After hearing that his friend organized an adult hockey team and ended up losing about $3,000 each year that he fronted for ice time because he never got paid back by others, Ian Andrew Bell came up with the idea for RosterBot.
In the process, he found himself in what is becoming a fairly common phenomenon that an independent software vendor can do quite well by solving business problems that call for a payments integration.
Bell, a longtime amateur hockey player, and fellow Canadian and business partner Bret Hedican, a former National Hockey League player, created RosterBot in 2008 to help youth and adult sports team organizers keep track of accounting, team rosters and fees. This week, they added a mobile payments option to the mix to make it easier for players or parents of players to pay league fees or reimburse team organizers footing the bills.
"We are as much about making sure everyone shows up for a game as we are about them paying their fees," Bell said.
Because no team organizer wants to "lay out thousands of dollars for a team and then spend the rest of the season trying to get the money back," RosterBot does the work of sending reminders to team members about fees and, conversely, allowing the team members to make online payments from the computers or mobile phones by inputting payment card data.
In the true spirit of sports teams operations, the app also allows players to inform the coach or organizer if they will not be available for a game, and the app in turn alerts players listed on the roster as "spare" players.
Thus, RosterBot is solving the business problem of running a team while integrating an easier form of payments for uniforms, equipment, field or ice rental, or special parties or events involving the team.
"It's really a mini version of QuickBooks for teams and is very stylized for that function," Bell said. "In the locker room or the field, where these payments usually occur, you can accept mobile payments from someone using the RosterBot app or manually input the payment if someone pays in cash or check."
Bell set up RosterBot and some of his other online businesses with payment processor Stripe, after initially trying PayPal with his venture. "Stripe just provided the types of reports we needed and they were very transparent about what their fees would be for certain transactions," Bell added.
It allowed Bell to establish RosterBot fees at 70 cents per transaction on top of Stripe's charges of 2.9% plus 30 cents.
"It is simple and easy to understand, making it a structure that works well for us," Bell said. RosterBot currently provides services for 10,000 teams across 60 countries, which made it important to secure the services of Stripe to "get that reach," Bell added.
Stripe recently incorporated Stripe Connect to more easily integrate with international companies and platforms.
With those kinds of numbers in play for RosterBot and a goal to target more league organizers in addition to individual team managers, the company is in a position to thrive in the recreational sports niche.
"Every ISO on the planet is targeting the huge industries like retail and restaurants and those are extremely competitive, with a lot of pricing compression," said Richard Oglesby, senior analyst at Double Diamond Payments Research.
But independent software vendors are heavily focused on the niche markets to solve problems and then imbed payments, Oglesby said.
"Processors like Mercury and the fastest growing ISOs have been able to ride the integrated payments trend, locking up that market," Oglesby said. "It leaves the rest of the ISOs trying to figure out what to do."
Similar to RosterBot, the correct strategy for many is to take on software development and find segments of the market that match a core competency and then drive value and payments into that segment, Oglesby said.