TiPEVO to Power a Nation-Wide Soccer Club Directory - Soccer Parenting Association

TiPEVO to Power a Nation-Wide Soccer Club Directory

US Youth Soccer recently announced a partnership with TiPEVO - to power a nation-wide club directory that will give parents a voice and also clarity when making soccer decisions for their child.  TiPEVO uses crowd-sourced (verified and un-verified) reviews of soccer clubs and provides a communication channel between parents who are exploring participation opportunities and clubs.  I will admit I was a bit skeptical about the TiPEVO platform, but after speaking to Dan Conte, Founder of TiPEVO I am feeling excited about the potential that exists to improve our youth sporting landscape.  

I encourage you to listen to the interview below (transcript included) to learn more about TiPEVO and post a review of your child's soccer club today!

The parent education and engagement platform brought to you by the Soccer Parenting Association

TRANSCRIPT:

Skye:
Welcome to Soccer Parenting. I'm so excited to be here today with Dan Conte, who's the founder of TiPEVO. They've just announced a new partnership with US Youth Soccer, and I wanted to dive into some of the details and get you parents some information about this because I think this will be a very important resource for us moving forward. So welcome, Dan. Thanks for being here.

Dan:
Thank you for having me. I'm delighted to be here.

Skye:
Can you just go ahead and dive in and give us maybe the two or three minute explanation of TiPEVO and the service that it is providing to parents and clubs?

Dan:
Absolutely. So TiPEVO is a web based application that does three things, it's a directory to find all youth sports. So we have 28 different sports across the platform, everything from fencing to soccer, that you can very simply try to discover what programs exist within your area. And the second thing is that we want people to be able to connect very easily to those programs. So we have identified who are the right points of contacts at those programs. And it's very easy for someone to use the application to be able to connect or engage with those programs. And the third is to be able to leave reviews. Very much like any other platform that exists today, that you exchange or interact with commerce, that you can leave a review. We have verified reviews and we have unverified reviews. But those are the three aspects of the platform, very much like any other industry, Yelp, and Opentable, and Airbnb if you're vacationing. It has many of the same components. And we look to try to replicate a lot of the elements that have been successful in other industries and other technologies and bring them to youth sports.

So in a nutshell, that's effectively what TiPEVO offers to parents, players, coaches, admins of programs. So we tried to build a platform and a technology that would accommodate both sides of the spectrum from those people that are trying to promote great youth sports outlets for kids to participate in. And for parents and players to educate themselves on what is out there for them as they look to kind of introduce their kids to sports or actually concentrate specifically on one particular sport and go deep into understanding what they offer.

Skye:
Yeah. It's fantastic. For some people in a area where there aren't a lot of opportunities it might be kind of simple to find the sporting experience for their child right there because there's not a lot of options. But maybe if you're in a larger area with many options, this will be a great resource for parents who are trying to sort of dive in. I'm curious why you started this company and what problems you were trying to solve, if any? How did the idea just sort of came to you for this?

Dan:
So I think the idea was really something that cultivated over the last 20 years. One, I'm a dad. Two, I've worked in the financial technology arena with big data and analytics. And three, I am a sports enthusiast myself. So I think when you couple all three of those together, as someone who experienced sports as a younger person and kid and evolved and played through college, and now seeing my kids go through that same kind of trajectory, I completely appreciated that youth sports had changed the dynamic, the entire marketplace and industry. It's much different than what you and I had probably experienced when we were younger. And this phenomenon, I saw as something that was really good, but I also saw it come with its fair share of challenges.

So when I saw the marketplace, and my kids were enacting interacting with it on a daily basis, I found that there were a lot of complexities, cost, time, constraints, family dynamic, and many of the other issues that you see in other areas of life, whether that's school for your kids or just managing everything else on the social calendar. That effectively, I wanted to know why I was spending the amount of money I was, why I was committing the time, but I was making decisions that I tend to figure out were very uninformed. So I was kind of a trial and error approach when I was dealing with my kids, and it dawned on me that I never really approach things in any other part of my life like that. And why would you do that with your kids? And you would spend more time planning a vacation and researching a vacation, or planning and researching how to buy a car, or a home, or what school district you'd want your kids in. So I found it fascinating that youth sports was still absent of such a tool after all these years. And also that the marketplace was growing in so many complexities.

So I like to say that youth sports is big business. This is a phrase that's been kind of coined for it, but actually it's not big business. It's just really multilayered and multi-dimensional at this point in time. And so yes, it comes with costs, but everything's evolving in terms of cost and time commitment in all areas of life.

