We’re venturing into the world of sports entrepreneurship in the latest edition of our Industry Insider series as we speak with Luke Verbeek, founder and CEO of Homefans!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Luke Verbeek and I’m the founder and CEO at Homefans, the global marketplace for sports experiences. I’ve been with Homefans since 2015 when I founded the company and have been enjoying the ride ever since.
Before Homefans I graduated from the University of Enschede, Netherlands with a degree in Law in 2013.
What do you do in your current role?
I get to wear a lot of hats within Homefans. My role in the company is mainly focused on the strategic / creative side of the business. I set out strategies for the team, and I am also involved on the marketing & the product side of Homefans.
What does a normal week look like for you?
We’re a fully remote company with different time zones at the moment so I’ve gotten to structure my week to my liking. I’m in the Netherlands, my co-founder is in London and there are other team members in the UK, France, Argentina and Serbia. Workdays include strategy meetings and video calls with the team and external relations.
No week is the same at Homefans, and I think as for any startup there are always new challenges or tasks coming up.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
Hard work, patience and meeting the right people. I never really wanted to do anything with Law as it was not my passion. I’ve always loved sports (mainly football!) and I wanted to do something around football and sports in general after my studies.
After a business internship in the UK, I came up with the idea of Homefans due to my personal experiences after watching football abroad and wanted to pursue my goal to connect fans for memorable sports experiences and to become the go-to platform for fan-led sports experiences. So I’ve always worked on developing Homefans at the early stages and on getting traction with our business.
It hasn’t been easy and it involves a lot of hard work and hurdles, but I still enjoy the journey of a startup and helping fans to tick off their sports bucket lists around the world.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
The number one focus is to grow Homefans and get the team focused on the vision to build the No 1. global platform for sports experiences.
I’m mostly involved around the strategy and roadmap to make the next steps happen and always think ahead together with the team. Aligning the team to work towards the same goal and help them along the way is an important part of my work.
What’s been your favourite moment whilst working in sports?
My favourite moments so far have been the opportunity to experience different football cultures and matches around the world with Homefans. From the most intense rivalries in Europe to my absolute bucket list dream: Argentina.
It was an unbelievable adventure in Buenos Aires with seeing a match of Boca Juniors in the mythical La Bombonera as an absolute highlight of that trip. Meeting people & networking along the way around the world during these trips has also been fantastic.
Also reading / hearing about people’s experiences using Homefans to explore sports is very satisfying.
What do you think is next for your industry?
The pandemic directly hit our industry and forced us to rethink the concept of the fan experience. Empty stadiums, closed borders and biosecurity protocols meant that fans would have to find new ways of entertainment.
This pushed us to roll out a series of innovative experiences on our marketplace such as the Virtual Tours in collaboration with clubs and local hosts. Other technologies around fan engagement flourished throughout these past months and there are definitely established patterns in the industry by now.
However, we are true believers that nothing can replace the social connection around real life experiences and we think that the recent developments such as NFTs, Cryptocurrencies and other tech developments around the fan experience and fan engagement, are tools that leverage the ultimate goal: to connect with like minded people and to belong somewhere.
In your area of work, what is something you feel most people don’t talk about enough or focus on enough?
I guess it all depends on each company’s culture and the challenges they face. I would say that the changes in the way we work now will definitely arise in the future and it’s something vital to address.
We have worked as a remote team even before the pandemic, and it’s quite challenging. Sometimes you favour the independence and space that allows you to focus, but you definitely struggle to create a cohesive company culture (and an ideas-sharing environment) when the team is not physically together.
We are putting a lot of effort into strengthening our company culture as one of the key growth pillars of Homefans, utilising virtual tools and finding those sweet spots for a potential hybrid model in the future.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Learn, adapt constantly. This industry moves and evolves at such a rapid pace that the ones who succeed are the ones who are always at the front of these changes and evolutions.
Also learn from your mistakes, anyone in any industry will or can make mistakes. It’s important that you learn from it and always seek to do better. For entrepreneurs starting in the sports industry: If you are passionate about your idea, follow it no matter how big or small it is!
How to follow Luke Verbeek and Homefans…
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Luke Verbeek! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.