Belfast tech start-up Pitchbooking scores £500,000 in Silicon Valley led funding round

Pitchbooking co-founders (L-R): Shea O’Hagan, Fearghal Campbell and Chris McCann.

A BELFAST tech start-up aiming to become the Airbnb of sports facility booking has secured £500,000 in new funding.

Pitchbooking has just landed the backing of a Silicon Valley investment firm.

Set-up in 2018, the Lisburn Road-based firm was born out of its founders’ frustration from trying to book local football pitches.

The start-up is the brainchild of Shea O’Hagan and lifelong friends Fearghal Campbell and Chris McCann.

The trio said their platform enables instant, online booking, offering greater access to sports facilities for the public while streamlining the facility owner’s admin processes.

Pitchbooking has grown well beyond football, catering for more than 25 sports, from Quidditch to Ultimate Frisbee.

After landing initial seed funding, the start-up has now secured its second funding round, led by Dominic Hughes and Tom Page of Silicon Valley-based Vertex Albion Capital.

The £500,000 round was also backed by Cecil Hetherington and Anthony Kieran of Aurient Investment Ltd; Co-Fund NI, managed by Clarendon Fund Managers; Paul Demarco of Marco’s Leisure and World of Football in Edinburgh and professional footballer Taylor Moore.

Shea O’Hagan (31), who holds a PhD in physics from Oxford, said the tech firm is now planning to expand.

“We’ve already got a lot of partners across the UK, but we want to grow the team to expand further,'' he said.

“We need to hire more salespeople, additional developers and expand our customer success team.

“We hope to double the team size over the first year post investment.”

Queen’s graduate Fearghal Campbell, who along with Chris McCann, had once held dreams of becoming pro-athletes, said they never lost their enthusiasm for playing sport.

But they recalled the frustration with the process for booking pitches and facilities.

“We even offered to build a booking calendar for free for a couple of places where we played five-a-side football, just to make our lives easier,” said Fearghal.

“Around the same time, Shea got talking to a groundsman at Oxford City Council who was retiring.

“He had all the knowledge in his head and said that, when he retired, no one was going to know how the bookings worked and what teams get to play where.

“For the first time, we realised there was a genuine need for a better solution here.”

With the aim of creating a platform to search, book and pay for facilities in under 60 seconds, the trio were off.

Intiailly bringing Oxford City Council on board, the start-up is now used by 15 councils and hundreds of independent venues.

The company also runs programs for the Irish Football Association through a partnership with the FA and their event sponsors.

“In the last six months we’ve signed up more customers than in the previous three years; they’re starting to wake up to a modern approach to managing their facilities,” said Shea.

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