Hafiz Mitha, Founder & CEO at PlayCity
1. What does PlayCity do?
PlayCity is a social enterprise dedicated to making the world a better place by connecting people through sport.
2. What inspired you to start? What problem does PlayCity solve?
As a local Calgarian, I found it really hard to find someone to play a sport with at my skill level, at a specific time. I could see dating apps blossoming and I wanted to use that model to help people meet activity buddies. The goal is to bring people with different backgrounds together using sport as a conduit for conversation.
3. How did you determine who your audience might be for this product?
Before diving into the idea, I talked to a variety of different people who understand the value of physical activity and experience barriers to being more active. In the beginning, it’s important to talk to a wide range of people and not count anyone out. As you go through the process, you will clarify your target market.
4. Do you have a team?
I got really lucky with the team we have. Very smart people run our operations and marketing. We also work with a dev team in Serbia, and advisors including Hayley Wickenheiser and James Siegal. We built our team through our interactions with Alberta Innovates, networking, referrals from former colleagues, etc. When you are building a team, it is so important to get out in the community and know what gaps you need to fill. Finding people who share and appreciate the vision is fundamental.
5. If you could hire someone today to help you with one thing what would it be and why?
Definitely a product manager! There are so many changing requirements from the stakeholders in our ecosystem. From development to marketing, it is hard to prioritize what our team should be working on. There are so many opportunities in different markets and a good product manager can visualize the market and prioritize what should be done next. As CEOs we are so close to our users and the product - and we think we know it all - but, we need someone that is at an arm’s length to seize those opportunities.
6. If you could learn one new skill what would it be and how would it help you build your company?
If I could become a master coder that would be pretty amazing. As a bootstrapped company, you try to do everything yourself. My biggest gap is not having a technical co-founder and I wish I didn’t have to rely on someone else to help me with the heart of my business.
7. What are your greatest achievements so far?
PlayCity has created over 3,000 unique connections. The testimonials we receive are a living testament that we are creating value for our users who are finding people to play with, making friends and connecting with people in the city in a simple way. Being asked to speak at TEDx was also a huge accomplishment for me as an individual, and for the company.
8. What are your future goals for your company? Any specific milestones for 2018?
We are in the middle of stabilizing the app. Because of the changes that Facebook is making, we need to adapt and ensure that we are not too dependent on their platform. We are also raising a friends and family round shortly and will be pitching in June for the RBC Social Enterprise Accelerator. As soon as we are done that, I want to launch a campaign that will attract a national audience. Our goal is to be in every single city very soon!
9. How has Startup Calgary helped you?
First and foremost, the opportunity to pitch at Launch Party’s Semi-Final Pitch Night helped us gain so much exposure. The Startup Calgary team has introduced us to people in the ecosystem who help us with funding, marketing and accessing different programs. Now that I am part of the community, I feel like I have so many people to call on when I need help.
10. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to take their idea from the back of a napkin to the marketplace?
Start small, but just start! Iterate based on what you hear from your users. Don’t be afraid to just get it out there and validate. Make sure you are solving a specific problem, get your story straight and create an emotional attachment to what you do.
11. Who do you look up to in the Calgary startup community? Which companies are doing cool things?
I’ve met so many people in the community who just grind. The people that are a part of the incubators, the associates that are a part of support organizations, community mentors... everyone is an inspiration.
12. What was the biggest surprise you encountered building your startup?
Nothing surprises me anymore. Anything can happen. You can hit a home run or fail miserably. Most entrepreneurs - myself included - always grasp at every single opportunity. In the words of Richard Branson, you have to keep in mind that business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming. The big fish that you try to land may not be the best for you. That was something I struggled with personally – what you dream of won’t always meet your expectations once it is a reality.
13. What event, program or resource in Calgary's startup community made the biggest impact on your company?
The ATB X Accelerator and the RBC Social Enterprise Accelerator. The structure that we get at the RBC Accelerator makes me feel like I am doing an MBA. I love the CEO roundtables where we share knowledge, and wins! As a founder, it is hard to stay motivated all the time. Having this platform to build community and celebrate wins with people who really get it has been invaluable.
14. If you had to tweet another startup advice, what would it be?
Believe in yourself. Moments create momentum. Like Alex Raczenko always said, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.
Learn more at http://www.playcityapp.com/
Published May 15, 2018