Team Excel scores with an assist from the Virginia SBDC - ICAP Program
Working with Richmond-area nonprofits on youth development programs, Johnathan Mayo noticed a problem: many of the young people he encountered lacked academic motivation. This realization sparked Team Excel, a “reverse fantasy sports” app that turns success into a game, organizing teams to compete with one another based on metrics like academics, attendance, and community service hours. More importantly, Team Excel transforms students into teammates.
Johnathan initially tested his business idea as a pilot program under a nonprofit — with impressive results. Over four years, students increased their GPA by an average of 27%.
“We saw kids holding each other accountable, pushing each other, motivating each other as part of a team to do better,” he says.
Johnathan quickly recognized that to scale Team Excel, he needed to pivot out of the nonprofit sector. In 2019, he registered as a Virginia benefit corporation, which allowed him to create a technology solution that he could scale. He also recognized that he needed guidance in order to grow his business.
Enrolling in the Virginia SBDC’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) offered Johnathan essential startup support and connected him with mentor Neil Agate and ICAP Director Josh Green. ICAP helped Johnathan analyze his business model and his marketing strategy, with a focus on customer discovery.
“ICAP really dug deep into your target audience,” says Johnathan. “You might have ten potential audiences, but they really helped you determine who your end customer is.”
ICAP’s advice continues to guide Johnathan. When he first started Team Excel, he focused exclusively on K-12 student-athletes. However, since the pandemic, he’s taken a broader approach.
“Chronic absenteeism and low engagement from students are such huge problems that schools are looking for solutions to service all of their students,” he explains.
Recently, Johnathan pivoted to marketing Team Excel as an enhancement tool that can be used by any existing school, nonprofit or sports team. In 2022, he launched Team Excel in 12 schools, hired his first full-time employee and launched a new website. Eventually, he foresees Team Excel expanding into higher education.
Throughout this impressive growth, ICAP has offered ongoing support, and Johnathan makes it a point to attend monthly meetings and keep up with his mentors.
“It keeps up an ecosystem of founders and mentors — people in the startup ecosystem in Virginia,” he says.
Johnathan readily recommends the Virginia SBDC-ICAP Program to any small business owner.
“Thinking about your journey in business, it was a really good starting point,” he says, “a network of people that really want to see you succeed.”