So it was really, at that point I said, "Listen, why don't I put together my understanding of big data?" Because it is a big data problem." There are many offerings across the US when you introduce many different sports and each sport is its own industry. So I saw many parallels to what I experienced in my technology and financial services background, and I also kind of am very adept at understanding the new technology that was out there in other industries, and I said that there was a way to build a tool by taking components of what's already been built and successful in other industries, but also thinking of this as a big data problem, and harnessing those two aspects to bring what I think is a pretty transformative platform to parents.

Skye:
Yeah. So you said it shouldn't be easier to research a hotel or a vacation than it should be to research your children's sporting experience, what type of data do you anticipate will eventually be here? It sounds like a lot of what you're talking about is going to be in the parent reviews and the reviews ... I imagine that will be much of the data, but what questions are you hoping parents will be able to answer by coming to TiPEVO?

Dan:
So I think there's probably an unlimited number of questions that parents want to answer. It depends on what their motivation is, it depends on what their children's interests lie. We say that sports go horizontal and they go vertical, which create many, many different questions, and so when we look at sports, we look at the first thing we try to do is standardize. Is there a way to present information about a platform or a program in a similar way, regardless of what sport it is? And so we concentrate a lot on trying to find uniformity in terms of how you can represent a sport. Obviously, my daughter plays everything from equestrian to downhill skiing, to soccer, to lacrosse, and as a parent what I learned is I'm actually interested in the same aspects of all those sports when I'm looking at what is the implications of participating in them. Everything from level to age, to costs to time commitment, to practices per week, to what other people's experiences were, how well is the communication at programs, so on and so forth. Your kids are exposed to a lot when you introduce them to youth sports, it's the second most time committed allocation they make next to school. And so when you think about that, it also leaves a lasting impression. So whatever you expose your child to, definitely contributes to how they develop as a human being.

And so from our standpoint, we want to really make it simple. And obviously, programs have become higher profile, they all have websites, they all express what they do and articulate that, but all the websites are unique and they're different. And for a parent that's either new or even experienced like myself, it takes you a long time to navigate through those, and I think there just has to be in today's day and age, a place where you can aggregate information in a centralized repository like you can in any other industry. And I think that's what we try to do.

So at TiPEVO, we think we've found 22 different characteristics that are unique to all sports, whether that's cost or time commitment. Obviously, reviews are a big part of that. We think that crowdsource sharing of experiences is the best form of information that someone could pass down. It's happening today, but it happens on the sidelines, or it happens in a parking lot, or it happens over dinner. It doesn't really happen in a platform, so we want to try and create some tool that can scale because a conversation can't scale. And so if someone has an experience, good, bad, or indifferent, we think that it's important that they share that because you don't know where that's going to resonate to another family. So obviously it's a big component to it, but streamlining the whole process of how someone starts their sports journey and evolves it is really our focus that we've concentrated on.

Skye:
Fantastic. So I didn't realize you were already in other sports when this announcement came out with US Youth Soccer saying that you were going to be powering the new member club platform, their directory, their member club directory. I assumed that this was a new product. So are you already active in other sports now and are just bringing this platform to soccer through your partnership with US Youth Soccer?

Dan:
Yeah. So the platform has over 50,000 programs on it today, we've identified another about a hundred thousand youth sports programs, obviously we're curating content so that takes a little bit of time, we built a data system that's highly complex, but with the 50,000 programs we have that extends over 28 different sports, like I said, everything from sailing to fencing to a question to downhill skiing to riding, it's a complicated process, but we needed to start. And by engaging with governing bodies, and national associations, and US Youth Soccer has been phenomenal. A very exciting partnership for us. It helps us start really curating and populating the programs in a way that makes the data process work much faster. So obviously, we can build the directory, it's going to take some time, it's a progressive exercise. It's something that I don't think has ever been tried in youth sports. So the more that people are willing to work with us and partner with us and allow us to, obviously promote access to their sports and the programs that constitute those sports, we think the better it will be for everybody involved.

So the platform is still growing, we're mining 24/7 new sports programs, so we kind of say we're sports discovery experts, and that's our goal. And we find them in many different ways, not only digital footprints but also by doing partnerships with governing bodies and the folks at US Youth Soccer helps us expedite making those programs available to people.

Skye:
And so just some logistics on how this will work for clubs so parents are aware and we have all of this transparency, which obviously is important. So clubs get a free membership, which just gets them on the platform and then they're able to purchase an upgraded ad or an upgraded platform in some way or another. Can you kind of explain that process and then what the benefits are for the clubs that are able and have the funds to be able to pay for a higher platform?

