The start-up tee time booking assistant easily connects golfers with courses that have available last-minute tee times
If someone looked into Jake Gordon's mind, what the person would see would surely emulate something like gear shifts, crankshafts and machinery all working in cadence and symmetry. After all, there is no "off" switch for an entrepreneur.
Several years ago Gordon, after quickly rising through the ranks at Accenture in ventures and innovation, took a gamble to go out on his own. Long enamored with entrepreneurship and emerging technologies since his wrestling days at Muhlenberg College, his timing to make the leap coincided with what, at the time, was pretty much a trivial matter. Or, put better, it was just an innocent action that got the levers in Gordon's head moving.
During COVID, when bustling lives came to a halt, Gordon and his friends became obsessed with golf. Gordon was nominated as the "unfortunate tee time soul" in his group to find places to play in the Los Angeles area. That was until it became an exercise tantamount to finding a reservation at the trendiest restaurant in Beverly Hills on a moment's notice.
"I asked him what made him start the company and he said, 'I was just trying to book a tee time. Who knew it was so difficult,'" says Amanda McBride, a longtime financial services industry mentor to Gordon.
That frustration with booking a tee time led Gordon and Dathan Wong to found Noteefy, an automated tee time assistant and waitlist solution for golfers and courses. The solution not only improves the booking experience but also streamlines efficiency while bolstering course revenue.
It was as simple as that. Gordon says he would have 10 web page tabs open, hitting refresh simultaneously or he would make endless calls to pro shops hoping the golf gods would shine a smile upon his group. There had to be an easier way.
"That was shocking to me," Gordon says, "because as someone coming from the tech world, I couldn't believe how archaic the process was. Here I was spending all my time looking for tee times. For the initial hypothesis, I talked to a number of operators and golfers, and both sides reiterated that was just the way it is."
So it came to this: without such a relationship with the aggregators, hopeful golfers would need to continue smashing the refresh button to book a tee time. Gordon dug deeper with analytical data and financial instruments.
He discovered last-minute cancellations, normally within 24 hours of a tee time, were a sore issue for course operators. It meant close to 20% of their tee times were going poof, which translated into lost income. Lots of it. Gordon likened it to an airline seat going unfilled.
"I was finding that the average course was losing up to $100,000 a year from unfilled tee times that were getting canceled that would otherwise be desired," Gordon says.
With operators and golfers both feeling the squeeze, Gordon sought to figure out how to seamlessly connect supply and demand in a completely personalized way.
From that point, Gordon partnered with Wong, a former Microsoft brainchild. The two strenuously developed the Noteefy (pronounced "Notify") platform. Estimating the two put in more than 80,000 hours perfecting the product, Gordon built the bridge from course operators to golfers and vice versa.
For starters, the technology is customized to each course's branding. It integrates with a course's point of sale without requiring implementation. Tee times are virtually fed to the golfer, who doesn't pay anything. Noteefy sends real-time alerts via text message and email directly to golfers when tee times become available. It's all based on their personalized preferences, including day, time, and group numbers. From there, golfers book as they usually would on the tee sheet.
"We are now matching supply and demand in a personalized way so no golfer ever needs to call again," says Gordon, who received a Master of Science degree in management science at Lehigh University.
Seeing the impact of the product, Gordon and Wong filed for a patent on Noteefy's proprietary supply-and-demand golf software.
McBride isn't surprised. As an entrepreneur, Gordon seemed to heed her lessons about the three Cs: having courage, making the commitment and curiously asking questions as related to getting Noteefy off the ground.
"I try to be all those things all the time, but Jake is all those things all the time," McBride says. "The courage to step out and do something unique and different and take risks, it's what he's doing with this new space."
Without revealing the secret sauce, Gordon adds that it's leveraging new technology with the old. Wong and he are just applying it in a new way. He likened it to a popular airline flight aggregation website. When someone looks for a flight using that resource, the site aggregates a number of websites' data into a singular place. With Noteefy, instead of displaying real-time data, an assistant informs the courses and golfers when tee times are open based on queries.
To date, Noteefy has caught course operators' attention. More than 75 courses, including top operators KemperSports, Landscapes Golf Management, TPC, Bobby Jones and Touchstone, use Noteefy.
According to a 2023 KemperSports Golfer Insights Survey, 54 percent of golfers [were] “eager for new and improved ways to search for and book tee times online." KemperSports beefed up its business intelligence platform, TrueDemand, with Noteefy. The platform helps golfers secure preferred tee times at a preferred price at KemperSports courses nationwide.
KemperSports collaborated with Noteefy to launch the tool, becoming the first management company to introduce the industry-changing technology solution.
"Our focus is always on the customer, and as such, we are constantly looking at ways to evolve and innovate to deliver an enhanced guest experience," says KemperSports CEO Steve Skinner.
In July, Chambers Bay, located in University Place, Washington, which has hosted four USGA championships including the 2015 U.S. Open, came on board. In the first weekend of operation, its automated booking assistant, powered by Noteefy, had more than 1,130 individual searches and 600 sign-ups.
“The excitement we have seen with the Chambers Bay Noteefy launch has been incredible," says Wong, who also serves as Noteefy's CTO. "Coming from the Seattle area myself, I know how great of a course it is and how hard it can be to find a great tee time. Seeing the data to validate the demand and hearing from early customers is really special."
Says Chambers Bay general manager Zac Keener: "With record-setting demand, Noteefy is the right product at the right time."
Gordon finds similarities between his wrestling days and seeing Noteefy take off. In his freshman year at Muhlenberg, Gordon didn't win many matches, but the adversity taught him perseverance. Parlaying that into motivation, his tenacity paid off the next year, earning all-conference and all-academic honors.
"Wrestling is a big foundation for how I think," Gordon says. "It's just you. It's a total meritocracy. You can't blame the ref, you can't pass a ball, you can't make excuses. You're fighting someone your size. I see a lot of parallels with entrepreneurship. When you're a founder, it's on you to create the value."
For those who have known Gordon, it's hardly a surprise that he gave up a high-paying executive position to pursue a vision. He felt the itch ever since high school, infected with a desire to create and build. At Muhlenberg, he developed a business called DressedGPS! Marketplace for on-campus student rentals.
To that end, Gordon is wired differently than most entrepreneurs. Where some may feel like they're walking off a figurative cliff, Gordon embraces the kindred fear of the unknown. As McBride says, Gordon's ingenuity not only is impressive but infectious.
"There is a different intensity in the corporate world," says Gordon. "I don't view it as scary. I view it as the greatest opportunity ever. It's hard to create something people want. It's a starter phrase or maxim, but you have to build something people want."
If the courses wanting to integrate the Noteefy technology grow, then Gordon and Wong will have succeeded.