Silbo, a digital marketplace designed to connect sports referees with amateur sports leagues, has raised a $1.1 million seed round from IDEA Fund Partners and Dantes Investments. This is the second seed round for the North Carolina-based startup after a $1.3 million round last year.
“We’ve found tremendous product and market fit, and our product is performing flawlessly,” CEO Brendan Szulik tells Hypepotamus.
“These funds will be used to continue our market expansion. Not only do we plan to increase the number of metro areas in which we operate over the next 12 months, but also drive greater market ownership in our existing locations.”
Silbo levels the playing field for up-and-coming referees and gives them access to new amateur games across the sports spectrum, often only shared in small networks.
A referee can jump on the platform after being vetted by the Silbo team. Once there, the ref can create a profile with their experience, availability, and preferences.
The app’s artificial intelligence component matches the referees with posted amateur game jobs in their areas. The referees can see their gig schedules. Silbo currently focuses on sports for children between 8 and 12 years old.
“We’re able to find a referee’s overall reliability and overall score as a referee, not necessarily based on whether they call balls and strikes properly, but what their peers think about their approachability, which really matters in recreational youth and adult sports games,” Szulik told Hypepotamus earlier this year.
After the game, the referee gets paid immediately, instead of waiting months for a check.
“We’ve created a powerful recommendation engine so officials see available games tailored to their own history and preferences,” he says.
“[In the process], we have accumulated the largest database of officiating information in the world.”
Szulik says that Silbo has more than 6,000 officials on its roster and have connected them to more than 5,000 games monthly.
“We’ve gained insights into everything from game fee (aka referee wage) elasticity to average commute times so we may better understand and advocate for the sports official.”
“Over the past year, I’ve watched Silbo improve the lives of countless officials, administrators, coaches, parents, and players. They’ve proven their disruptive model’s scalability and viability. We’re excited to continue our partnership with them,” said IDEA Fund Partners’ Lister Delgado in a statement.
Silbo currently has 13 employees and will be adding more to the sales and growth teams. The app is currently available in seven states and more than 20 metro areas.