Maine Startup mCaddie Raises Angel Funds for Golf App

Quick: Name a consumer passion that generates twice as much revenue as Hollywood movies; in which virtually all of the participants, by definition, have disposable income and an ambition to improve their performance; and which counts among its devotees millions of business executives who carry around gadgets like smartphones.

If you named golf, you were correct. So it wasn’t a stretch for four young tech entrepreneurs from Portland, ME, to pick the sport as the target market for a mobile application that takes advantage of the built-in GPS features of modern smartphones like BlackBerrys and iPhones.

Called AccelGolf, the app duplicates the functions of expensive dedicated GPS golf scorekeepers/rangefinders, showing players the distance to each hole. But it also goes a step beyond, analyzing users’ own play, as well as a large database of historical data from other players, to advise them about the right club to use in each situation. (See the video below.)

The company behind AccelGolf, mCaddie, was one of nine startups to graduate from the TechStars startup boot camp in Boston last summer, and quietly announced this month that it has raised $600,000 in angel funding. It’s beta testing its app on a group of more than 40,000 golfers right now, and plans a public launch of the app when golf season starts in earnest this spring. But it’s spreading the funding news now because “we wanted to let people know we’re still alive and working hard to build the best sports analytic platform out there,” says CEO William Sulinski.

Sulinski says he’d like to reveal the names of the startup’s angel investors, but can’t since each is affiliated with a large public company. However, two of the investors were among mCaddie’s mentors at TechStars, he says.

“TechStars has done an absolutely amazing job of bringing together mentors and investors and generating investor interest for us,” Sulinski says. “We had angel investors as mentors who were senior executives and were really excited about the company. So they priced the deal, and we had another very large main investor who came in later in the round.”

Taking angel funding from such experienced executives, Sulinski says, is “almost like having investors pay you to mentor you.”

Sulinski—who will tee up to participate in the “Mobile Smackdown” portion of Xconomy’s Mobile Madness forum on March 9—says the nine-employee startup will earn money in two ways. First, it will sell its app, which it’s building with the assistance of Portland-based mobile app development house TapTapas, through Apple’s iTunes App Store and RIM’s BlackBerry App World. (The company launched a version for the BlackBerry Storm last night.) Second, it will charge a quarterly subscription fee for premium features of the app, such as advanced Web-based analytics that show players how they’ve performed under different circumstances.

Eventually, Sulinski says, the company could also sell hyperlocal advertising through the app, and license the data it collects to club manufacturers.

Maine may sound like an improbable place for a mobile application startup, but Sulinski says mCaddie has benefitted from financial support from the state of Maine (through the Maine Technology Institute) and also “has incredible support from the Maine golf community,” including a PGA instructor who is part of the company’s full-time staff. “Portland also has one huge advantage, which is really cheap office space,” says Sulinski. “We actually have an office on a golf course.”

AccelGolf Video

Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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