Wayne Law alums leading successful startup app for golfers
Just two weeks after launching its app for golfers, Detroit-based tech startup Golfler won the Top Buyers Choice Award out of the more than 200 exhibitors at the 2015 PGA Fashion & Demo Experience.
Golfler founder, President and Chief Legal Officer Jason Pearsall, a 2013 alumnus of Wayne State University Law School and resident of Detroit, said he and the other company officials at the show in August in Las Vegas had no idea that would happen.
“We didn’t even know they gave out awards,” Pearsall said. “We had only launched two weeks before the PGA. We were competing against names like Titleist and Callaway. Like a lot of startups, we had a limited budget and banners we had printed from Kinko’s. They had huge, custom displays.”
The Golfler app has been drawing rave reviews ever since. It’s been the subject of tech reports in the media, and, also in its first month, was named one of Google’s Top Two Sports Apps of 2015.
The company’s app – free to golfers to download and free of advertisements – offers golfers on-course, on-demand food, beverage and equipment deliveries from a golf course’s clubhouse. Golfler’s database includes 13,700 American golf courses with weather forecasts, a function that allows golfers to chat directly, a 3-D rangefinder, tee-time reservations and a digital scorecard. For golf course managers, the app monitors pace of play so that courses can identify and resolve bottlenecks that slow a golf course down.
Added Golfler Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Frank Oyelade, a second-year student at Wayne Law: “And we’re not even done with our second month. It’s amazing how far we’ve been able to go in such a short amount of time.”
Through a dual degree program at Wayne State, Oyelade is working jointly on a master of business administration degree and a law degree. From 2013 to 2014, Oyelade, a Detroit resident, was a startup partner with Endless Crowds LLC, which offered a platform for military personnel and first-responders to collaborate on various initiatives. And he’s an alumni member of the Delta Nu Chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Wayne State as are Pearsall and many of the other members of the Golfler staff.
Pearsall, through his fraternity ties, his years as a law student and his time as project manager and corporate counsel for Nexteer Automotive Corp., knew the right people to hand-pick for his team for Golfler.
“I did a lot of legal work for startups, and some of the Golfler team worked for those startups,” Pearsall said. “Everyone is self-motivated. Starting a technology company is a lot of work, and because of their past experience, I knew that these guys had an idea what they were in for. We have a great team.”
Another officer of Golfler is Wayne Law 2013 alumnus Jordan Jones of Dearborn, who is an attorney at Michigan Auto Law and also senior vice president of corporate development for Golfler, which has 24 employees and counting.
“We have a great product and a really good team behind it,” Jones said. “You have to have the right team. Plus, Jason is a brilliant guy. I met him on the very first day of law school, and now he’s one of my best friends. He’s just a natural leader.”
Jones credits his ability to aid Golfler’s corporate development to his work as a student with the Business and Community Law Clinic under the direction of Assistant (Clinical) Professor Eric Williams at Wayne Law.
“Out of all the things I learned in law school, that clinic work was extremely helpful in Golfler,” Jones said. “It’s exactly the same things I did with the clinic, and that was super helpful because it wasn’t my first go-around.”
And they’re all excited about the success of Golfler so far. Golfler is officially partnered with more than 20 golf courses, and many more are eying the venture.
“We profit around $1,200 per golf course each month,” Pearsall said of the 99-cent delivery fee charged to the golfer and also to the golf course in connection with each on-demand order generated through the app.
Golfler has drawn venture capital investors, and Pearsall is working on a possible joint venture with some Chinese investors, he added. “We were selected by both Google and Microsoft to be part of their incubators. The incubators and the awards that we’ve won have helped us to receive interest and offers from venture capitalist firms.”
Pearsall’s Wayne Law connections and legal training, and that of Jones and Oyelade, have been a major advantage. “Startups have two primary expenses – development fees and legal fees,” Pearsall said. “With three lawyers and a law student on the team, we’ve managed governance, securities compliance, licensing and transactional work, among other issues, in house, which has freed up more investment money for development. The doors that were opened through Wayne Law helped to make this possible.”
Pearsall, who left his job as corporate counsel in January to devote his time to Golfler, is an avid golfer himself and the son of John Pearsall, who managed golf courses for the Muskegon Country Club and the Pine River Country Club in Alma. John Pearsall is senior vice president of sales for Golfler.
Surprisingly, most of the other company principals aren’t golfers, although they’re starting to play the sport their boss loves so much.
Pearsall is also a self-acknowledged “computer geek.” In fact, he was sole founder of Performance PC, a technology company that generated more than $1 million a year in revenue after just its second year. Pearsall sold the company in 2010 before attending Wayne Law.
Oyelade said Golfler’s great app is just one reason for the startup’s speedy success. The other reason is Pearsall himself.
“Every once in a while, I say, ‘Jason, you need to sleep.’ He’s up almost 20 hours out of every 24,” Oyelade said. “I would say our success is largely due to his tenacity. He leads the team very well. He’s very modest, but he’s still the main driver on the course.”