Family Business

An Unexpected Score

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Staying abreast of the next game on GoalAlert. Source: Getty Images

It all began with brothers Maurice and Marcel Eisterhues just wanting to tease their old man. They could see how much trouble their dad was having navigating the technology of his very first smartphone to get a few soccer  game updates.  “All the ones I found were too complicated for me and too overloaded with information,” grumbled father Dirk in an interview with Handelsblatt.

Maurice had majored in economics and computer science before he dropped out to put together diverse mobile apps for companies. His brother, Marcel, was finishing high school. So together they created one for him.

That was the start of GoalAlert. Dirk liked it so much, he thought the idea had a shot on a bigger playing field. Five years later, the startup is thriving with 10 employees and an office in Düsseldorf’s Hafen district. The walls are painted grass-green and a foosball table fittingly sits at the entrance.

“We want to have a foothold in Europe by the 2018 World Cup.”

Marcel Eisterhues, Co-Founder, GoalAlert

While Germany is known for its countless family businesses, this is one that breaks the mold. GoalAlert was released on the App Store for the German Bundesliga’s 2012 season, and stayed a hobby for Dirk and his sons.

Two years later they decided to go pro. Dirk quit his job as head driver of retail clothing store chain Peek & Cloppenburg and Marcel has taken a break from university to work on negotiating with advertisers. The founders told Handelsblatt sales in 2016 hit seven digits for the first time.

The next step is expanding outside Germany, perhaps to Italy or the UK. “We want to have a foothold in Europe by the 2018 World Cup,” said Marcel.

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A simple interface works to GoalAlert's advantage. Source: GoalAlert

It’s no surprise that, according to the Eisterhues’, GoalAlert is Germany’s fastest soccer app. Push notifications, or instant alerts that pop up on smartphones automatically and do not need to be accessed via apps, only take about two seconds – a lot of times GoalAlert reaches smartphones faster with news of a score than TV broadcasts do.

“Back then, we needed about 30 seconds before the push notification reached the mobile, but it took a lot of other apps three minutes,” said Maurice Eisterhues. “(Two seconds) is not much of a time margin, but whoever cheers first is the hero of every sports bar.”

Today GoalAlert sends out around 600 million push notifications every month. The app has been downloaded more than six million times to help fans follow Bundesliga, UEFA Europa League and the World Cup wherever they may be if not able to watch the game live.

GoalAlert’s advantage is that it is not focused on the world of soccer itself.

Goal Alert also has a good shot as one of the first apps using Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant Alexa, providing game results with voice command. Until now it’s a free app that is 99 percent financed by advertising, and entirely self-financed. There are no investors, although two advertisers have a stake as strategic partners.

“Less is sometimes more in a time like ours that is flooded with information,” said mobile app expert Andreas Kwiatkowski, who used to manage the mobile business at the German online hotel portal Trivago. He signed on as a mentor for GoalAlert because the app “is well-developed and well on track – despite its numerous competitors.”

Rivals are indeed plentiful. The most successful soccer apps include one from German soccer magazine Kicker and well-established software company Onefootball out of Berlin. But GoalAlert’s advantage is that it is not focused on the world of soccer itself, and all those stats and player profiles. It delivers just the nitty-gritty of scoring as it happens.

Despite this GoalAlert must stay ahead of the game if it wants to be long-term successful, according to Olexiy Khabyuk, professor for Multimedia Business at Hochschule Düsseldorf, University of Applied Sciences.

“The market changes quickly and will certainly remain competitive,” he explained.

While GoalAlert’s start might have started out lighthearted, the reality has changed considerably. Sons Maurice and Marcel understand the major opportunity they have to build a lucrative future. As for father Dirk – well, after quitting his job you could say his pension fund depends on it.

“The startup has to keep running,” joked father Dirk, who is 52 years old. “At least, until I retire.”

 

Katrin Terpitz covers companies and markets at Handelsblatt, focusing on Germany’s Mittelstand and family-owned businesses. To contact the author: terpitz@handelsblatt.com

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