ClubUp, the Uber for Caddies, completes proof of concept and capital raise in Charlotte

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Over the past eight months, ClubUp founder Matt Rose has been busy. And no, I’m not even referencing the fact that Matt has twin 2-year-old girls and is wrapping up his MBA from Wake Forest University School of Business in Charlotte.

Matt’s golf startup, ClubUp, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in seed capital and completed a proof of concept by providing caddie services on over 175 rounds at Charlotte Country Club, Quail Hollow, Carmel and Myers Park Country Club.

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ClubUp Caddies at Charlotte Country Club via Facebook

How does ClubUp work?

ClubUp’s current product is an iOS app that allows golfers from partner private golf clubs to quickly and efficiently book pre-approved caddies.

Caddies cost $55. The caddie keeps 80% and ClubUp takes 20% cut. Tipping is included and golfers are encouraged to refrain from tipping (although many still tip). Payment is handled through the app and caddies are paid weekly.

ClubUp caddies are sourced through a partnership with The First Tee, personal networks, local high school golfers and college golfers. All caddies are over the age of 15 with the average age around 17.

Twenty-nine percent of ClubUp caddies are The First Tee of Greater Charlotte participants.

“Through ClubUp, First Tee participants have been able to network with club members, hone their skills on the golf course, and make some money. One caddie even earned scholarship money from a member that was particularly impressed with his level of respect and courtesy,” said Emily Lockard, marketing and events manager at the First Tee of Greater Charlotte.

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The current app is a dead simple MVP (that’s “minimum viable product” for non-startup nerds) and right now Matt is creating the plans for the next technology iteration.

It’s a simple app – the golfer opens up it and requests a caddie. On the back end, caddies can pick jobs. Simple.

“We’re currently looking for more caddies. Another problem we face is that unlike Uber, almost 100% of golfers leave very positive caddie feedback which makes it difficult to improve our caddie training program,” Matt said.

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The idea

“Being a caddie is a cool thing. It’s a lost art,” explained Matt, who grew up caddying at Birmingham Country Club near Detroit.

After an hour with Matt it’s clear that he obsessed with the intersection of golf, youth development and entrepreneurship.

The idea came to Matt during one of his MBA classes at Wake Forest. With help from a few Wake Forest mentors and The First Tee of Greater Charlotte Development Director Ike Grainger, Matt hit the ground running. I came away from our conversation impressed by the structure and planning that Matt had put into the business at such an early stage.

Another breakthrough happened when Charlotte Country Club head golf pro,  Andrew Shuck, agreed to let Matt run the pilot at his club. It’s cool to see this local country club embrace entrepreneurship. All ClubUp caddies go through training at Charlotte Country Club.

Even cooler, after four rounds as a ClubUp caddie, participants are given access to play Charlotte Country Club and Quail Hollow during designated times. That’s a serious perk.

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Hole #18 at Quail Hollow. Don’t try to pretend that you’d hit this fairway.

Product market fit

It’s interesting to note that Charlotte Country Club is the only local club with a caddie program.

Golfers love using caddies. Clubs love making golfers happy. Caddies love making money.

Matt told me that pitching his concept to clubs isn’t hard. This makes sense – ClubUp is an additional turnkey offering that clubs can offer to their membership.

This means that the majority of the investment will need to go into the golfer’s user experience and caddie recruitment, retention and training. It’s not unlike national startups Uber and Task Rabbit.

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ClubUp caddies during training day at Quail Hollow via Facebook

The future of ClubUp

Matt didn’t share the list of angel investors that have invested a total of hundreds of thousands of dollars in his seed round, but it’s clear that there were about 10 investors and that it’s a legit roster of highly successful Charlotte business people. It’s certainly helped that his end user also happens to be some of the wealthiest people in our city.

With this funding, Matt will expand the team with a key marketing hire, buildout ClubUp’s technology stack and expand into other markets in the Carolinas – specifically, Raleigh, Winston Salem and Greensboro.

Opportunity

With a profit of $11 a round (20% of the $55 fee), ClubUp would have to process a significant amount of rounds in order to produce serious profits. Driving volume and maintaining quality feels difficult to me (but that’s the whole point of startups, if it was easy it would already be done).

I sound like a geek, but what excited me the most about ClubUp are the implications of the data that ClubUp caddies collect for their golfers.

Within 24 hours after each round, ClubUp users are sent the following reports showcase their performance.

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clubup-caddie-early-stage-reporting

What’s great about these reports is that they require zero labor for the golfer. The ClubUp caddie takes all the notes throughout the round and then sends a photo that’s then input into the system.

Golfers LOVE stats and seeing them magically appear via a PDF in your inbox after the round is an excellent surprise and delight tactic.

First party data for the golfer and for the club can create all sorts of opportunities for ClubUp. This data is far more valuable than supplying a caddie. It’ll be interesting to see how ClubUp uses this over time.

In my opinion, if ClubUp can prove that it can scale outside of Charlotte with decent economics (which will be a challenge), it’s a perfect bolt on acquisition for GolfNow/Golf Channel.

Eventually, somebody is going to become the interface for a golfer’s needs – tee time, caddie, scoring data, custom club/travel/advice recommendations, etc. Similar to the way that Uber is starting to own the end relationship with customers for transportation.

It’s early, but ClubUp has the team, funding and vision to build something valuable.

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Ted Williams
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Publisher, golfer, dad and magician (seriously).