Team sports webapp Truppr.com set to join the league of globally relevant tools out of Africa

Bosun Tijani is the man behind Nigeria’s famous Co-Creation Hub. The web is full of stories about the ccHub in Lagos. But there is very little known about Tijani’s product called Truppr. We invite you to tune in for a detailed conversation YourStory had with him.

Note:  Truppr is a webapp that helps you organizing and finding team mates to enjoy your favorite sport with in cities around the world. The sole purpose of Truppr is to connect people globally to event and fitness partners to help make regular exercise a lifestyle. Team sports and active leisure are an easy way for millions of people to exercise and socialize; Truppr is thus a niche social tool aimed at getting more people globally to keep a healthy lifestyle in any city they find themselves in the world.

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YourStory:   What your pain point you wanted to address?

Bosun: I am an avid sport lover who plays football for fun and fitness twice a week. I have lived in 5 different cities in the last 10 years and consistently struggled to keep my love for weekly football games alive due to the difficulty of finding teams to play with in new cities. I also experienced the same challenge whenever I was on a business trip (about 40% of the year). This challenge led me to believe that the world could do with a social platform where people find sporting venues and teammates to enjoy their favourite sports with in cities around the world.

YourStory: What kind of thought process led you to believe the market needs Truppr?

Bosun: Let’s face it, fitness can be daunting – being disciplined enough to follow a strict regime amidst other demands of our fast paced world isn’t as fun as many would like to believe. Beyond discipline, a few of the popular means of staying fit can be boring – running alone in the park or around your neighbourhood isn’t the most interesting way to use the time for so many of us.

However, I realized that I get excited about team sports because of their social nature and if given the chance, I’ll play football, lawn tennis, squash or badminton every day. The determinants of whether I do sports are however controlled by a few variables, which are out of my control i.e. venues, who to play with, my current location (am I home or on the road) and in certain cases, cost. I decided these barriers wouldn’t get in my way and founded www.truppr.com – a social tool that helps sport lovers organize and find teammates for their favourite sports.

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YourStory: When did you guys launch the product?

Bosun:  The Beta version of Truppr was released in August 2013 to help us pilot our MVP and get initial feedback from users. This version at the time was only available to a closed group of users through which we tested the concept ahead of the open beta release (web version) in March 2014. Our mobile platforms are due for release in Q2 & Q3 starting with iOS in June and Android in July.

YourStory: How did you meet the co-founder?

Bosun:  The Co-Creation Hub Nigeria as a shared working space and focal point for technology events provides immense opportunity for networking. I met Victor Igbokwe at the hub and invited him on board to lead the technical arm of Truppr.

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YourStory: What is Truppr’s core offering?

Bosun:  Team sports and active leisure are an easy way for millions of people to exercise and socialize; Truppr provides a platform for a vibrant community of fitness enthusiasts to make fitness a lifestyle through:

  1. Simplified process of organizing amateur sporting events and team mates.
  2. One-stop shop for finding and booking sport venues in cities around the world.
  3. Easy way to find team mates/ fitness partners even while on business trips or in a new city.
  4. Support to corporations to design workplace wellness programme that ensures that fitness is built in, not bolted on, to life.

We simplify, add fun to and make fitness a lifestyle.

YourStory: What were the 3 biggest challenges you faced while building Truppr and how did you deal with them?

Bosun: The use of lean start-up methodology has proven to be a very useful tool in the evolution of Truppr. However, the level of immediate adoption is putting immense demands on the tech team to churn out features and codes to meet users’ needs within a short space of time. We have had to invest in additional software engineers within few months of launching our MVP. While this is not necessarily a bad problem to have, it meant fund raising had to be prioritized alongside our desire to immediately validate the market. Thanks to CCHUB, a seed investment of $ 25,000 together with personal funds provided the buffer while we continue to speak to investors.

Another interesting yet positive challenge we’ve faced is constant feedback from users on the sort of features they’d like to have on Truppr. While quite a number of the features are valid and commonplace, the ability of the team to deliver most of them within a short space of time is a tad unrealistic considering the resources available to us. Our ability to manage growth and user expectation has, however, helped in phasing the development of the features. To the best of our ability, we maintain a flexible and responsive customer service thus helping users achieve their goals with available features while consistently deploying relevant features on a weekly basis. Our community members thus have a strong influence on the features we add to the platform.

Lastly, our decision to scale out of Africa with a growing fitness market and health awareness among the populace meant the need to take a bottom-up hands-on approach in the promotion of Truppr. As against mere digital awareness building and customer acquisition, we’ve had to engage in the organization of sporting and fitness events such as monthly Truppr 5K Run in multiple cities, Saturday Football Games for professionals and a few other Truppr sponsored aerobic events. While this is not our core as a tech company, this approach, though challenging, has proved to be the most effective means of enlightening the local fitness enthusiasts and professionals on the value of Truppr. There’s since been a surge in the use of the platform for sporting event management and over 70% of users acquired through these events have participated in more than 5 non-Truppr organized events in the last 2 months.

