How CatchCorner Is Revolutionizing Sports Facility Rentals

How CatchCorner is Revolutionizing Sports Facility Rentals

The co-founders of CatchCorner applied the booking concepts used in other industries and applied it to sports facilities. Jonathan Azouri always struggled to find available athletic facilities to rent out, and so CatchCorner was created to fill this gap.

In this interview, Jonathan shares how he and his team have grown CatchCorner, including an exciting partnership with Sports Illustrated. CatchCorner is currently live in 10 markets, with more coming soon, and has generated $20 million in revenue for its partners.

Key Takeaways

💡 Jonathan applied the booking concept of Expedia and OpenTable to a new industry
📈 Getting comfortable with delegating allowed Jonathan to grow the business
❌ Jonathan’s advice is to “be comfortable with failure and pivoting quickly.”

Overview

Business Name: CatchCorner by Sports Illustrated
Website URL: https://www.catchcorner.com/
Founders: Jonathan Azouri, Maya Azouri, Ryan Mintz
Business Location: Online (Canada)
Year Started: 2019
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 20

Tell us about yourself and CatchCorner.

My name is Jonathan Azouri and I’m a Canadian entrepreneur. I’m the co-founder and CEO of CatchCorner by Sports Illustrated, an app for renting sports facilities.

Users across North America can browse through availability at local facilities and book time directly on the app. We offer a diverse portfolio including mom-and-pop facilities, community centers, NHL team practice facilities, schools, and other institutions, so there’s something for everyone. We take pride in creating an engaging and enjoyable experience for our users, ensuring that their interactions with CatchCorner are not just transactional but also memorable.

I studied at McGill University, graduating in 2016 on the Dean’s Honor List with a Bachelor of Commerce. My profound enthusiasm for both sports and technology has seamlessly converged to form the nexus behind my company.

My career and the business took a significant leap in 2023 when I earned a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.

CatchCorner App

How does CatchCorner make money?

Our business generates revenue through strategic collaborations with various facilities, creating a symbiotic relationship that benefits both parties. We specialize in providing subscription-based services tailored to meet the unique needs and requirements of our users.

To date, we’ve generated over $20 million for our affiliate partners.  

What was your inspiration for starting CatchCorner?

Growing up it was often difficult for my friends and I to find vacant ice time to play hockey. It was tedious and manual, and we didn’t even know about some facilities nearby or ways to get in contact. If booking a flight on Expedia or a restaurant on OpenTable is so easy, why can’t it be the same for a hockey rink?

I came up with the idea after experiencing my own difficulties and was inspired to come up with a solution for other like-minded groups and individuals. 

Ice Palace

How and when did you launch CatchCorner?

CatchCorner launched in 2019 in Toronto. We partnered with a few top-notch facilities for our launch, and continued to grow from there. 

How and when did the relationship with Sports Illustrated come about?

We were introduced to the Sports Illustrated team and pitched our product in 2020. The relationship became official in May 2021. There was an immediate mutual interest for learning more about a collaboration together.

Sports Illustrated is not only an iconic media brand, but the most trusted name in sports. Through our relationship with the brand, we were able to fuel cross-category growth and expand our platform geographically.

How did you find your first few clients or customers?

It started out by showing up at my favorite sport facilities in Toronto to pitch the idea and show the facility managers the platform. I looked at the mix of facilities and inventory types and really saw a feasible hub model, if we were to combine the inventory of these high-quality places. I knew it would grow from there but having some top-notch facilities would kickstart the demand side.

What was your first year in business like?

Busy! The first year of business and even now five years later, my hours of work as CEO and co-founder are still very time-consuming. Some weeks I’m consistently in the 65-hour range.

I worked on every single task in this business, it does not mean I do it day-to-day, but I don’t delegate a task I have not done myself. In the first year, trusting delegation was a challenge but we’ve experienced substantial growth with an excellent team, and I have made significant improvements in this aspect. I still wear many hats, which I think is common among effective leaders.

Recreation Center

What were some of the most common objections or obstacles you had to overcome with getting facilities on board?

In the beginning, even before we officially launched, we were approaching facilities with no data of increased bookings and only a handful of facilities committed to working with CatchCorner. It was far more challenging, with the common objection being something along the lines of “why would I try this out first? Maybe I should wait until others do it before me.”

In some cases, like with municipal facilities, we sharpened up our tech and added certain features on the app to be able to accommodate their high-level needs. In other cases, we simply needed to gain experience in order to gain credibility. 

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

Trial and error, trial and success. If I could offer any advice, it would be this: be comfortable with failure and pivoting quickly. Our company’s key strategy revolves around vigilant monitoring of every facet as we expand, ensuring steadfast quality assurance. It’s also important to hire people of high caliber whom you can trust. We persistently refine and enhance our formula each day. 

Tell us about your team.

We have an incredible growing team at CatchCorner. We have 20 full-time staff members plus many part-time, and several contractors. Different areas of the team are working in the office and others are working remotely. These are awesome and very hardworking people who I’m proud to surround myself with.

CatchCorner Team

What are your future plans for CatchCorner?

Right now, CatchCorner is live in over 10 markets including Toronto, Vancouver, New York, and Los Angeles. We’re set on growing into new North American markets in 2024 and beyond. 

How much traffic does your website receive, and what are your primary sources?

I’m pleased to share that CatchCorner has over 150k monthly active users on the app!

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned growing the business?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to fail quickly. If it’s not working, find a new direction. Be confident in your decision-making and do not give into the sunk cost fallacy. 

Indoor sports facility

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

My biggest challenge has been learning how to be more confident in delegating tasks. Transitioning from a mindset of wanting to handle every aspect of a project to embracing the power of delegation required a substantial shift in my approach to leadership. 

If you had to start from scratch, where would you begin?

If I had to start all over again, I still think I’d be in the same spot. I’d begin with market research and developing a good business plan.

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

I’m mainly a Twitter guy for information. When it comes to podcasts, The Sick Podcast hosted by Tony Marinaro stands out as my favorite. This podcast centers around hockey, with a specific emphasis on the NHL, particularly the Montreal Canadiens.

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