Simon Bland in Investment


Interview: Coacher Co-Founder Hugo Cortez

It isn’t always possible to mix work and fun but when it is, it certainly shows. Hugo Cortez, CEO and co-founder of football management app Coacher found himself on the dotForge accelerator programme with a product that did just that. “I played until I was 22 when I got a knee injury that forced me to stop,” explains Cortez, recalling his time spent as a professional footballer. “For the first time in my life I had to find a proper job.

Left-Right: Hugo Cortez with Coacher co-founder Vitor Almeida.

“It got to the point where I missed the game so much and I knew I couldn’t play at the level that I wanted to play, so I decided to become a football coach.” It was here where Cortez noticed a huge gap in the market. “I realised that most of the coaches were doing everything using pen and paper and excel spreadsheets and it just didn’t feel right to me. The effort that I had to put into planning a training session, trying to get some data from games or performance analysis was just far too much. I knew that there had to be a better way to do this,” he says. “I started researching and there was nothing on the market. Then I realised that that is how everyone does it, so I set myself the task to find a better way to do the day-to-day of pitch work.”

With his goal set, Cortez quickly got to work. “We spoke with over fifty football coaches. We’d spend an hour or two chatting about football and things that they wanted to see improved and we learnt a lot from that process. We identified some pain points, created a questionnaire and tried to identify if other coaches related to them. That’s when we realised that everyone was complaining about not being able to collect data during games and get a track records of how their players were performing, so we developed a solution based on that.”

As with any emerging product, conducting the right kind of research was key and Cortez was keen to do his homework before moving forward. “We spent three months researching before writing a single line of code,” he says. “We had validated that there was a problem, created some landing pages to see how people would react to it and then we thought ‘Ok, now let’s build a product’”. 

It was at this point where Cortez and his team decided to get involved with the dotForge accelerator, a Sheffield-based programme designed to nurture and support innovative start-ups. Supported by Creative England, dotForge paired aspiring teams with industry mentors for expert guidance, with graduating companies receiving additional support on follow on finance. “We were looking for an accelerator and Sheffield was the place where the first football club in the world was born,” recalls Cortez, “plus dotForge director Lee Strafford use to be the managing director of Sheffield Wednesday, so it felt like the right fit for us.

“The support from dotForge allowed us to learn a lot and grow as a business. Me and my co-founders individually have also learnt a lot of important skills. It was definitely key for us,” he says. “The mentors helped us make some really good introductions with people in our industry and that is one of the most important things we took out of it. Definitely it is something that has had a positive impact on our company and will help us be more successful in the future.

“In my opinion every first-time entrepreneur should do it at least once because it gives you an advantage,” he says. “An entrepreneur's life is very lonely and having a support system like dotForge can really help you in those moments of doubt. Am I going in the right direction? What is the best approach? Sometimes just a quick chat with a mentor gets you pumped again,” explains Cortez. Finding the right colleagues is also important. “You have to have really talented people - that’s the obvious thing - but what most people don’t say is that you need to grow along with those people because you’re going to be with them sometimes twenty four hours a day. It’s really important that you choose the right people to support you.”

With his passion project on track for an imminent launch and the positive feedback rolling in, Hugo finally feels comfortable in himself, his product and his future.“Doing something that I am so passionate about is completely different,” he says. “The motivation and the work you put in without even realising it; it’s so much better to learn and have those low-days when you have something that you are passionate about. We are empowering coaches and giving them a tool that doesn’t exist in the market for amateurs,” he enthuses. “The reaction from coaches has been really positive and people are really excited about being able to collect information, statistics and analysis. We understand we need to be in a really close relationship with our users to understand who we are and where we are going and we will be listening to them as much as we can.”

To find out more about Coacher head here

To see how dotForge and our business loans and accelerators can help your business head here

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