• Mon. Feb 6th, 2023



COVID-19: How 6 tech startups survived without the Future Fund

Soccer startup Flair revamped its entire business model to stay alive

Nii Cleland CEO of Flair Football

Nii Cleland, cofounder and CEO of Flair

Flair Football

Since launching in September 2018, “Flair Football”, as it was previously known, had attracted more than 25,000 young soccer players to its app, where they could create profiles, keep track of match outcomes, and swap skills. 

But when Prime Minister Boris Johnson instituted a nationwide lockdown in March, outdoor sport was brought to a standstill – and Flair with it. 

“The pandemic caught everyone off guard to some extent, but because our app relied on kids playing outdoor sport, we were hit particularly hard,” cofounder and CEO Nii Cleland told Business Insider. 

With user numbers tanking and no end in sight, Cleland and the rest of Flair’s top team opted for a radical change in direction: shutting down the app and transforming the company from a sports platform to social enterprise, focused on representing young people. 

Speaking about the decision, Cleland said: “We spoke to our board members and we were just completely honest. We put together a pitch where we pitted our current proposition versus the new one, and asked: ‘Who wants to stick with us?’

“You just have to be completely honest with yourself. Looking at the current situation, you have to think: ‘Would I try and start my company today, in this climate?’ If the answer’s no, it probably means you should do something else.”

Flair already has a number of partnerships with schools across the UK in place, and will start by surveying students and better understand their social and educational needs under COVID-19. 

Asked about the Future Fund, Cleland said: “It was one of those things where…they couldn’t save every startup. They had to put some criteria in place, and in the end, it just didn’t make sense for us to pursue it.

“I mean, we furloughed our employees, and that’s a form of support in itself, we were really grateful for that. It bought us a lot of time.” 

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