Sports enthusiast Jonathan Azouri says a love for hockey and a lack of available space to play are what motivated him to launch what is quickly becoming one of North America's leading sports-booking platforms with his sister Maya and his best friend Ryan Mintz.
Asking themselves why booking a sports venue can't be as simple as booking a meal at your favourite restaurant, the Azouri siblings and Mintz created the app Catch Corner, which helps sports enthusiasts find facilities sitting empty.
"I was always looking for a place to play hockey with friends, and it wasn't until the evolution of booking platforms like Google Flights or Open Table, that we saw an opportunity to create something that could revolutionize the sports and recreation space," Azouri said.
Launched in Toronto in 2019, the app allows users to rent sports facilities like ice rinks, basketball courts, batting cages, even Pickleball courts, by the hour.
As COVID-19's spread shuttered many small businesses, Catch Corner caught the attention of Sports Illustrated, which partnered with the app to bring it to more cities after its success in Toronto.
Today, Catch Corner manages over 350,000 partnerships across Canada and recently expanded to the U.S., generating over $20 million from bookings alone.
How does Catch Corner work?
"People go on the app or online, and can see every single thing that's available and then once they like it, they can instantly book it," Azouri said. "There's a lot of people who will use it for youth practices or skating, whether it's a birthday party or just an informal pickup game, where (they can play) with friends."
If what you are looking for is a game of hockey with friends in an NHL-sized arena, for example, the MLS Arena in Scarborough will set you back $300 per hour. Regular rink rentals across the Greater Toronto Area are available anywhere from $50 to $300 per hour, depending on the facility's size or requested sport.
Once you have selected the venue and time slot, you are taken to a checkout screen where you can view photos, videos or 360 degree renderings of the facility you are booking to ensure it meets your needs. After completing your purchase, you will receive confirmation of your booking from the venue.
The Toronto siblings' hard work and success has not gone unnoticed, with Forbes naming them top 30 Under 30 in sports this year.
While Azouri says he has experienced prior successes with startups, making the Forbes 30 under 30 is not something he envisioned achieving.
"When I was around 24, I was in a bunch of group chats, and it wasn't until recently when scrolling through them, that I had sent someone a message about how crazy it was that I knew someone that had been named on the list," Azouri said.
He says the years spent developing the app was a lonely process that resulted in a lot of blood, sweat and tears from the trio, leaving them wondering at moments if the app would see the light of day.
Azouri says ultimately taking the leap of faith on an idea, and embracing failure as part of the journey are important ideals he and his sister held while growing Catch Corner from a concept to what it is today.
"If you stop fearing, and take a step forward — even if you do fail, realize that it's not the end of the world, and that the sun rises the next day, and that you can move past that small sort of failure, then it really sort of makes the sky the limit," Azouri said.