I had the pleasure of meeting Martine at a local sports tweetup where I first heard about the Hockey Community. Along with her two roommates, they have used their passion for sports and technology to create an online social community where hockey players of all levels can find open rinks and players to play with. After launching for barely a month, their team has already connected with over 4000 different rinks across Canada and USA. I recently sat down with Martine to talk about how Hockey Community came about, the future of technology and sports, and what it’s like to work in a startup with close friends.
Where did the idea of the hockey community come from?
Hockey Community was born when Alex, one of our three co-founders, came from France to Vancouver and could not easily find information on where to play hockey or where to find available ice time. Most rink websites were out dated, and he had to go to about 6 different websites and walk into community centres to physically pick up paper schedules to find out all the information needed.
What kind of role do you feel technology plays into sports?
Technology is quite broad, as I see it in so many different aspects of sports. I would say that it’s helped to more accurately measure an athlete’s performance, for example, the speed of a 100m sprinter or speed skater. But also, instant replay and slow motion replay which only made a commercial appearance in the 1960’s has also evolved over the decades. In our case, we use the latest technology to build our platform and make it as user friendly and seamless as possible. As well, we integrated social media networks to make it convenient for users to share information like the games that they’ve organized. We also have a mobile app coming soon, which will help make hockey more accessible no matter which city you’re in!
With so many different social networks already out there, why did you decide to create a new platform instead of attaching to Twitter or Facebook as an app?
We have integrated Twitter and Facebook with our platform to help spread via word of mouth. However, it was necessary to create our very own platform as we house a lot of information: rink finder, goalie finder, organizing games, players availability and skill level etc… It’s a very niche market that we’re in and wanted to create a hockey space.
How do you know what hockey players want?
Daniel and Alex, the other co-founders, play hockey and know first hand how frustrating it is to find a game of pick up or ice time. We talked to many other players who have experienced the same problem in engaging the hockey community whether it’s an organizer, player, coach or someone that works within in the hockey industry. There is no interactive and up-to-date website out there that houses all the information our website has. Everything we’ve done thus far is dictated by feedback from our users and people in the industry, and we’ll continue to improve and add new features going forward. We’re partnering with rinks to be able to have their latest schedules posted on our platform.
I know how hard it is to find players to drop-in with at my own skill level. Do you see it moving to different sports?
Absolutely, this platform is completely transferable to any other sport. We’ve heard that this would be useful in other sports such as soccer, volleyball, dodgeball – any team sport really.
Is it hard to start up a company with friends? What makes it easier?
It’s not hard to start up a business with friends, it’s maintaining the separate relationships that you have to be conscious of (business partners and also friends). The three of us met as we were all roommates and in fact still are, so we definitely see enough of each other! However this allows us to spend a lot of time doing something we love, and have all the discussions we need to grow our hockey community. But most importantly, we remain very transparent and open with each other – and that’s how it works. This way we leave no stone unturned and we’re able create something awesome without too much conflict!
What are your thoughts on the future of social technology and the world of sports?
The future of social technology is a bright one! It helps fans interact instantly and follow their favourite team or player on twitter for example, and really allows fans to be a bit closer to something so exciting. Real-time interaction is a huge step and it’s convenient not having to wait for the sport highlights or the morning paper sport headlines.
How can people find you to talk more hockey?
My personal twitter account is @martiniyen and you can also email me at martine [@] hockey-community.com