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BACKGROUNDER

Candon is the co-founder and CEO of SidelineSwap, an online marketplace where athletes buy and sell their gear. Before starting SidelineSwap he played and coached Division 1 Lacrosse at Holy Cross and he currently lives in Boston, MA. His grandfather Marty O’Kane, a former Marine and State Farm Insurance agent, taught him to golf – just not that well.

THE CANDON STORY

When I was in third grade, I asked my mom if I could try lacrosse. Baseball, hockey, and swimming had been my primary sports up until that point but a few friends in town had recently started playing and I wanted in. The first vivid memory I have from my lacrosse career was walking through Play-it-again Sports to purchase a used stick. We bought a silver and red Brine F22 Shaft with a black STX head.

With that stick in hand, I learned to play. It was the beginning of what would become a decent career, including 4 years as a starter and captain at the division 1 level. It was also the first purchase of what would become thousands of dollars invested in equipment to improve my game over the next decade. The stick was my first connection with a game that helped spark the idea for SidelineSwap. And after a decade of playing together, lacrosse is the reason my cofounders and I had the trust and confidence in each other to partner up and build a business that’s now helping hundreds of thousands of athletes start, or continue, their athletic careers.

Cofounders Brendan Candon left and Anthony Piazza right

As I got older, my hockey skates and baseball glove were retired, and my active time not spent on the lacrosse field started being spent on the golf course. In college, my teammates and I would spend spring afternoons at Pachachog golf course in Worcester, MA. Summers were spent catching up with friends from home at Lido Golf Club on Long Island, and this summer I’m on the hunt for a new home course in Boston.

Sports, lacrosse and golf in particular, have had a tremendous impact on my life. Every time I’m on the course, I think of my grandfather Marty O’Kane, who passed away in 2001, and am greatful he taught me to play. Through these sports and the people who taught me them, I’ve learned many of life’s most valuable lessons. And it all started with that trip to Play-it-again Sports. Today, I’m proud to be building the best marketplace for sports, and my hope is that the next generation of athletes will be taking about SidelineSwap when they tell the story of their first stick, glove, or set of clubs.

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What was the genesis for SidelineSwap?

Shortly after graduating from college, where I had played and coached lacrosse, I had to purchase new equipment. Rather than purchase a new set of gear from a local sporting goods store, I purchased the equipment I needed from a friend and saved a few hundred dollars in the process. The two of us began discussing how hard it was to find high-quality used sports gear, especially since a local used sporting goods store had recently closed. That’s when we decided to build SidelineSwap, an online marketplace that would connect athletes to buy and sell their gear. 

From the beginning, our goal has been to simplify the selling process for people who had never sold online before, and to make sports a little bit more affordable by helping sports families save money on their gear.   

How long was the process from original idea to actual implementation and start of the business?

We started discussing the idea in 2011 and launched an early version of the site in 2012 that had limited features and only focused on lacrosse. After a few years of “nights and weekends”, we decided to go all-in in 2015. We quit our jobs, raised some money from friends and family, and re-launched a drastically improved version of the marketplace that focused on high-cost sports. That’s when things really started to take-off. 

How does SidelineSwap separate itself from your competition?

We make it very easy for sellers to list their gear. Listings your item for sale only takes a few seconds, and once an item sells Sideline provides the seller with a prepaid shipping label so all you need to do is print, pack, and ship. Plus, our selling fees are lower than eBay (9% plus payment processing). Shoppers love our buyer guarantee and that they’re buying from a fellow athlete who has used the product. Every buyer can message directly with the seller using our chat feature to ask questions about the condition of the product or how it performs.   

Describe who your core customer is?

We built SidelineSwap for athletes – people who care about their game and who want to perform at a top level without spending top dollar. 

Plenty of companies tout customer service — define the term and how SidelineSwap assures customers complete satisfaction?

We take a lot of pride in our customer experience. To us, it means every buyer and seller has such a remarkable experience on SidelineSwap that they brag about us to their friends. That’s why we offer a buyer guarantee, and that’s why one of my co-founders, Nick, runs our customer service team. You’ll often talk to him directly, and I still pick up customer calls pretty much every day. 

What role does customer feedback play in your operations and can you provide one specific suggestion which you actually implemented in your operations?

We collect and share dozens of pieces of feedback from customers with our entire organization every day. Some of the feedback truly inspires us, like when we hear about a kid trying a sport for a new time because he or she could get the gear affordable, and some of the feedback is tough to hear, like when an item doesn’t arrive as promised. Recently, a lot of customer have requested the ability to receive alerts when new items hit the site that match their search criteria. We prioritized the feature and are launching it in the next couple of weeks.   

Biggest short and long-term challenges facing SidelineSwap?

In the short-term, we’re focused on raising awareness about SidelineSwap and activating as many sellers as possible. In the long-term, our goal is to make SidelineSwap the best place to shop for sports gear on the internet. 

If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?

I’d look for ways to speed up the pace of play to make it more enjoyable to a broader audience and generally easier to learn… possibly eliminating rules like not being able to anchor your putter on the green or penalties for grounding your club in a hazard.

The major golf organizations — USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, LPGA — are all seeking ways to attract new players to the game. If you were counseling them what would you advise be done?

Increase access by decreasing the cost to play. Making it easier to find affordable equipment is one piece of that and raising awareness of where junior players can learn the game affordably is another.   

Best advice ever received — what was it and who from?

“Maximize your luck surface area.”  – Brian Wang, my mentor at 500 Startups.

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For more info go to: sidelineswap.com/shop/golf

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