Trine Falnes joined Spond as COO in 2019, and was made CEO in June 2020, at the height of the pandemic. Her first challenge was to keep the business running, with sport across the world impacted by the pandemic – and grassroots sport facing a crisis like never before. She aims to ensure that Spond reaches as many users as possible, while building out an incredible tech organisation of talented individuals. As a mother of three children, Trine spends most of her time outside of work enjoying their company. From a sports perspective, she has played football for most of her life and she is a huge fan of anything to do with sport.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Originally born in Norway, I grew up in Oslo and went to university in the UK and US. This is where I grew fond of the media and all things technology. This led to me working for various Norwegian and international media companies before making the move into technology to build out digital products and experiences, when Spond came into the picture in 2019.
Spond saves grassroots volunteers hours each week organising everything from attendance at training, to collecting match fees. In addition to this, Spond also helps clubs run digital fundraisers via the app.
All information processed through the platform complies with data protection and safeguarding regulations, keeping players, clubs, and coaches safe. Community clubs rely on Spond to coordinate activities and streamline processes, such as organising a junior team, that would otherwise take hours.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
Spond was founded by Per Otto-Wold in 2013, to help grassroots clubs with their organisational needs – and I was made CEO in June 2020. Everything we do and develop is a result of listening to and talking to our users. During the pandemic, that resulted in some incredible value creation.
How did you achieve awareness?
We are creating an app which is inclusive to everyone involved in sport clubs and group activities, from coaches, players, volunteers to administrators. We are different in the way that the app is free and ad-free, it is GDPR compliant, and everything can be done on one platform. Our users rave about how user-friendly it is, and our biggest marketing engine is our 1.4 million happy users who help us grow through word of mouth / spreading the word.
In recent years we are expanding globally, and we have been able to create valuable insights into the grassroots sport sector via our own data. This data led to the huge breakthrough story dubbed ‘The Emma Raducanu Effect’ in the Telegraph in December 2021. We have also been able to create studies that demonstrate awareness of vital issues like safeguarding in sport, and the importance of data protection.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Last year we secured significant funding from Verdane. The pandemic has been a catalyst for digitisation across the world, and we’ve been grateful to receive fantastic feedback from users on the app’s ability to ensure continuity in teams and groups during periods without physical activity. The investment has further accelerated growth in markets across the globe.
What are the key successes?
I’m extremely proud of our ability to remain agile, even amidst challenging circumstances like the pandemic, which still saw 34% YOY growth for Spond. We now have over 1.4 million monthly active users relying on Spond’s services to run their grassroots sports clubs.
However, more than that, I’m proud of the talented, diverse and ambitious team we’ve built at Spond. Our people are key to our success and we hope to keep adding smart people to the team to continue growing our product.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The shift from work-life balance to life-work sustainability. As a mum and CEO, that is something I am passionate about. The days of working from home and with everything digital, boundaries can become blurred. But on the flip side, there is a lot more flexibility when it comes to finding ways of working that suits family life and boosts productivity. Women are working more than ever and, in addition to our daytime jobs, still often take on most household responsibilities. So, making it all work is a challenge. Work-life sustainability is key – not just to attract women, but to keep them too.
What are your plans now/for the future?
My aim is to ensure that this amazing platform gets in front of as many users as possible, while building out an incredible tech organisation of talented individuals.
I have a ‘people first’ approach, and I have made it a goal of mine to make sure Spond is a place where we welcome you for who you are. We strongly believe that diversity of experience, perspectives, and background will lead to a better workplace for our employees and a better product for our users. The Spond product is for everyone, and that same inclusivity of course goes for our team.
Spond is filled with brilliant minds and individuals, but ultimately the biggest thing for me, in terms of the organisation, is creating a company with a collaborative, intentional culture. I can be tough and demanding, but my goal is always to lead with kindness. Spond exists to enable happy active communities and a sustainable future for grassroots activities, and that is what fuels us every single day.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Always challenge yourself to take risks, and – when in doubt – up your courage. Those big milestones are achieved through perseverance and consistency, and by showing up and giving it your best shot every single day.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Find a mentor or someone inspiring outside of your immediate workplace who you can learn from, ideally another woman. I am so grateful to those who have mentored me.
Engage or network with people who have similar roles to the ones you aspire to or solve problems that excite you. If you do not have a tech background but have other killer skills and time to put in, offer to support or advise start-ups in your area of expertise.
Never stop learning! The beauty of the world we now live in is that you can develop and improve any skills through online courses and training. Pick up something that intrigues you and continue building your skillset.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
I can’t limit it to 5 people – professionally, my team inspires me a tremendous amount, so instead of 5 people I will say the one team, Spond, that is always pushing to make things better, for everyone.
Personally, it is obviously my kids – how they have the beautiful ability to live in and cherish the moment, to find bliss in anything from soap bubbles to a fresh drizzle of snow to budding flowers. To always capture that moment of joy and be present is a huge inspiration.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
During the pandemic, “This too shall pass” was a comforting reminder providing hope.
The idea that ““Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” has always stuck with me, as a powerful reminder I always have a choice to make.
“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it” is incredibly important and true.
And, it tends to come out on International Women’s Day but I champion it on all of the 364 other days as well: “Here’s to Strong Women: May We Know Them. May We Be Them. May We Raise Them.”
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