These two British entrepreneurs are changing the way we watch sport

Leo MacLehose and Dom Collingwood founded MatchPint while still at university. Today, the pioneering app works with some of the biggest brands in the world

MatchPint is a game-changer. A website and app, the service has revolutionised the way you meet up with friends and watch sports games in your local by telling you exactly which pubs are showing which matches.

It’s a saving grace for those of us who’ve before found ourselves pub-hopping until we find a screen showing the game we’re after, and allows punters to head out without fear that they’ll miss the match and have to scarper home to catch the second half — where’s there is considerably less atmosphere and no beer on tap.

The app itself was the brainchild of Leo MacLehose and Dom Collingwood, who started the company seven years ago and are now running campaigns with some of the biggest names in the drinks industry. So where did the idea first come from? And what does it take to work with huge companies successfully?

Where did the idea for MatchPint initially come from?

“Necessity really,” says MacLehose. “During my gap year I often found myself searching for bars to watch the games that were on, but had very little luck. While I was at university, one of the modules was to write a business plan and so I started working on MatchPint then. It’s probably one of the longest overdue pieces of coursework ever!

“Hilariously, the version of the business plan I handed into my lecturer got a pretty terrible mark. But, underneath, it said that it was a good idea and I should crack on with it.”

Bad grades aside, was there much resistance to the app?

“Very early on,” MacLehose recalls, “we got an introduction to an ex-CEO of Sky. We had a phone call with him so we could talk our idea through and maybe even get some contacts at Sky.

“This must have been about a year after we started,” he continues, “and his feedback was: ‘If you haven’t started this already, don’t do it. It’s a bad idea.’ And that really pissed us off!”

When did you realise that the app would be a success?

“For a long time, when you’re just a small business growing out of a flat,” says Collingwood, “you’re just a couple of individuals plugging away — not sure if you’ve got anything to offer. But then, when you end up meeting a massive brand like Diageo, and they’re engaged, you snap into gear.”

“The moment that gave us the most cause for celebration came from our name,” MacLehose adds. “Obviously, MatchPint is a brilliant, simple and catchy name — but the unfortunate thing was that it was an unknown word. When we began, if you Googled our name it would just show results for ‘match point’.

“But, after around 18 months, when our third ever employee walked into the office and announced that Google recognised our name, we chucked what we were doing out of the window and spent the day celebrating with a bottle of champagne!”

These two British entrepreneurs are changing the way we watch sport

Why do you think watching sports together is such an important social pursuit?

“This is where my theology degree comes in handy!” laughs Collingwood. “There was an anthropologist called Émile Durkheim who had this theory called ‘collective effervescence’. When you get a group of people together, all working towards the same thing — such as willing on the local sports team — it creates this social energy.

“And you can’t find that anywhere else. No-one can predict what’s going to happen during sport. It’s not just that it’s full of drama and theatre, but it’s also that you’re watching something no-one has ever watched before.

“So you’re going through this completely unique experience with your mates at your side. It’s one of the most incredible memories that you are ever going to create. And having this free on your doorstep to access every weekend is incredible.”

How about the partnerships? How did those come about?

“The early work that we did with Guinness,” MacLehose says, “formed the framework for how we would work with every other drinks brands in the future. We did a huge campaign with Budweiser for the World Cup, and the app was an integral part of that.

“They wanted their whole campaign to be about how they are present at the moment of euphoria. So we built some software that allowed fans to get a free Budweiser if their team did something incredible. We ended up designing that by being part of the conversations and actually being in the room.”

These two British entrepreneurs are changing the way we watch sport

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

“I would say you should 100 per cent find a co-founder,” says Collingwood immediately.  “I would obviously say that otherwise I wouldn’t be here! But, talking to other guys who have gone on to launch successful start-ups, I’ve heard that it can be really difficult and dark if you don’t have someone who understands your thinking and can support you at all times.”

How has the sport world changed since you launched MatchPint?

“Since we’ve been around,” says MacLehose, “the fragmentation of the sports world has been really interesting. When we started, Sky were delivering all the sport. Now we’ve got Sky, BT — even Amazon Sport, who got Premier League rights last year. Unfortunately, the people who have lost out because of this are the pubs and the consumers, who have had a lot of the costs pushed on to them.”

“Another thing I would add,” says Collingwood, “is that in 2012, AJ won Olympic gold. Before that, there was virtually no coverage of boxing. But, since that success, we’ve seen a massive resurgence in the popularity of that particular sport — led by the great British heavyweights.”

Looking ahead at a huge year of sport, MatchPint remains a vital tool for any self regarding sports fan — see more about the app here…

Further Reading