Being an athlete is expensive.
Take a walk down any sporting goods aisle, or section, in a big box mart, and you will see some incredibly large price tags. For high school and college athletes who may not have a source of disposable income, this can be an issue, and relying on second-hand baseball bats, hockey sticks, etc. are the best way to go.
“After college, I took a job at State Farm, but still wanted to get involved in sports. I took up a volunteer coaching job with Chaminade High School coaching lacrosse,” Candon remembers. “I had conversations with parents about buying new gear, and that’s when it hit me how expensive it really is.”
“I spoke to Anthony about that and he had a similar experience as well,” he adds.
Both Piazza and Candon were college lacrosse players, and got into the pattern of most friends who play sports together: they traded and bought equipment off of each other. Using their experiences with that, and taking into account how pricey new equipment is, Candon and Piazza had an idea for an online marketplace, where athletes could connect with one another and buy equipment.
Similar to how Reverb is an online marketplace for musicians by musicians, the goal (pun completely intended) is to connect athletes with other athletes since they understand the market and the needs of each other.
“Athletes have a hard time finding good sports equipment already, and it’s even more difficult finding access to used goods,” Candon said. “On an online marketplace like eBay, less than 15% of the sporting goods are used, and Amazon is dominated by the big name distributors.”
SidelineSwap existed in its first form from 2012 to 2014 as a very simple interface to trade and sell equipment.
“The first version was barebones, but it was just enough to get people to sign up,” Candon recalls of the early design.
Since then, the platform has evolved into both an online store and mobile app. In order to sell a piece of equipment, the user must take a picture of it, fill out a description, and from there, a buyer can pick and choose what they need. Each product is sorted by sport and includes a variety of statistics to show the quality of it. Using a complicated sport as an example, golf clubs have several aspects players must keep track of. Luckily, SidelineSwap can point those out to buyers.
The platform has an internal communication system, where buyers and sellers can talk to one another and price negotiate if needed.
SidelineSwap also has a big presence on social media with their ever-growing Instagram accounts. The company will share particular product listings, as well as videos their users send in of them using the equipment they are selling. It gives the buyer a chance to see the quality of what they are buying.
While SidelineSwap does cater to most sports, the biggest markets on their platform are baseball, hockey, skiing, golf, and of course, lacrosse.
Around 2015, the team decided to expand the platform users see today. And it was also in 2015 that Candon and the majority of the SidelineSwap team got a chance to experience the Boston tech scene for the first time.
“I received what I thought was a cold call, and it turns out it was MassChallenge,” said the CEO. “It was surprising because it just came out of the blue. So, I spoke with them for a little bit and I told them I’d think about it. I told the team and we immediately took the opportunity.”
SidelineSwap was one of the 26 finalists for the 2015 cohort at the accelerator. While they did not win any of the prizes at the final ceremony, SidelineSwap received plenty of advice and met their current CTO Eric Carlstrom, who was the Co-Founder and CTO of EverTrue, as well as a MassChallenge mentor. Since their time at MassChallenge, SidelineSwap has also incubated at the Harvard i-lab for a brief time.
Being from New York, Candon and the rest of his team have had the chance to attend various meetup events and get a feel for Boston’s tech ecosystem, which is something they are grateful for.
SidelineSwap’s total funding is a little over $3.5 million and they, keeping with the sports theme, have received some of their funding from The Player’s Impact. A prominent investor is also the former CEO of Etsy, Maria Thomas.
The company has just moved into a new space in Charlestown, where their equipment inventory is growing. They have equipment from users, and from a select group of professional and collegiate teams.
SidelineSwap is a welcome addition not only for athletes in a big college city but also high school students who want a good piece of equipment. Considering how expensive it can be to buy something new, athletes would be happy to hear that they can connect with another athlete and get what they need.
And to think, all it took was a quick phone call from MassChallenge for SidelineSwap to be a part of the Boston tech scene.