Dan:
Awesome question, and it's super simple on the platform. We have three kinds of tiers of what happens on the platform. One is if we know you exist and you're a youth sports program, we want you on the platform because our goal is to help educate parents and help make yourself available for discovery as quick as possible. So we try to do that. We have a minimum requirements that we put on the platform and we do verify before we try to put things on the platform programs. Obviously, there are many different ways people represent themselves in youth sports so that's a challenge in and of itself. But if you exist and we know you exist, we put you on the platform. We don't charge or we don't mandate that someone has to know that they exist because our goal is to actually try and centralize the community.

The second thing is someone can claim that profile for free. It's a basic membership. They can fill out a profile tool, very similar to what you do on LinkedIn when you set up your own professional profile, and that doesn't cost anything, you can claim your profile. It helps in two ways, it helps make sure that the information that we understand about you is correct so you verify it, you get to take control of your profile so you get to actually communicate to people exactly what you offer. And we do that in a controlled, standardized way so people don't answer those questions in different representations. That's there. And two, more importantly, it allows you to be able to receive connect requests from engaged consumers, people that are interested because now we know the right person at the program. And the third is there is a premium model because to create verified reviews is a really complex problem to solve in youth sports. And so the module that we built is quite sophisticated to do that, but it requires both parties to work together, TiPEVO and the the member clubs, because we need to know who their membership is. So for that particular element of it, it is a premium kind of add on for it. You can leave reviews, you leave them as visitors, but we do have the concept of no anonymous reviews.

So we do a two-step verification process for anybody that comes in, so you have to actually register as a user on TiPEVO very much like on any other platform before you can leave a review or it's posted that's there. So it's those elements that exist on the platform that really allow you to take this tool that could help you in a marketing and sales capacity, but also in just the lead gen or even just representing your club in a unified way, those elements. And there's feature sets that go with the add on.

So the subscription for the year is only $399. It doesn't matter how many teams you have or how many programs you have, it's a universal price for everyone. We believe that's a fair price. It's something that can be budgeted in at a very low cost. So we've tried to think very clearly about the dynamics in the market and what are the problems, and we understand that a lot of programs are operating on very tight margins, in some cases losing money, but we don't want them to have to feel like TiPEVO is a burden. We want them to think it's a tool and a resource that can really help expand their footprint and allow parents to be able to access those programs and really take some of the burden off of them from a technical standpoint. If you make technology simple and seamless and intuitive, then we believe that it can help anybody.

Skye:
So a couple of questions that just I'm curious about, or just popped up as you were explaining that, so a parent is frustrated with their coach, they're frustrated with their situation, their child situation, they get on the site and they start posting some negative comments. They have to be verified, so they have to put in their email address, their first name, last name, is that correct?

Dan:
Yeah. So they give us their first name, their last name, they tell us whether they're a parent, or a player, or a coach, or an admin so we actually put that designation or categorization with their quote. And they also have to verify their email and we verify that that email exists as well.

Skye:
Okay, great. So that stops maybe some of the drama that could potentially ... I mean I know you've thought through all this, you understand. And then let's say the parent does verify all that data and is willing to put their name out and then is posting all these negative things, the only way a club can control that is if they get their membership or that is just going to stay out there? Like that's just a negative review for a restaurant on Yelp that is just going to be there forever?

Dan:
So it's a great question in the sense that we are dealing with minors and we are dealing with children and obviously, there are a lot of things that have been said and experienced in the youth sports marketplace as examples of parents that have acted in ways that just haven't been appropriate or coaches in that matter. We really spent almost two years devising our review module, and there were a lot of different aspects to it. We had over 50 beta partners that joined us, we tested it with over 15,000 different parents, and evolved the module.

And the module has three core components to it that I think is very important for everybody to understand that will give people comfort. One is the universal misperception that people leave only negative reviews. This is not verified or substantiated in any other industry. There have been many, many different studies done and for the most part, especially when you go to disclosed reviews, when someone can't go and hide themselves or mask themselves, that for the most part they're forced to actually think about how to even be constructive and especially in youth sports. And what we found in over a thousand different reviews and different circumstances that we've tried to see, is that most people, even when they're negative, they have to be careful about how they represent those feelings on the platform because it also represents who they are. It has an impact on their child, it has an impact on them in the community. So we have not found that most people ... In over a thousand reviews I can count on, less than one hand, the amount of times that we've had something that I would call probably unethical or something that we would want to remove from the platform.

So I think removing anonymity and also the community that you're talking about, youth sports, is a great deterrent for making people understand that it isn't just a platform for people to air on negative reviews.

Number two is that we have the concept of one person, one voice. So we don't allow people to leave multiple reviews, so that's why the benefit of registering a user, they can only have one voice. They can change their opinion of a club, but we will remove their earlier review and post their most recent feelings with their ratings. So again, one person, one voice I think is another thing that has been problematic.

