Some startups are born out of deep purpose, the result of a vision brought to fruition. Others are more serendipitous.
Derrik Dyka describes his crossing paths with Don Giroux as a happy accident of sorts. Giroux, a native Canadian who moved to Minnesota to marry a girl many years back, became a friend and tennis partner. The two would go on to form Hockey Finder, a digital resource for arranging recreational games on the rink.
As Dyka watches the venture continue to gain impressive traction, he’s enjoying the ride and recognizing its bigger potential.
The idea didn’t really come out of a business mindset. About 10 years ago, the two enlisted a developer to help them build a website solving a problem of their own – they wanted to play pickup hockey games, but there was no easy way to orchestrate them. In its first iteration, Hockey Finder was a simple and somewhat rudimentary tool. They didn’t anticipate it turning into much more.
“A guy who was organizing his own games asked, ‘Hey, can I use that tool to organize mine?’ We didn’t really see that coming,” Dyka says. “So we went back to the drawing board.”
In the decade since that first launch, they’ve updated the interface multiple times, and another reconfiguration is in the works. They’ve also added a lot of adopters, with Dyka estimating around 25,000 registered users in the system. Not all are paying customers – you can sign up for pickup games at no charge – but he guesses the company earns revenue from about 10,000 league players and organizers annually.
The fees are on the modest side at this time. Dyka says the self-funded company is profitable but they maintain thin margins and keep costs down. He’s mostly derived value from networking and forging relationships that support his day job as a real estate agent, but both he and Giroux understand that they’ll need to make some adjustments in order to facilitate real growth for the business. There have been preliminary talks with potential sponsors, so that’s another possible revenue source.
The Hockey Finder system is being used around Minnesota and has also spread to Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska, with others set to join soon. The model can work with other sports too, and they’ve already extended it to softball. There’s a lot of opportunity to scale up here and we’ll be watching to see where they go to next…