Where are they now? - Racketpal

Robert Rizea and Bogdan Demeny are the Co-Founders of Racketpal. As two passionate tennis and squash players, Rizea and Demeny realised there was no obvious and easy way for them to meet other players who were also up for a game. But they knew there had to be a way to fix that. Then one evening in September 2018, the pair were enjoying a pint in The Cleveland Arms in Paddington when the eureka moment struck. They decided it was time to create an app to help racket sports players meet each other, and started working on plans for the app that became Racketpal the very next day.

This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe

After having covered Racketpal back in 2020, we thought it was a good time to check back in with the company to learn about the progress that has been made.

What have the last three years had in store?

Speaking to Rizea, the last few years have been a whirlwind for the company. Having gone through multiple rounds of funding, totalling close to £2 million, the app has a good support base and is growing more popular amongst the racket sport community.

Razea commented: “We are currently the biggest racket sports community in the UK with 100,000 members, with 50-60,000 users mainly in London, and the rest throughout the UK. At the moment we are focusing on all the racket sports. We are not just a matchmaking platform anymore, it's not just about finding partners. It's more of a community type platform where you can not only chat and play games and organise games, but you can also join community group chats, track your scores and your progress, book coaching lessons, etc. So, it's an all in one for any racket sport players.”

It isn’t just the Racketpal community that’s growing: “We’ve grown our team as well, we now have a team of 20 people.” With a strong team behind the vision, Racketpal is able to provide a larger and improved app.

Speaking about the app, Rizea mentioned: “We've obsessed over delivering the best user experience and not necessarily monetising at this stage, although we do monetise a bit. We have all the racket sports, while others only have tennis, meaning there's six sports because we are launching pickleball as well. It's been all about the user. Everything we've done is very data driven. We track everything, in terms of data and behaviour and what works, we double down on it.”

The challenges

Of course, the journey of any startup has bumps in the road, but it’s the way these are dealt with that’s most important.

Rizea commented: “Fundraising has always been challenging, when we've done it, it's been challenging, especially the last one. When I'm looking around me, what's happening today, I think hard times are coming for startups, salvation struggles, VCs are not investing anymore, and Angel Investors are holding their money.”

Building a good team that see your vision can also be a struggle. “Hiring is a problem when you need someone, especially someone more senior, but in any level of tech as well.”

The wins

With the challenges come great wins, which should always be celebrated!

When asked about the highlights of the past few years, Rizea beamed: “[The highlights are] the amazing team that we have built around us that are committed, and they love the product and most of them play sports as well. The amazing investors that we have around us and support us, we can ask for any advice, and they've been great.”

On top of this fantastic team that has been built at Racketpal, the community currently using the app are loving the product. “The feedback is absolutely amazing. I'm receiving daily feedback and people are writing to us. The engagement and retention rates of people using the app are high.”

The pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt. In the world of startups, some thrived whilst others suffered.

Reflecting on that turbulent time, Rizea explained: “It slowed things down but then it boomed because everybody wanted to play sports after that. Tennis was the only sport that you could actually play at some point as you were distanced. It actually helped us grow after everything opened up.”

What’s to come?

Racketpal has bright plans for the future of the app.

Rizea explained: “We are a tech startup at the end of the day, mainly product and tech. The B2B2C model is what we are looking for. We are a freemium app today, meaning you can use the app for free but if you paid £3.99 for a monthly subscription you get access to unlimited features. But the model going forward is going to be B2B2C. We are currently researching and in discussions with local authorities, with companies, with clubs, so that we can help them increase their retention, their engagement, getting their members to join our app, for them to play more and be more engaged.”

According to Rizea, these discussions have received great responses, and the future seems bright in this move, even though the company is still only in its proof-of-concept stage with this shift.

“Our mission is to become the largest racket sports community in the world. Helping people play more and be more physically active,” Rizea noted. Another goal is “closing deals with local authorities, with councils, with clubs, where we can help them increase their participation in their core bookings and revenues worldwide. So that is the direction we are going in.”

If the past three years are anything to go by then Racketpal is in for a very successful future.