Hard Work and the Great Outdoors
I’ve had many different jobs over the years. Growing up on Long Island’s North Shore, I spent a lot of time on golf courses and landscaping at homes or estates. This part of Long Island is largely known as the “Gold Coast” due to the wealth which benefited a kid like me who was ambitious and lacked resources.
I was a hustler and found as much work as I wanted, especially since I was not afraid of hard work.Being outdoors has always been therapeutic to me. I need to be moving. I also find it peaceful, and it generally lifts my spirits. At the end of a job, I find satisfaction in standing back to admire my work. I see many golf course superintendents have the same pride in the work product, which is a shared experience. A quick review of Twitter will confirm this pride, as many golf course superintendents post pictures of their team’s work on their golf course.
What I didn’t realize is that this love for the outdoors combined with my fascination for computers would influence my future…
Computers Changed Everything for Me (and, hopefully, will do the same thing for golf)
I was first introduced to computers when IBM released the PC Jr. in the 1980s. Being fascinated with computers, I somehow convinced my mom to allow me to buy one. The first computer program I wrote was a golf game. I was hooked!
In college, I worked while taking classes at night and had a side hustle building computer systems for companies. This was around the time that Michael Dell of Dell Computers was doing the same out of his dorm room — I think I had the idea before Michael Dell 🙂
Over the next few decades after college, I designed and built complex computer systems for large enterprises. I was a partner in a digital agency that was acquired in 2012 by a large multinational advertising agency. After spending a few years in the new organization, I became restless and wanted to start something new.
Golf: A Neglected Industry
In 2014, I took the leap and left my stable, well-paying job to pursue the goal of applying technology to a neglected industry. I explored many ideas that had been simmering for industries that had been ignored.
I played a fair amount of golf at the time (NOT why I started the business) and had a good friend who was involved at his Club. He had thought a lot about the changes required in golf and helped me see the opportunity. He and I were the company’s first investors.
As I began my research, there were a few key observations that confirmed there was an opportunity:
There was no shortage of technology “inside the clubhouse” for food and beverage, accounting, billing, member communication, and pro shop inventory management.
There was very little technology helping operators manage the golf course where most time was spent by players (4.5 hours++).
Most of the technology being delivered to golf was being developed by (a) large, well-established companies (b) as a side hustle by people who either loved the game of golf or worked in golf.
The game of golf was struggling both reputationally and financially. There was a concern that the game was too slow. Courses were overbuilt in the boom times of Tiger Woods reign.
The golf industry has an economic impact of $84B in the United States alone! This is a big business.
There was a larger trend of data enabling industry change and the next wave of computing where everything on the planet was going to be connected to the internet.
It was clear to me that there was an opportunity here. Larger, well-established companies typically don’t innovate, so I was convinced it had to be a smaller, more nimble company instead. Is there a business here? I wondered…
Why Hasn’t There Been More Innovation in Golf Course Operations?
Information technology has changed many industries over the past several decades, especially industries that struggled economically. When airlines wanted to increase profits, they leaned heavily on technology to lower operating costs.
So, I developed a vision for golf course operations and began to reach out to potential investors. I was personally an investor in other startups so I knew some of the Angel and Venture community here in Boston.
I quickly learned that golf was not looked kindly on by typical investors. The media had portrayed the game negatively, which clouded their viewpoint. I remember one specific conversation while I was on Nantucket on vacation with my wife in August 2014. I was introduced to one of the few Venture investors who had actually invested in golf, so I was optimistic about the conversation. My hopes were quickly dashed as he did everything he could to convince me to NOT start a business in golf.
The golf industry has struggled to attract investment capital which has resulted in a lack of innovation — until now!
At this point in the story, it is key to understand a few things about me.
I am stubborn and resilient.
I like to take on big challenges.
And, my modest upbringing has taught me to appreciate the value of hard work!
FAIRWAYiQ is Born to Help a Struggling and Neglected Industry
Initially, a small group of investors (including myself — I remain one of the company’s largest investors) committed the capital required to begin the design and build-out of both our hardware sensors and software. And, over the past few years, we have been fortunate to attract a committed group of outside investors who are passionate about our vision.
The first few years were dominated by in-market testing with customers and further build-out of the technology.
An idea is just an idea though!
You need a tribe to continue to shape, evolve and improve ideas. We found our tribe amongst a diverse group of golf course superintendents and golf professionals. We embedded ourselves with customers who were willing to share candid feedback and help us evolve the vision. We are grateful for the many who helped us. The list is long.
It’s been over 5 years now and we have thousands of users and continue to grow.
We now have accountability to a larger tribe:
- Golf Course Superintendents and Golf Professionals — who believe in our vision, experience the value and trust that we will improve daily
- The Golf Industry — no longer the neglected industry
- Our Team — who’s unrelenting commitment is required to achieve our goals
- Investors — who have entrusted us with their wallets and support
- My wife, Michelle 🙂 — who has come on this journey with me unselfishly and not fully by choice
I truly love what I do and the tribe I am accountable to.
The decision to start FAIRWAYiQ in 2014 was one of the biggest decisions I’ve made in my professional career.
I look forward to serving our tribe for years to come.