Upper Hand grows into up-market franchise management software and new headquarters
Exactly two years ago to the day, I toured the then brand new offices of sports and fitness software company Upper Hand and met all five employees. Today, Upper Hand employs 25 people and they are currently building out their new headquarters at 129 East Market Street in downtown Indianapolis to accommodate triple-digit growth.
Upper Hand’s rapid expansion is being fueled by high demand for software and payment tools in the sports and fitness industries and more than $4 million in investment in the company, including a $1.5 million Series A round in April from Houston-based Park Ten Capital. Upper Hand has also launched UP Payments, a fully automated and secure payment processing solution, in partnership with PaySafe, which is helmed by CEO Taylor Kelly, a member of Park Ten Capital.
“In many ways we now see ourselves as a software company and a payments company,” said Kevin MacCauley, founder and CEO of Upper Hand. “It’s really two and the same because in order to make money you must be able to complete transactions, and if you don’t have the technology and tools your customers expect when they walk into your business you’re going to lose sales.”
As Upper Hand straddles multiple industries, it’s difficult to pin down an exact addressable market. However, the sports and fitness product market (sporting goods and apparel) exceeded $90 billion in 2017, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association; and the global fitness and recreational sports centers market — valued at nearly $84 billion in 2016 — is expected to reach $113 billion by 2023.
With roots in the coaching and sole proprietor sporting business, Upper Hand prides itself on a singular focus of eliminating obstacles to profitability and providing a comprehensive platform to run a sports and fitness business. The company has built on those early lessons and found great success moving up-market with its franchise management software, which now accounts for nearly 80 percent of Upper Hand’s fast-growing business. Upper Hand software and services save sports and fitness businesses up to 18 hours per week of administrative work.
“The addition of Mack Earnhardt as our head of engineering together with our Product Chief Myles Grote and Design Chief Tyler Hill has us innovating and delivering features and functionality at a speed no one else can compete with,” Kevin said. “The leadership and talent we have working on big challenges in a big market is a real selling point for hiring the best developers, sales and marketing pros as we continue to deploy investment capital and gain more and more market share.”
Upper Hand’s staff team recently rebuilt its own website and product marketing portals from the ground up — a service it offers customers as part of a comprehensive business management offering. “It’s one of the challenges of keeping up with your own speed of innovation,” Kevin said. “You have to be able to market and sell all those new features and functionality and new products, and when one of the services you offer is custom website design … well, it has to be amazing.”
One of the ways Upper Hand maintains a culture of innovation is through monthly Innovation Friday events where engineers, developers, UI/UX designers and the rest of the team step away from the development backlog and work on anything they are interested in, with one caveat. It must create value for customers.
“We started doing Innovation Friday a year ago and it’s had a huge impact,” Kevin said. “It’s very motivating and a different way of getting creative than maybe what you do every day like using a new coding language or stepping out of your daily role. Sometimes it’s just a sketch for a big new idea and sometimes it’s a new feature that’s already live in the software by the end of the day. I think it demonstrates the kind of company we are and how we’re going to get to where we’re going; by collaborating, being creative and always building value for our customers.”
Discover more about Upper Hand’s growth over the past several years.