
“Seek to find connections with people who can help you,” Clark said. “If you find people who can provide mentorship and foster connections, it will absolutely accelerate your growth.
“In first three months we knew maybe 30 people,” Clark added. “In another three months that network had grown to 80 people. In another three months, we knew 200 people. It’s interesting how networks blossom. Develop those networks is the best general advice I could give.”
Jaray said investors exist locally and just need to hear the right pitch, with opportunities monthly at events like the High Altitude Investors and Colorado Springs Incubators’ MashUp events.
“I want to make investments in local startups and know others would be interested as well,” Jaray said. “There’s no need to invest nationally and globally. Locally means huge benefits to the economy.”
FuseSPORT is the first Colorado Springs startup to pledge 1 percent of its equity to community nonprofits via the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. The foundation, originally out of Boulder, has affiliated with some of Colorado’s most successful organizations, according to Clark.
“Ultimately, when we become a bigger success story, Colorado Springs will directly share in our success and our efforts will go back to the community,” he said. “The approach is simple. At an early stage, we commit 1 percent of our equity to a local charitable group or groups. It’s a way to give before you get.”
Clark said fuseSPORT, the state’s 65th company to join EFO, is recruiting other startups to make the same commitment.
“We’re thrilled to have fuseSPORT join our network of Colorado companies committed to giving back,” said Morgan McMillan, EFCO’s executive director.
“We hope that fuseSPORT’s leadership can help inspire others in the Pikes Peak region to share a portion of their future success with nonprofits.” nCSBJ
About Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado
Established in 2008, EFCO is a network of Colorado entrepreneurs whose companies have joined together to give back and share their success, which they do by gifting a portion of their founding equity or a portion of their yearly profits to the community. Founding members include Rally Software, Foundry Group, TechStars, Symplified, Tendril and others.
Realizing cash is limited with start-up companies, EFCO works to encourage entrepreneurs throughout the region to earmark equity for their community early in a company’s inception. Upon a private sale or initial public offering, these shares become liquid and transfer into the community.
EFCO currently has 65 members and has distributed more than $2.7 million to area organizations. For more information, visit www.efcolorado.org.