The starting history of SportID. How this service came to life.

I have a task by my mentor Dima and the task is as follows:

Please write a DETAILED history of how SportID was founded and created. How did the idea came about (by whom), what were the emotions at the time, feelings, what was the initial trigger, what were your feelings at the time. Then tell the reader how it evolved from there, the key pivotal moments, and feelings along the way. 

Please try to make as detailed account as possible touching on all aspects of the creation. From the meetings you had, the things you actually said or remember saying, to pitching events – the history of the company creation in as much detail as possible. 

The history of SportID

This is not the first time I have to tell this story and I am used to tell it in a certain ways. The thing is that people tend to forget the details as time goes by and they polish the part of the story that they are telling all over again. This means more often than not, that the actual story starts changing a bit and people who were involved remember it differently. I am quite certain that this can go to an extreme so that participants of the same events can remember things totally differently as years and decades go by. This is the reason why we always have to consider that we will never ever know the real truth about all written history.

That being said, I can start with things how I remember them happening. It must have been the seminar of Estonian Company Sport Federation in 2011. Maybe in early 2012. Our aim of making the seminar was to get participants to Estonian Company Sports Games. So we organized a sports seminar for Estonian companies to help them being active and to help us to attract participants. It was not the first one. We had done similar events before. We discussed nutrition, about sports clothing, about training, about recovery. I remember quite some of these presentations that were held by really good presenters. Most of my knowledge about sport’s clothing came from this event where Simmo Kikkas who represented Craft in Estonia told about different layers of clothes. Ott Kiivikas held a wonderful presentation about how to eat reasonably etc. Really compelling stuff.

One of the certain things were that those seminars were organized in one of the companies that was the regular participant in our games. They had a chance to present their story and their activities and we could save money by not paying for the seminarroom.

For that specific event we invited a representative from Finnish Olympic Committee to talk about Company Sport in Finland. Mareena Huuska was a lady who came and gave a lecture on how they organize things in Finland. From what I remember it was not definitely so much better than what we did but it was certainly different. One thing I remember that they were doing was a big relay-race around a park in central Helsinki. Company teams were taking part and it was promoted as a really fun event. Companies having picnic, some people running. Fun and games all the way.

Another thing promoted was that the organization was maintaining the wellness budgets of the member companies. It was not that sophisticated at all from what I remember. At that point they collected the invoices from clubs and divided those among companies. Around 10 accountants were working and they only worked with bigger companies. 1000 employees was the minimum. From that time the system has developed a lot smarter but that was how it worked on 2011.

After all the presentations we had a seminar of brainstorming. Everyone could say out loud what they were thinking that they could improve or that Estonian Company Sport Federation could improve. From previous times it was a lot like people saying that now I have huge motivation to change things in my company and I will turn things upside down and inside out and we are going to be the most hugely active company in the world. This time a lot of them were saying that they need a service like it is in Finland.

I started thinking. I asked from couple of participants if they would actually be using the service if we started one and they said definite yes. My background from the university times was that I happened to do some php programming + some web pages to earn some money. I did pretty shitty job, comparing to today’s standards but I definitely got some experience how software could work for you. So I thought that we actually do not need 10 accountants but a web service.

The thing was, that I had not written code for 7 years and I had never written a line of good code in my life. Luckily I understood that, even though I hugely underestimated the work that needs to be done. So I decided to talk to my old classmate and friend Kaarel Sikk who is a really good and talented back-end programmer and generally very-very intelligent person and understands how things in life work.

I tried to talk him into another concept back in 2002, when I programmed myself as well. What I had in mind was basically a concept of something like Facebook is today. I am quite sure that at the time maybe 1000 more guys all over the world had the idea. I had programmed something like this for my own childhood friends. We could share photos and posts among each other, we had our own profiles etc. Our own limited version of Facebook for 15 people back in 2002. So I had an idea, that this could be global and that one person could belong indeed into several this kind of subgroups like our’s.

Kaarel was then kind of interested in the project but he was more adequate than me on evaluating the amount of work that needed to be done and said that “let’s look and see and maybe one day do the project”. That day never came. But then I called him to visit me again and presented another idea 10 years later – SportID. I already had the name and it took some mind-work as well, since I imagined that this could be like a personal sports profile + wallet for every person. He kind of liked the idea and this time I had also some money to pay him, unlike the last time when I just had an idea.

Anyway, we agreed that he will work on the code, which was a bit larger WP plugin at that time (which was later totally rewamped in 2014).

SportID launched in 1. august 2012

Another huge part of the start was convincing fitness service providers to join in. I visited I don’t know how many of them to hear that they can sign their own contracts with companies and do not need our service. They did not need us and for sure they were not willing to pay a cent to us. Fortunately for us, there was Indrek Raig from Estonian Postal service who told that he is so much interested in the service to run that I can talk in the name of their company. That seemed like a genius idea and it worked. I asked from the other interested companies their permission and I got it. So now I did not represent a company SportID, but Estonian Postal Service and Airport of Tallinn and Elisa and Nordea Bank. With this permission, the doors started to open from the clubs side. We got the actual contracts with them. Things started to look much better. I was even so thankful to Indrek, that I gave him later some small shares in the company without him ever asking for these and have forgotten and forgiven all the shit that he has done after that. 🙂

Anyway, 1. August 2012 we were ready to open the doors for our first customers and launched an actual service for them. I considered that the hard work was done by then, but I guess I was wrong. But that is a set of at least dozen other stories.

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