Serendipity keeps touching Upper Hand, the Indianapolis-based software company that simplifies front and back-end operations for sporting businesses like camps, athletic academies and individual coaches and trainers. The fast-growing scale-up has completed a $1 million seed financing round led by three former executives from Finish Line, the Indianapolis-based athletic shoes and apparel retail giant.
It’s quite a coup for Upper Hand to get the attention of seasoned sports-related experts who will undoubtedly be able to contribute more than capital as the sports management software company grows. The fact that the new investors are also based in Indianapolis and have experience running global operations from the city should be valuable to Upper Hand.
Upper Hand recently outgrew its home base at The Speak Easy co-working space in Broad Ripple when it doubled its staff, and ultimately landed in new offices downtown in the Morrison Opera Place building at Meridian and Vermont Streets. Following the move, The Speak Easy announced it would be opening a new downtown location in … the Morisson Opera Place building.
Myles Grote, chief revenue officer for Upper Hand, confirmed that they had no idea The Speak Easy would be a neighbor at the new location and that everyone is excited to be in the same building and to feed off of the expected community electricity of the space.
Details from the Funding Announcement
The three former Finish Line executives investing in Upper Hand include Larry Sablosky (Finish Line Co-founder), Steve Schneider (former President & COO) and Don Courtney (former President of E-Commerce). The trio co-led the venture round along with Sheets Smith Wealth Management and other existing Upper Hand shareholders based in Indianapolis, Washington, DC and Greensboro, NC.
Upper Hand has raised $1.34 million total since January 2014 — $1 million in the latest round and $250,000 in a 2014 round led by Elevate Ventures. New funds will support
employee growth and the expansion of software features as Upper Hand seeks to capture market share in the $3.6 billion sports management software market.
Upper Hand recently more than doubled from five employees to 11, and the company plans to add another 12 software developers, sales pros and customer relations employees over the next 12 months.
The Pivot that Caused Rapid Growth
The growth of Upper Hand comes following a business model pivot from a focus on parents as the primary customers and connecting them to the best coaches for their aspiring athletes, to the current marketplace model.
As Bookacoach (the former name), the founders found that the coaches themselves were using the platform as a tool to communicate with parents and to help run their businesses. This prompted the pivot and Upper Hand has been finding its footing and growing ever since.
Kevin MacCauley, Upper Hand Founder and CEO said, “Transitioning from a startup to a scalable company is a challenging phase, further magnified by the fragmentation in the sports industry. The addition of capital allows us to invest in our team here in Indiana but more importantly, it strengthens our position to deliver unparalleled value to sports business owners.”
The Future of Upper Hand
Upper Hand is expected to launch the next version of its online service in Q2 of this year, and is working with a top 500 corporate franchise to build enterprise based software.
“Upper Hand has put together an ambitious and committed team that is continuing to grow. With upcoming product developments, this team has the vision needed to greatly impact the athletic software scene on a significant scale, building on Indianapolis’ reputation as the sports capital of the world,” said Finish Line Cofounder Larry Sablosky.
In addition to the funds raised, Upper Hand is a qualified Indiana business and in 2014, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered Upper Hand up to $875,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $56,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans. These incentives are performance based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives. These incentives strengthen Upper Hand’s position to hire additional team members in all areas of the business. Hiring efforts will focus on technology, sales and customer success.