By Polina Marinova
February 10, 2017

Max Goldstein worked at one of the most admired companies in the world — Google.

During his four years at the tech giant, he helped launch its social network, Google Plus. He took away a big business lesson from that experience: a product needs a compelling reason to exist in the market.

“You really have to solve a user problem,” Goldstein says. “We had all the resources in the world, [but] we couldn’t get that many people to engage with it.”

In the meantime, Goldstein was also managing Google’s sports partnerships when he realized something – European football clubs had no problem generating user engagement. He and his former Google colleague Cameron Morris began digging into the data. Goldstein used Google Trends to see that search volume for soccer dominates any other event (see how Google searches for the World Cup compare to the Super Bowl).

That’s where it got interesting: the top countries for relative search volume came from countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria. “Because many of these markets are still at 8% to 10% Internet penetration, the very first thing that people do when they come online is look for soccer scores.”

So Goldstein and Morris quit their comfortable jobs at Google, and started building Gol Labs. The company’s first product is GolChat, a mobile chat platform that allows users in emerging markets, primarily Africa, to chat with other fans and check soccer scores.

Today, Goldstein plans to white-label and sell access to his proprietary technology to larger companies. But building the company hasn’t been easy. Goldstein had a tough time pitching investors on his idea and had to change his original business model to make sure the business was on a path to profitability.

“Building a company is essentially, ‘How determined are you to run through a wall? And if you can’t run through that one, find a different wall to run through,’” he says. “It’s all about perseverance.”

Watch the video here to hear about the lessons Goldstein has learned as a first-time founder.

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