 YourStory: Where are the markets you are eyeing for Truppr growth? 

Bosun: Our target market is every city in the world and this is an essential consideration in how the platform is being built. While Truppr is today available for use anywhere in the world, our approach is to launch and grow out of Africa. We see the African market as a space that could provide the right platform for us to grow sustainably considering the emerging interest in healthy living, active leisure and fitness. We want to be part of that growth by helping more people achieve their objective of making fitness a lifestyle.

There is also the challenge of making sporting venues accessible in most African cities – our survey highlights that while the interest is growing, people are simply clueless about where to enjoy their favourite sports or who to play with. While all these are fairly well developed in most Western countries, there is a gap in Africa, and we see ourselves as the venture to fill it. Our immediate attention is thus on Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal.

A strong Truppr is anticipated to be in a good position to revolutionize amateur sports, fitness activities and active leisure globally. With Truppr, a Nigerian visiting New York or (Beijing) won’t struggle to find venues and people to enjoy his favourite game of basketball or football even if he/she is only there for a week.  

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YourStory: What is the market size that Truppr is going after? 

Bosun: Our world is witnessing an incredible surge in awareness of the need to stay fit and well. This awareness is now a major part of popular culture, as brightly colored yoga mats and fitness clothes fill the shelves at retails stores, TV shows about weight loss grow popular and sport/active leisure clubs are widely seen as trendy. More people are picking up physical activities than ever before for wellness reasons and desperately desire washboards abs and chiseled biceps.

In the midst of this growing enthusiasm, the fitness industries are becoming the biggest beneficiaries. Despite extremely low disposable income growth in the five years to 2012, the fitness sector was expected to grow at an average annual rate of 2.3% over the same time period. Revenue from fitness clubs, Pilates and yoga studios, boxing gyms and clubs, personal trainers, fitness apparel sales was expected to total $45.2 billion in 2012, according to the IBIS World Special report in June 2012. While this isn’t the overall size of the market available to Truppr, it demonstrates the space in which we operate and size of opportunity available to us if we add value to the ecosystem.

Growing out of Africa is of course justified by the increase in health and fitness conscious people across the continent where over 60% are under 25 years old. The diffusion of ICT on the continent also implies improved access to information thus encouraging more people to take informed decision on health and lifestyle related issues. Above all, the steady rise in income levels and emergence of African middle class provides us the opportunity to build a lasting brand by being part of an emerging culture.

YourStory: What is the rate of adoption/traction/current user base of Truppr?

Bosun: Since the formal release of our MVP in March 2014 with minimal marketing/promotion investment and concentration on the Lagos market, we have (as of May 27, 2014):

  • Attracted over 2,740 registered users

  • 160 events in 6 cities and 85 venues

  • Over 75% active users participating in 3-5 events per month

  • Average 55 new users per day and

  • Over 15 active events per week

Feedback from our early users and the fitness and wellness community certainly indicates immense appreciation of the services and possibilities enabled by Truppr. Our immediate challenge is thus to leverage this interest to hack the required growth and critical mass of users to allow us execute on plans and scale appropriately.

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YourStory: Have you figured out your monetization strategy?

Bosun: Store/merchandise and bespoke workplace wellness programmes are our immediate targets for early revenue generation. However, our ultimate focus is on:

  1. Commission on venue bookings
  2. Premium event listings and promotion and
  3. Affiliate/associate schemes with fitness instructors and partners

Lessons from the last 3 months however revealed that the fitness community is a highly engaging one with clear needs and demands. Data and intelligence gathered constantly reveal opportunities and contribute to how we shape our future. The demand is thus on us to be proactive and pay strategic attention to the needs of our community and its evolution.  

YourStory: How do you see the future in a context of Nigerian/African product coming out of the continent to serve the global audience? 

Bosun: Africa as the last frontier presents us the opportunity to leapfrog development on the continent through smart application of technology. We have the opportunity to embed technology in unlikely aspects of our society considering we are almost building from scratch. We can show the rest of the world how smart application of simple technologies can enable the human race to better connect, share and break barriers. Smart applications of mobile technologies as seen in MPESA and Ushahidi are great examples of how creative application of simple and existing technologies can add immense value to the world.

We need to see beyond immediate gains and focus on building our ability to create solutions to real pains in our society. These are the solutions that mostly become globally relevant, as they tend to address fundamental human needs. Truppr is clearly about to join the league of globally relevant tools out of Africa.

 

Emmanuel Amberber

Inhales & exhale everything startups, tech, entrepreneurship, and the intersection of India & Africa. You can reach him via emmanuel[at]yourstory.com