Interview with Jonas Urbonas
Passionate about making it easy to find, participate, organize and manage sports, helping sports, health and fitness people and organizations build up their brands, improve their digital marketing and get the recognition they deserve. Jonas is CEO & Co-founder @ Hoops Connect (hoopsapp.co) & Orfi Media (orfimedia.com).
UI / UX designer, he is based in Manchester, UK.
Check out our exclusive Q&A session with Jonas:
What are your main strategies for acquiring more users and growing the engagement on your platform?
In terms of acquiring users, we’ve got quite a wide range of people that we want to target but we can sort of turn it down to two which is organizers and participants of the sport. Participants of the sport, we’re sort of getting them on the board by providing content for them, because one of our main ethos is allowing people to discover the sport they haven’t heard of or didn’t know about before, so educating them on them on those sports. Also helping the smaller sports get the recognition they deserve in the country. So by providing that value, and by providing that content in regards to what the sport is, how to participate in it and what are the benefits of it, building an audience that way, and hopefully then taking that audience straight into the app by that content. Building interest in that sport, for them then to be able to join it easily through our platform. Now when it comes to the organizers, we’re sort of taking more of a B2B approach where I’m going out and contacting numerous, hundreds of sports organizations and organizers, in person on whether I drive into a sports venue, or its LinkedIn, or something else. Just calling up people and just saying “Look, I think this is really bringing you value, it’s a free app that helps you save time, all the hassle and all that stuff.” I get a lot of “no’s” but the “yes’s” I do get are really meaningful. I mean its long grind but we’re going to get there.
How do you balance a full-time job and a startup venture?
The answer to this question is very simple: work. Like its as simple as that. You’ve got a 9-5, you go in, go out at 5 pm, go home, sit down, have your dinner or whatever for an hour, then at 6 pm to 1 am, work, that’s your second job, you hustle, you do whatever it takes. Then at some point, if you feel it’s good enough that side hustle, becomes the main hustle. I’ve reached a point, fairly recently now where my side hustle this Hoops Connect app thing has now become my full-time job, and my full-time job has now become me consulting that company and working for them as a freelancer, rather than as a full-timer, and that’s what you want, and that’s only possible because I put in the work, and its just as simple as that.
How does your experience as a designer inform your choices with Hoops Connect?
Now having a tech product is a bit difficult when I don’t know how to code, I have an interest in tech, a massive interest in tech, but I’m not a really technical person. However, I am a designer, so that actually helps. So I can design the app, I design the journey, the user experience. What design also really really helps with, especially in terms of marketing, is design is predicated on understanding people, understanding psychology, understanding body language, understanding what they think, what they might want, what kind of things affect their decisions. All these traits I feel like they really help me understand my audience better, and how to communicate the message to them. It's not about making this button prettier or making that animation nicer, sometimes we have to do a really bad design in order to get the attention. And sort of get the people, the right people that you want. You know, look at the cheap shops like Aldi, or like Ryanair or something, they’re intentionally badly designed, to say “Look we’re really cheap, but we’ll still make it happen”. For us, we want to be quirky, we want to be fun but also we want to be really professional, so that’s the message we’re sending. And my design skills, my design education, in that sense, really really helps. However, it is a lot of work because I need to be a designer, a marketing person, I need to be a salesperson, and also a director. It's hard!
What countries is Hoops Connect currently available in and what are your plans to expand?
The Hoops Connect app is only available in the UK at the moment. We’ve released the initial version one about 3 months ago, so we want to make sure we do it right. We test out in the UK only to see what works, get the feedback. Rather than going worldwide immediately. Once we sort out the UK we’re defiantly going to go outside to countries like US, Australia, Europe, it really depends on the types of partnerships we get. But at the moment we focus on the UK only.
What added benefits do you see in group sports that aren’t attainable with individual workout activities?
I think the main benefit of group sports over individual sports is you learn communication. You need to communicate, let's say in basketball for example. If you don’t communicate you’re a really bad basketball team, every single move you do you need to communicate you know when you need to call a screen or call a play, or anything like that. You need to constantly communicate with the teammates on the floor, but also off the floor, understanding each person, and what type of communication actually works with them. Some of them you need to shout at, on some of them you need to speak to really calmly to understand what each player’s best and worst sort of skill sets are on the floor, so you can get the best out of every single player. Personally, everything I’ve learnt in basketball can really be used in real life as well, both in my personal relationships and in my business with my co-workers I can defiantly see that being really beneficial. Also, its really really fun, I mean we’re really social creatures, so that community that is really friendly all the time, you can be a new player, a professional player. Sports communities are really really inviting and you really need to surround yourself with people like that, because it does make your life just that much better. Although I do understand individual activities, you know wanting to zone out and wanting to run away from everything. But I do think with group sports are more beneficial for you and kind of goes into that meditation aspect of it as well. So I’m really up for group sports.