UK Travel Startup Homefans Makes Football Fans Belong Anywhere

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Homefans is creating unique football travel experiences - by fans for fans. We spoke to co-founder & CCO Daniel Velásquez to find out more about the current status and the crowdfunding campaign the startup's about to launch.

How would you describe Homefans in a few words?

Homefans is a travel operator providing unique football experiences beyond the 90 minutes.

We are filling the gap for millennial travelers who are experience-savvy but don’t want to tap into the expensive hospitality option. We design authentic and accessible experiences to help fans tick off their football bucket list.

UK Travel Startup Homefans Makes Football Fans Belong AnywhereWhat inspired you to create the platform? How did it all start?

Both Luke Verbeek (co-founder, Ed.) and I are avid travelers. Every time we used to travel to watch some football, the whole process seemed a bit complicated. You either looked up for all the alternatives amongst the match break providers (a price-driven choice) or you went for the Do-It-Yourself option. Either way, most of the time the outcome was the same: we were really excited for the game, packed our suitcase, flew out, checked in at the hotel, hung out on our own and went to the game. After 90 minutes of excitement and bliss on the ground, it was all over again on our own. Football is about sharing your passion and love for the game with other fans; but as travelers, we felt isolated, detached.

Until one day, we managed to stay with a local and it all changed: the morning ritual before the game, meeting fellow fans at the game, getting to know all the little secrets and discovering the hidden gems of the destination. This is what football is all about: collecting moments, being part of something.

Hence, we decided to start Homefans with a clear vision: travelers should experience what it is like to be part of the overall experience of a football match in every destination we go to. In order to do so, we’ve partnered up with a vast network of Homefans (local supporters who share this vision) and professional football clubs who host our groups in the best way possible and deliver the most authentic experiences beyond the 90 minutes.

Are you using Homefans internally? How does that affect the viewpoints of the team?

Yes, we are. On one hand, every single Homefans group on a trip is led by a Homefans staff member. So we always take part in all the trips that we offer, as we’re also passionate football fans.

On the other hand, we constantly learn from our vast network of Homefans across all our destinations to design the most authentic experience for every single one of our trips.

Taking part in our trips helps us to have constant interaction with our community members, and get direct feedback that contributes to improving our offering and added value. But ultimately, we create long-term relationships – there have been a handful of customers who have been in more than 5 different Homefans trips so far.

The travel industry is experiencing a new hype, not only due to the rise in digital nomadism. Apart from specializing in football fans – what makes Homefans stand out of the crowd? What is the key differentiator?

Despite the simplicity of the idea, there are no football travel operators that are offering this (except the corporate hospitality sector). We saw an opportunity in a customer base that was demanding travel experiences, yet the market was throwing at them simple price-driven match breaks – a commodity. Football is not as cold and rational as choosing your next energy supplier, and that is how the market is behaving.

We’ve also specialized in the most prominent European Derbies, which gives us a sense of differentiation, putting the greatest and most authentic experiences in the most awaited games of the season in each destination together – it adds to our secret sauce.

We’ve been inspired by the rise of digital nomadism in the sense that we’re a community of like-minded fans and the community itself helps us design the best next experiences to help fans tick off their bucket list. Our vision is to become the platform where fans sign up for the best football experiences across the world.

Further down the road, we aim at adding unique layers to the experience with our Bucket-list Journeys (a trip to Argentina being the first one) and the Football Road Trips, whereby we travel for a long weekend in a luxury van with FIFA on Playstation and cold beer.

Football frequently has been named a sport that “brings together nations”. Drawing from your own experience, how do you think Homefans contributes to this experience and what opportunities arise with it?

It’s embedded in our values. Football is the vehicle for like-minded people to gather and share unforgettable moments around the beautiful game. We promote this at the core of Homefans, by building bridges between fans: not only by bonding the members of the traveling group, but also connecting them with locals in different destinations. We are a community and every trip and unique experience opens up new avenues of solidarity and friendship amongst fans.

What is the biggest challenge that the company has faced?

Up until now, the company has been fully bootstrapped. Hustling on the side and building the brand in our spare time has been quite a ride.

Hence, we’ve faced a handful of cash flow challenges, especially involving purchases without cash in the bank. Nonetheless, this challenge has slowly started to be mitigated by partnering up with more clubs and supporter groups as well as by establishing an early bird sales scheme that helps us sell trips before the season even starts. As a result, we’re now rounding 200 travelers for our first 6 months and expanding the team! Furthermore, we are planning to run an equity crowdfunding campaign to overcome this challenge and devote full time to our passionate dream of changing the way football travel is done.

What do you expect from the crowdfunding campaign?

We are 100% convinced that Homefans is shaped by every member of the community. That is the main reason why we selected crowdfunding as the ideal vehicle to democratize football traveling amongst supporters. We believe in the insightful contribution of our members, customers and fans in general, and how best to do it by being part of the company.

Hence, we will be running a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube (UK) in September 2017 with the aim to raise seed capital and allow Homefans to make the next step towards growth, whilst nurturing from the say and views of hundreds or thousands of fans who would also like to embark on this magnificent journey.

What is the most memorable moment throughout the history of Homefans?

I’d say the moment we had the confirmation, directly from Celtic Club, to offer the Old Firm, one of the most sought-after derbies in Europe. The overall experience was perfect, we had a great time with the group of 16 travelers – it was definitely an unforgettable moment for each and everyone on the trip.

The outcome was so positive that most of the travelers back then want to go again this season – the good news is that we’re now offering three Old Firm Derbies!

If there is one thing you could wish for in improving the European startup ecosystem – what would it be?

I’d say quite lately we’ve seen a sort of trend of supporting everything that is “techie”. Which means that if you’re not a tech startup, you might be missing a handful of great opportunities.

I’m aware that technology is a great asset to help solve diverse problems and scale up those solutions in a more efficient way. But I also want to point out that there amazing ideas and companies that use technology as a tool to deliver their proposition. Sometimes I wish tech doesn’t become a prerequisite or a barrier of entry to some incredible startups.

What’s one piece of advice you can give to fellow founders for their startup?

There’s no overnight success. It is a combination of hard work, persistence, assertiveness and even good luck. We’re still 150% focused on finding our path to grow Homefans and help us change the football travel market.

I personally believe that it’s not only about coming up with a great idea. Most of the time, the chance of a startup to be viable relies on real execution. And, in my own opinion, in real sales that show a proof of concept .

And obviously, do what you love and love what you do.



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