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Bullpen: In Conversation with ECAL’s Patrick Barrett

By BULLPEN

Calendar communications and marketing platform ECAL has had a fresh injection of capital and has signposted their intention to maintain their global ambitions with key senior appointments.

The company’s technology has been widely used by hundreds of clients in major sporting leagues and federations. Key to their solution is the ability to deliver hyper personalised content to users, such as localised broadcasting information for games and events, across each region in dozens of languages.

To get an insight into where the company is at right now we spoke to their CEO Patrick Barrett.

Well done on the very recent injection of capital into ECAL, how will it be used?

Patrick Barrett: “Thank you, it’s been a good time in the works and really nice to see it come to fruition as part of an add on to the business sale.

“So the business sale was obviously much more comprehensive than that. But certainly having a million dollars in the bank to fuel growth is excellent.

“That money will be deployed in investing in the sales success side of the business. We’re at a point where we have our product at a terrific stage with wonderful technical leadership from our CTO and have previously invested in the product team so we’re really happy with our technology. It’s now time to fuel growth and invest in the sales and success side. We’ve made a few key appointments and we’ll make more, we’ve recruited a chief revenue officer to help that department in Alex Peebles.

“We’re largely investing in people but also in marketing, advertising and PR capitalise on the success we’re having and the areas of opportunity that is presented to our business right now.”

The appointment of Alex is noteworthy, he’s come from Perform and DAZN into an emerging tech company and that indicates to me that you’re targeting Asia, what is he going to drive in the region?

PB: “Market entry into Southeast Asia from our base in Singapore is really important to us because I feel that Asian sports are at the beginning of their digital marketing, CRM journey.

“So our products are an easy solution to understand, it engages with the digital audience incredibly well and it actively drives sales and engagement. So we were looking to capitalise on early interest in the region particularly in sports, ticketing, media and entertainment type organisations. So having Alex based in Singapore from where he can build out a team and unlock that potentials is certainly a high priority.

“Also, his remit is to oversee a lot of the major global deals as well. So it’s not just a Asian focus, there’s a lot of growth throughout the business in the UK, right across Europe is in incredible demand. We’ve grown quite considerably over the last 24 months.”

What emerging verticals can you apply your solutions to? Things like finance, billing, perhaps digital events.

PB: “We’ve seen a number of opportunities that have arisen through COVID. Certainly major sports are at the big end of town, so major leagues and federations continue to invest in digital communications but they’re also investing into esports tournaments. I don’t see that disappearing, they’re going to be running those in parallel with traditional live events.

“We’ve seen conferences quickly go digital, like digital series and virtual conferences. That’s an area of which we have a good client base and growing. We also see the media landscape changing as well where I think our solution can play a great role in acquiring customers and converting to pay subscriptions, but also reducing churn. That’s the biggest obstacle for a lot of these streaming companies particularly in the sports arena.

“Aside from sports, entertainment, media and ticketing you’re right that payments and finance is a big focus for us. We’re creating some pretty innovative products in the payment space to be able to process real-time instant payments from the calendar off the back of specific offers presented to users, and allowing them to transact quickly. Then in the traditional banking and finance space our solution is used to deliver payment reminders to customers which works very well to increase on time payments by up to 12 per cent over more legacy-based solutions like SMS.”

The opportunity to partner up and integrate with other companies to mutually grow across in your targeted verticals is an interesting opportunity going forward as well.

PB: “That’s a great point, from the very beginning of COVID we’ve seen a number of significant partnerships and integrations fast-tracked for us and we still see that continuing. Stack Sports, for one, is a wonderful partner of ours in which our technology is integrated right across their platform. But we collaborate on opportunities all the time. We’ve also recently announced a partnership with PayDock, a payments orchestration platform, which again gives us amazing access to another channel of business, but also helps us build out our product set to enable these smart payment features I was talking about before.”

Why is calendar management. digital communications to push the calendars preferable over direct messaging, emails, even a chatbot. Why is this solution a far more salient one for clients and clubs?

PB: “I don’t think it’s an either/or type decision, it is the fact that there’s a large audience there that manage their life via their digital calendar. Our research suggests that over 70 per cent of adults aged between 18 and 65 rely on their digital calendar to manage their life. There’s an incredibly valuable audience there that prefer to manage important life events within their calendar.

“That type of dependency on the calendar translates very well across many territories. This includes traditional western economies and countries like Australia, US and UK and throughout Europe, but also in emerging markets throughout Asia and India. There’s a growing sophistication of smart phones in some of these emerging markets and the calendar is increasingly used as a management tool.”

Validating in sports and expanding to other verticals, why has that been a purposeful strategy to grow the company?

PB: “You’ve got to remember that calendar marketing or calendar communications is an entirely new segment of marketing. It’s been important to invest the time and resources to build that segment and certainly sports was a very obvious place to start. It’s a very straight forward and compelling use case.

“You have highly passionate fans that want to know when the two teams are playing next, fundamentally. So we’ve built up a strong reputation in that sector but it leads to all sorts of other opportunities in and around that sector, the media and programming space dovetails into the ticketing space, and so on. All these opportunities have come from our success in sports and as a business we’re really interested in moving ECAL up the value chain of business – sports has led to media, has led to ticketing has led to more corporate functions like conferencing, and then even further up the value chain our solution is being used by banks and financial institutions.

“I think it would have been tricky to go to a bank straight off but certainly once the use cases start to pile up then it became easier to make that foray into a sector like banking.”

What potential headwinds that you may face in the short to mid-term, you certainly have to be mindful of utilising your capital effectively? I know that Asia is a huge market and opportunity in itself, you’ve got a global focus but any potential headwinds to battle?

PB: “I don’t think anyone can predict with a degree of certainty what’s going to happen. So we’ll invest smartly and we’ll invest in people and invest in real market opportunities where we know there is growth.

“I think sports and live events, the longer the pandemic goes on will come under greater pressure. So we certainly work hand in hand with our clients to offer any assistance that they need to get through the trough. Having a great relationship with your clients is where it starts.

“COVID is going to present a number of hurdles for the next 12 months and beyond but out of that comes opportunities and we’ll adapt to those to best position our product.”

Article first published on the Bullpen website, Wednesday 9 September 2020

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