The final thing is crowdsource policing. So we are youth sports community, moms and dads are really a united community, they're all looking out for their kids. And so we have the concept of flagging reviews and anyone can do that that's a registered user. So we want to encourage the community to help us police this as much as possible.

And the fourth thing that we're rolling out is the ability for programs to actually address those reviews head on. So respond to a specific review, address a parent directly, but do that on a universal platform where there is an audit log, you can see the back and forth that's going on, and they can address it.

So those are the four aspects of the review module that we spent a lot of time to address many of the fears that people might have.

Skye:
No, I'm really glad that we had that part of the discussion. Just it's nice to see that the process that's gone on for you, and of course, parents having a voice is important. And in many ways we haven't had a voice in our children's experiences before. I had this thought when I started diving into the company thinking, "Oh, what about a great club that's doing amazing things and has just this one coach that just isn't a great coach?" And unfortunately, that's the reviews that happen. And then I started thinking, I'm like, "Well, the club needs to work with a coach and help them improve or find a new coach. That's actually a good thing." I was feeling bad for the club, but ultimately what we want is the best people possible working with our children. So-

Dan:
With reviews, the one ... Also I think misnomer on reviews is that trends start to emerge, and this is what we have seen, and that we think parents ... And to be honest with you, the average age of our user is 14.2 years old, so this should tell parents everything is that as soon as kids get access to the Internet, they start doing and behaving and becoming consumers. And they're educated consumers just like parents, so they understand the concept of trends. They're not looking at just the one negative comment. They're looking at things in totality and they're looking at it in what they know and what their friends say or what other parents say, but they're also looking at it now online to what people think. So I think that if you look at this in isolation, I think that you'll probably never really appreciate the power that such a platform can provide to you. If you look at this in it's totality, I think it really adds a lot of benefits.

So anything in isolation can be construed in many different ways. I think that's the whole purpose of TiPEVO is to take away that isolation and actually allow you to hear many different voices. And the point that you made about giving parents a voice, I do think that's really important. I think there has been a paradigm shift in sports where a lot of that has been ... And I understand the dynamic motivated and run by the programs themselves, but this has to be a shared experience or else it doesn't evolve into anything that's going to be substantial and sustainable over time. So I think that bringing that paradigm back into balance and allowing parents to have an equal part in this journey, as they should, is very important to us.

Skye:
Excellent. So on a short term if a parent's listening to this right now and they want to get in on the site, is this open yet or is this going to be launched in a couple of weeks? Or what's the timeline for everything?

Dan:
TiPEVO is live and running right now, so we have people leaving reviews and claiming their programs every day. Obviously, with the announcement of US Youth Soccer, which again is a very exciting partnership ... And Chris Moore and his entire team have done an amazing job of serving as an example, and that's what we're hoping this does is that it builds a groundswell and an appreciation that there is a tool like TiPEVO out there, there is a youth sports organization, the largest one in the country, that sees the value in the benefits of this and does see it as a transformative tool if you can partner with the right bodies and associations and leagues across many different sports. We do believe that this will create and ultimately turn the predominant source where parents can use this tool that's there. We don't focus on being a registration system, we're not interested in the point of purchase at that point in time. We're interested in everything that happens before someone decides to make a buying decision, as they say, or a commitment decision. So that's where we focus on.

And as much as I encourage the State Associations or parents to jump on, I also encourage all the registration systems that are out there to look at our tool in a way that's a compliment to what they're doing, that's there. And obviously, we will have our fair share of challenges, we're entering into, I think, unchartered waters in the youth sports world, and people like you are going to be amazing advocates, I think, for what we're doing. But again, we're only at the start of this journey, so it's going to take many twists and turns, and our technology will evolve as we learn more about the broader community that's there, but as people start engaging with the tool.

Skye:
Great. Yeah. No, we're really excited about the possibility that exists here just for improving our youth soccer landscape. I really appreciated Chris Moore, you mentioned him, the executive director of US Youth Soccer, his comments about this TiPEVO platform, providing just sort of improved access, a deeper understanding for parents and also clarity. And all of those things are really important when we're talking about our children having the best experience possible and feeling inspired in their sporting experience. So we're excited to see this roll out and appreciate your time today. And we will look forward to following along and seeing how this grows and helps improve our youth soccer experiences. So thanks so much for your time, Dan.

Dan:
We really appreciate it and thank you again. And we're excited about everything and the path that we're going in, and we're very overwhelmed with the response. So we do appreciate these opportunities to be able to communicate who and what we do, and we look forward to working with everybody within the youth sports community and playing our part in evolving what is a very exciting platform for our kids and should be something that everybody wants to help promote and facilitate. So thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Skye:
You bet. Thanks everybody. Take care.

About the Author Skye Eddy Bruce

Founder, SoccerParenting.com Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF “B” License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.

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