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September 1, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Social-networking developer sees future in amateur sports

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Joe Schoenmann

Andrew Crump is bringing his company, Bluefields, to Las Vegas to launch a social networking website/app designed to make it easier for the various amateur sports groups to organize, inform and update players on everything from practice schedules to game times.

Amateur sports is a $20 billion U.S. industry and some 2.3 billion people participate in amateur sports worldwide.

In Las Vegas alone, thousands of people, young and old, play soccer, kickball, football, softball, baseball, basketball and more.

Now a startup company from England, with help from venture capital group Vegas Tech Fund, is moving to Las Vegas to launch a social networking website/app designed to make it easier for the various amateur sports groups to organize, inform and update players on everything from practice schedules to game times.

It’s called Bluefields and 15 months ago a version of it was chosen as one of Europe’s “PepsiCo10,” a corporate competition that sought, from 130 entries, “innovative technologies.” Bluefields proved its viability through a demonstration that was able to sign up 60,000 people, mostly soccer players, in about seven weeks.

Then last fall, Andrew Crump, Bluefields' 28-year-old CEO, was in Silicon Valley at 500 Startups, which defines itself as providing “early-stage companies with up to $250,000 in funding.” Part of the challenge and grind of being a startup is getting seed money, finding “angel” investors and going through round after round of fundraising as the product is developed.

Andrew White, of Vegas Tech Fund, spotted Bluefields, talked to Crump and made what Crump found an audacious offer.

Come and check out Las Vegas.

“We thought it was crazy and seemed silly, really, to consider Las Vegas,” Crump said of himself and his team. Besides, they grew up in England and could still set up business there. Further, Crump is married and a father of two; moving to a foreign country would be a daunting prospect, to say the least.

At the same time, Crump added, the United States “is the place to be for tech startups, finding funding, creating business relationships or finding people to mentor you.” Las Vegas was potentially attractive due to economics: it’s cheaper to live here, so you can raise less money and have a higher standard of living.

The real tipping point came, he said, when they experienced downtown Las Vegas.

“There’s really something quite special happening here,” Crump said. “When you begin your startup, you don’t do it for the money – well, some do – but you realize that it’s about doing something you love and making an impact, and that’s exactly what’s happening here in Las Vegas.”

Bluefields will be free to use for players, coaches and organizations. The potential for revenue is likely to come via tie-ins to sports apparel and equipment manufacturers eager to sell to an online network devoted solely to amateur sports enthusiasts.

Crump hopes to have the Bluefields website operational over the next few weeks.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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  1. Ninety-percent of business startups fail, regardless of where and how they start. I hope the Sun archives all their stories so that in a few years we can look back and see what percentage of downtown start-ups succeeded, in comparison to the overall statistics.