President of Chirp Golf & Business Development at 8AM Golf
Interview with Matt Ward
Charlie Grace is the President of Chirp. After an impressive junior golf career and playing golf competitively for Vanderbilt University, Charlie, 32, worked on Wall Street for ten years before joining 8AM Golf in 2018. Grace focuses on emerging opportunities across the portfolio of golf businesses and manages player relations.
THE GRACE STORY —
I feel fortunate to work with 8AM Golf and our most recent venture, Chirp. We focus on investing in and building companies that help golfers have more fun and the game of golf more inviting. That’s why we created Chirp—to change the way we watch golf.
I grew up around golf and played competitively at Vanderbilt University. Coming out of college, I knew I wanted to work in the golf industry in some capacity. After working on Wall Street for 10 years, I was fortunate enough to join the 8AM Golf team in late 2018 and focus on the intersection of technology and golf.
Chirp’s focus on golf benefits from the social nature of the sport and its avid fan base, and we’re excited to bring these fans together around a new digital experience that transforms the way we watch live golf on TV.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
My driving passion is connecting people—especially by using the game of golf to do so. Whether it’s introducing a friend to the sport or showing them how to make a fun prediction on the next shot during the U.S. Open, golf is a powerful tool that can connect people from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Companies and organizations throughout the broader golf industry are all seeking ways to engage Millennials in golf. Is there a specific formula that can work given the reality that traditional golf takes up vast hours, is hard to play and costs a substantial amount of money to stay engaged with?
At 8AM Golf, we look for businesses that both attract new people to the sport and also help existing golfers enjoy the game more than ever. I think you’ll continue to see greater interest in golf as a result of a variety of new touchpoints that exist—apps like Chirp and places like TopGolf make the sport far more fun and far less intimidating.
Professional golf is a primetime sport meaning most weekend afternoons when you turn on NBC or CBS, you are watching the PGA Tour. We wanted to find a better way to engage with pro golf and that’s the genesis of Chirp.
How does golf benefit as a sport in diving headfirst into wagering when the history has been in keeping gaming at an arm’s length away?
To be clear, Chirp is a completely free-to-play gaming app where top finishers can win amazing prizes and experiences. We are already seeing people who don’t typically watch golf engage with the app and become hooked to Chirp’s “live” shot by shot prop bets as the TV coverage unfolds.
The PGA Tour has definitely begun to embrace golf gambling and understands the potential to grow their audience and engage with these fans in different ways; however, I don’t think they can afford to alienate the more traditional golf fan who is not interested in gambling. That is why Chirp will always have a free-to-play game that can appeal to all fans.
What was the genesis for the development of CHIRP?
Our goal in building Chirp is to enable new social behaviors among die-hard golf fans, to engage casual fans more deeply, and to bring a whole new audience to the game. Much as fantasy football has been so impactful for the sport of football, we hope that this new format we’re introducing with Chirp will be great for the game of golf.
We hope that Chirp will bring more fans to the game of golf by making watching golf a more social experience. By offering compelling prizes and experiences weekly, we hope Chirp will get fans excited to compete week in and week out.
Curious to know — how did the name come about?
A small group of us went into the office on a holiday Monday with the sole intention of naming the product. We wanted its name to be just one word— something simple and catchy that quickly conveyed the social element of competing with your friends. Since live betting is the app’s key feature, a colleague mentioned the word “chirp” because she knew the app would constantly be chatting with and chirping at the user. We all loved it instantly and ran with it.
The concept involves no risk bets — but there are payoffs for those successful. How does that model work from a business standpoint for all involved?
Everything about Chirp is free to play. We are offering unique prizes and experiences that entice users to compete weekly. From a business perspective, there are various companies interested in possible sponsorship integrations into the app. We were fortunate to have Cisco as our launch sponsor during the U.S. Open.
Frankly, must all sports be involved in gaming for their continued success in securing and maintaining fans?
Sports gaming apps that are optimized to create an amazing experience for a specific sport are the future. Today’s landscape of gaming apps is consumed by lots of generic apps that are designed for far too many sports—when you have an app designed for football, basketball and baseball, for example, you lose that specificity that creates a special experience on a niche level. Chirp is dedicated to golf, and that’s what sets it apart.
Today, the experience that has been led by fantasy football has been applied across all other sports. Moving forward, we believe that innovative companies will try to deliver the excitement and gratification that fantasy football delivers to its fans through specific and differentiated user experiences on a sport by sport basis.
We truly believe we are at an inflection point in the way fans interact with all sports. The “in-game” or “live betting” opportunity to engage both casual and hardcore fans is the future of watching sports. The “set it and forget it” wagers will always be available, even in Chirp, but offering the unique ability to make predictions and place wagers in real-time is the future of gaming apps.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
Accessibility to the sport. I believe strongly in increasing opportunities for players of all backgrounds to get involved in the game of golf at an earlier age. Golf has been an invaluable asset to my personal and professional life and I want to share this game with as many people as possible.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
I was fortunate to play with Tiger a few times growing up. During the college recruiting process, I wasn’t getting many offers and I became disillusioned. Tiger kept pushing me to work harder, compete more and not give up on my dream of playing college golf. He always said, “I look forward to playing practice rounds with you on Tour someday.” While I never did compete on Tour, I played my way onto Vanderbilt’s golf team and became a solid contributor to the program.
You’ve got one round to play and three slots to fill out your foursome. Where would you play and who would be joining you?
Augusta National with Tiger, Jack, Arnie—three legends of the game.
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