Hole 19 Golf GPS Mobile App has been designed by golfers to help golfers improve their game.

One of the best world class professional golfers, Gradner Dickinson, once said something remarkable:

“They say, golf is like life, but don’t believe them. Golf is more complicated than that.”

Golf is not for everyone. But still, there are millions of people in the world that fell for this sport. And for those, there is Hole19 coming up with smart ways to simplify the life of a golfer. Golfers are still a niche market to enter for a startup. This risk can be followed either with huge disappointment or can turn into a company that is now a first-hand solution for a huge number of golfers out there. Guess which one is the case of Hole19?

The whole Hole19 idea was born in the head of one guy, Anthony Douglas.

Anthony testimonial

Hole19 is a tool for golfers to plan and track their rounds on the course; it’s like a Nike+ for golf. The team has mapped golf courses in over 120 countries. How does the actual mapping work? Anthony himself started mapping the golf courses in Portugal on Google Earth. In the early stages, it took over 4 hours, now with the software the team has built the mapping takes 10-15 minutes. Hole19 covers 90% of the world golf courses at the moment!

There is much more to Hole19 than mapping all these golf courses. The app’s main aim is to provide golfers with a simple way to gain valuable insights into their game and ultimately helping them getting better. With the mobile application, golfers can see the accurate distances to any point of the golf course. They basically know how they are going to play the hole. Then the app allows them to easily track scores and stats, thereby providing the golfers with tools to play better on and off the course, giving insights on performance and areas to improve on.

Back in the day…

“I started working on the idea at the agency where I worked in 2011. In a development partnership with them, we decided to build a prototype. In the end, we ended up building a paid product and started selling the application via the App Store between €10- €30. I quickly realized that in order to grow this I would need to surround myself with a great team, being a “client” of an agency wasn’t going to give me the agility that Hole19 needed at the time.” Anthony Douglas, CEO

Later in 2011, Hole19 succeeded in winning a local startup competition in Portugal. With the prize of 25 thousand euros, he made his first hire. Early 2012, Startup Lisboa was created and that gave him more opportunities to start scaling up the team. It soon grew to 4 people and afterwards, in 2013, they joined Seedcamp. This was a breaking point for Hole19, when they started fundraising and rebuilding the product. By mid-2013, they had already raised their first angel round of funding with investors from Germany, UK and US.

Now the team is made of 12 people. After a few key hires, the team shipped a brand new product in April 2014. The core of the product remained the same, but the business model was very different.

“We found out there was a bigger opportunity in scaling the user base rather than scaling the revenue we were making at the time. We used to charge around 10 euros for the app. We managed to get 8000 download over 2 years, which was not going to sustain a company. Through the investment, we changed our model, gave the app away for free to see how quickly we could scale the user-base! We’ve seen double-digit month-on-month growth and the feedback has been amazing.”  Anthony Douglas, CEO

Even Smarter Golf in the Future

The goal of Hole19 is to become the largest and most engaged network of golfers. As golfers are not on the course every single day, Hole19 should add value beyond the on-course experience. Therefore Hole19 is shifting the focus to make the app useful even when golfers are off the course as well.

The undeniable fact is that the wearable technology is going to change the world (soon) and this will have a big impact on products such as Hole19. Fortunately, the whole team is preparing for that. The Hole19 team firmly believes that the on-course experience for golfers will change with the shift to wearable technology. Right now, the team is investing heavily to make sure they are ready once wearable technology takes off.

“We are super excited about Apple Watch; we put a lot of resources into developing a product for it. Also, the launch of Android Wear is a huge opportunity for us.”

The Hole 19 design team is looking at enhancing the use of the Golf App and is currently considering the following features:

  • Multiplayer feature release for Android
  • Review and visualize your round feature release for Android
  • Social sharing feature release
  • Advanced distance and accuracy stats in the future
  • 7k new courses becoming available in the next 2 months

Anthony shared one really useful advice from what he learned with Hole19.

In the beginnings of every startup, of course you focus a lot on fundraising. But sometimes it’s better to focus on building the right things. I wasted so much time, when I tried to raise money from the wrong people. I heard a lot of people saying NO. When you are an entrepreneur, make sure to do “your homework”, do the overall research to see who would be more likely to say YES. But as they say, we learn from our mistakes. I only wish I had learned a bit faster.