Success Story
of Sports App

Sebastian Duque
Сo-founder of Plei
I'm the forward, so I score the goals and Anadea are like my defenders. They protect the goal and they protect everything and they make sure everything is secure.
Soccer field reservation

Sebastian Duque

of Plei, Miami

A co-founder and a product frontman, hard worker, and entrepreneur to the core tells the story of Plei, an application that handles the entire process of searching, making reservations, and paying for fields to play soccer.
The Plei app allows users to invite players, set up teams, and chat with friends. Plei System, which is a web-based side of the app is designed for managing soccer fields.
The start

We really want to know your vision of Plei. Does the picture of Plei that you imagined then match what you have now?
Sebastian: A little bit. Yes, so when we first started the company in 2016-2017, my idea was mostly just the app, for the players, not really anything for the soccer fields.
I started talking to potential customers and tried to get to know how we could build the business around this idea. We realized that the soccer field operators needed a lot of people and managing their operations because they were using a lot of pen and paper systems that are not for their industry.
We realized that both sides of the industry need a solution, not just players. And now we have the Plei System, which is for the field operators, and then the Plei App, which is for the players. And it's nice. It's nice because they both share the same backend. And so we're able to communicate both systems in real-time. But to answer your question, yeah, the idea is always evolving. So, yeah, I think it's grown a lot with experience, of course, it's not exactly the initial idea.
Simple instead of complex

To what measure did it transform?
Sebastian: Well, when we came out with the app in 2017 on mobile, it had so many features like the menu book, a few messages, notifications,friends, and nobody downloaded the app, nobody was using it. And I was like, oh my God, what's going on? And then we restrategized.We took out all of those features and left just one feature, which is called Games, which allowed players to see games and to join a game. And that's it. We made it very simple instead of trying to make it all complex.
And now we have over 20,000 players and we are hosting hundreds and hundreds of games every month. And now that we have the people, the players on the app, now we're starting to build friends notifications. So we went backward. We tried to build everything first instead of focusing on the customer and what they needed. But we learned that with time. And I think that's very important is to build an MVP, build something that people need, and then build off of that instead of trying to build something super elaborate and with many, many features. So, yeah.
People actually
use the app

What makes you happy about your product? Are you happy with the whole life cycle of your product or?
Sebastian: Just having an app on the App Store makes me happy. That was like my goal when I was in university. I always dreamed of having an app on the App Store. So for me, that was very cool. Anything after that was a bonus.
Now I'm super happy because people actually use the app and people actually love the app and leave many reviews.
The other thing that's really cool for me is that sometimes I’ll go out and people will see me and they say Hey, you're from Plei. That’s cool.
It's getting very popular

Speaking about the app’s popularity, was Plei a sensation? Was it a vertical boost or did it grow gradually, step by step?
Sebastian: Yeah, it's definitely grown at the beginning little by little, but as time goes on, it keeps growing faster and faster, it's exponential. And now, in the last month, it's grown so much. And it keeps growing. It's getting very popular and it's just it's crazy to see that it's actually happening.
But we're staying grounded because our mission is to have this all over the world. And so now it’s probably like five percent of where I want to be. So we still have 95% percent to grow. So, you know, we're just getting started.
After the lockdown

That's cool. Do you think this exponential growth somehow connected to the end of lockdown?
Sebastian: Yeah, we were closed for about eight months - nothing on the app. That was hard, of course. Especially because where we live it was very strict. But now everything is kind of back to normal here. People are rushing to go back on the field. So I think that helps.
But also it grows a lot with word of mouth because soccer is a very community type of sport. You know, I go play, I have a good time, and then I tell my friend about it. And then that friend tells two friends and then those two friends or three friends.

It’s spread like Covid =) But in a healthy way.
Sebastian: I never thought about it that way. We were growing like covid. Exactly.
Plei app - getting started
The team effort

You mentioned that you travel a lot alone. Do you do everything connected to the app by yourself? What about your team?
Sebastian: In total, there are 12 of us on the team. We have four engineers from Anadea, and then it's me and my co-founder, which is my brother. And then we have customer service representatives, a couple of marketers, designers. So, yeah, it's definitely not me alone.
I wouldn't be able to do this by myself, but I'm more forward-facing and going to talk to clients. And if I need to give a talk or something, it's usually me. My brother, my co-founder, is more introverted, and he's the smartest person I've ever met. So, yeah, it's definitely a team effort.

