In 2020, Matt Baird made the decision to leave his job as a financial advisor to travel the world; an opportunity that felt a matter of now or never.
Of course, like all of us, Matt could never have predicted the impact that a global pandemic would have and, forced to return home from South Africa as Coronavirus took its grip on the world, left with a lot of time on his hands to contemplate his next step.
It turns out that the 28-year-old from Houghton on the Hill didn’t have to look beyond the phone he held in his hand to find inspiration.
“I couldn’t have picked a worse year to go travelling,” said Matt. “The pandemic hit, I’ve had to get repatriated back from South Africa to get home to the UK and I suddenly had a lot of free time on my hands. I’ve played football pretty much since I was born, and I was added back into a lot of WhatsApp groups talking about football training and matches, basically trying to organise everything and it got me thinking that there’s got to be a better way of doing this than I was seeing.”
From there, Matt’s research began and after taking a look at applications available on the market to help team managers organise players and finances, the concept for SquaD was born. SquaD is an app for all sports teams which not only enables squad organisation and administration, but also provide a social platform to improve communication both within teams and against competing sides.
“With a load of free time on my hands, I designed what I felt should work in Microsoft Excel,” he explained. “I’m not a designer, I have no background in design or app creation. I took what I had in Excel to managers and coaches, firstly locally as they were the people I knew, just to see what they thought. The feedback was really good and there was a lot of back and forth which enabled the idea to develop. From there, I started talking to managers and coaches across the UK asking for their feedback, and later the feedback I was getting was along the lines of: ‘It’s great – how can we use it.’”
Following such glowing feedback, Matt commenced his quest to find an app developer that could turn his spreadsheet into a product to test. With two close friends also seeing the brilliance in the concept, putting a small amount of funding into progressing SquaD, Matt applied for an interest-free loan from The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity to get the app up and running once a developer was assigned.
“Quite a while back, my sister applied to the charity for funding to help her post-graduate study,” said Matt of discovering The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity. “She mentioned it to me and suggested I take a look at it; at the time I was thinking nothing would come of it. When I looked at the website and saw what the charity offers, I was like ‘wow, this is legit’. I was so impressed, so I applied and things went my way.
“The application process felt smooth,” he continued. “I got my application together and my guarantors on board, before being invited for an interview with the trustees. That was a bit of a nervous experience, but the whole process really helped to validate my idea. To be given positive feedback from people that have experience of starting or running a business was a huge boost.”
The second wave of COVID-19 then hit, putting Matt’s plans to soft launch SquaD on the back burner. Still, he utilised the opportunity to allow a couple of select teams to test drive the app, with the soft launch taking place in June this year. The immediate reception is nothing short of incredible.
“We invited a couple of teams to test it just as the second wave of the pandemic hit,” Matt explained. “Instead of being able to launch when we planned it was a case of having to delay it. We had our actual soft launch this year in the middle of June and invited a few more teams.
“Things have just started to snowball. We’ve spent next to no money on marketing, it has just been through coaches telling other coaches. We currently have around 4,000 users and were ranked in the top 120 sports apps on the Apple Store globally – and we’re not even trying yet, we’re just trying to prove the concept. Our main competitors have received multi-million-pound investments – and we’re having teams move away from them to come onto our app. It’s been nuts, but a lot of fun.”
When it comes to explaining why he feels SquaD is proving to be such an immediate hit, Matt’s response is simple.
“We found that other apps benefit the manager or coach, but forgets the players,” he revealed. “When the players use other apps, it becomes a chore. They’d just log on and click that they were available for games. That was it. The way Squad has been developed is that it’s part organisational, part social platform. If you have mates on other teams, you can follow them and interact with them. You can see their highlights and build your own profile with stats.”
The future looks incredibly bright for SquaD as it continues to provide a new, exciting platform for teams and players of football and beyond.
To learn more about the interest-free business loans available from The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity, please click here