So you are like a frontman in some band.
Sebastian: Yeah, exactly. I'm Freddie Mercury.
Yeah, I like negotiating with the fields and then I go to meet the players in person and take pictures of the players, give them Plei shirts and just make them feel welcome and everything.
About the market

When you started the project, did you find many competitors, or was it like innovation? How did the market meet your idea and the app itself? How was it?
Sebastian: There wasn't a direct competitor like somebody doing it exactly the way we were and focusing just on soccer. But there were other platforms that people were using to solve their problem - like Facebook, groups of people meeting up, all these other apps that are not specific for soccer. These options were the best experience, but people will do whatever they can to try to need people to go play. So now it's good because they can just do it in 2 clicks, so it's very easy for them.
But now that it's been about four years, and there's a couple of apps that are trying to do something similar and that are trying to compete. But I'm super confident in what we're doing and I don't pay too much attention. Because it's just like as long as you focus on just you and what you're doing, I think that's the best thing you can do. I think we have something special. So I think we'll win.
A young entrepreneur

Were there some other projects before Plei? Did you try something as an entrepreneur?
Sebastian: Nothing like Plei, but when I was in university, I had a company that I started that we would sew clothing to the university and to different groups and organizations. The school was looking for, for example, a class of 12, 15 shirts for all of the students. So my company would produce all of the apparel for the university. So that was an interesting experience.
And it was the first time I realized that I had a way to make the shirts and then I would say, OK, do I sell it directly to people or do I sell it to organizations who then sell it to people?
And I thought it was smarter to sell it to organizations for many reasons, but also they had a big budget. It was the insight — we'll make more money that way.
So that was my first experience of negotiating with businesses and organizations. I think that really helped me with Plei because that's what I do now.
I like dealing with other businesses. I think the B2B approach. So, yeah, actually I never thought about it a lot but I think that helped me with Plei, but Plei is the first technology company that I've ever started.
2018 $71k+
2019 $300k+
2020 $1M+
Try to do everything
you can do yourselves

Is there something that you can tell to startuppers or entrepreneurs, just people who want to start some project? Do you have the advice to share?
Sebastian: There are so many things, but I guess the most important for me is that I always tell up-and-coming entrepreneurs: Try to do everything you can do yourselves. Doing a startup is very risky, right? Like most startups fail. So what are the things that you can do to make it less risky before you invest one dollar?
A lot of times people think that if you have money, it's going to solve your problems. But it's not. I think it's more like you can do so many things without money that can prove that this is something that will work. And then you can present that to either potential investors or people that can help you take it to the next level.
Here’s an example. When I started Plei, I had visions of what the application needed to look like, but I didn't know how to design. So I just taught myself how to design because I thought that was easier than teaching myself how to program. So I taught myself how to design. I designed the entire application and this was all before investing one dollar.
And there are so many things you can do, everything from market research. And then also obviously creating the business summary of the business plan.
I could sit here and think, oh, I have a great idea. But maybe the market doesn't think that that that it's a good idea. And sometimes people get blinded. So it's very good to talk to potential customers (not to like friends and family because your friends and family are always going to like it, it's so good). You have to talk to people that don't really care about you and find out if they like your idea.
So my main advice is just do everything that you can for free from just straight hustle. And then the second most important thing for me that I've learned with Plei is to have a lot of patience because many times we want things now and we want all the success in the world now and we want millions of dollars now. But it doesn't work that way. It takes time and a lot of effort and a lot of hard work. So you just need to have people understand that it's a marathon, not a sprint. And even when you are generating money, I think it's better to reinvest that money into the company than pay yourself. So like my 12 staff members, everybody gets paid except me. I'd rather it be like that so that the business can keep going. So it's just like having a very patient and long-term mindset, I think is very important.

We feel this deep experience behind your deadvices. It's really, you know, something from the person who has this experience not only reads the theoretical books.
Sebastian: I still have a lot to learn. Of course. So maybe in five years, I'll have more advice.

If we talk about your project in terms of the football team. Where’s Anadea in it?
Sebastian: That's so that's a very good question. Yeah, I'm the forward, so I score the goals, but others are like my defense, like my four defenders. They protect the goal and they protect everything and they make sure everything is secure.
Work with Anadea

How difficult was it to find the team to get your back?
Sebastian: It was difficult because before Anadea I partnered with another company that was in Miami. Because when I first started, I didn’t want it overseas, I wanted everything here in Miami to be very involved in the project, to be there every day. That company sold me a vision and it was my first time starting a technology company, so I didn't really know that much.
And yeah, it was terrible. I was very, very bad. Lost a lot of time, a lot of money, but I got a lot of experience. So I think that everything happens for a reason. After that happened, I just looked at a lot of research, and finally, I found Anadea.

Can you describe Anadea in three words, the first three words that come to your mind?
Sebastian: Anadea is reliable. Professional. And the word I'm thinking of is the family because that's just how I feel.

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