EXECUTIVES & ENTREPRENEURS

Trisha Goyal: For the Love of the Game

As she struggled to find a tennis match, the Break the Love founder decided to take matters into her own hands. Boardroom caught up with Trisha Goyal to discuss her disruption of the sport and what the future might bring.

When Trisha Goyal moved to Connecticut to tackle a high-stress job at ESPN, she needed an outlet. New to the community and in search of a tennis match, she conducted a quick Google to find a hitting partner and came up short. The deeper she went, the more frustrated she got. 

“I realized that when I was trying to figure out a way to play, I only had one of two options. I either had had to join this brick and mortar tennis club that typically costs a sizable amount … Or there were a lot of the women’s programs that took place in the daytime and I worked, so that wasn’t going to work out for me,” Goyal told Boardroom.

“I had to DIY it myself with Facebook groups, meetup.com groups, WhatsApp groups, email threads. As a busy professional, I just didn’t have time to deal with the logistics.”

Pretty soon, Goyal designed a solution that helped connect people both with others interested in a match and with a court where they could volley without worry.

In 2019, Break the Love was born.

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The tech platform connects tennis and pickleball players of all ages and abilities, and helps them find safe, vetted courts where they can play at whatever pace they like.

Boardroom caught up with the company’s founder to discuss how her quest to resolve a personal pain point developed into a community of thousands nationwide and how she came into position to disrupt the game.

Tennis, Anyone?

As a member of the digital product team at ESPN, Goyal wasn’t long on free time, but pined to reclaim the sport of her youth. She yearned for the ease that some of her coworkers found when they attended a Barry’s Bootcamp or a Soul Cycle class but finding an analogous option for tennis proved to be far more difficult and expensive.

I was looking for a flexible, convenient way to play consistently and in an organized way,” Goyal said. “When we launched Break the Love it truly was just a meetup. And what I realized when I created it was that we had over 3,000 people who signed up on a Squarespace page within the first two-and-a-half months.”

Photo Courtesy of Break the Love

She quickly understood that she was not alone in her frustrations. Pretty soon, she saw the community that she had sought begin appearing before her. She turned the meetup into a more official platform, creating an app that could link players with one another based on ability and desire for competition, and with available courts.

As it evolved, Goyal observed the community come together — and the competition heat up.

“By being able to kind of activate these groups, we now have created this platform where we activate group-based tennis and applicable activities across these underutilized spaces,” Goyal said. “We created a centralized way for people to discover and book a tennis activity, and do it in a flexible way.”

Trisha also saw a means by which to grow a sport that had meant so much to her throughout her life. Plus, the business took off as more people found themselves looking to tennis and pickleball to escape the doldrums of the pandemic. Tennis alone grew over 20% in 2020 after years of flatlining figures.

After leaving ESPN, she took a brief stop at Giphy, where she got a taste of the startup life. It was there that she realized she was ready to make the leap. As she saw her vision come into focus, a path forward presented itself.

“[I realized] we would also be able to help the sport continue to grow by allowing these municipalities or these tennis club owners, and even these homeowners, to have courts actually generate income to help keep these courts maintained,” she said. “That was the piece that made me realize, ‘oh, this could be a really interesting venture to like quit my job and go after.’ … [Break the Love] solves both those problems.”

Photo Courtesy of Break the Love

Growing the Game

As Break the Love began to take shape, Goyal looked around the tech industry for some inspiration. While there was not a precise comparison for what she was seeking to build, she braided together aspects of some big names that were making major moves.

In one interview, Goyal noted that she hoped to be the “Peloton of tennis.” She clarified to Boardroom, “From a competition aspect, yes. Plus, what Peloton did in the market was really defining.”

Similarly, she appreciated the way that Airbnb disrupted the travel world. But she sees Break the Love — and her approach to building it — as unique.

Goyal captured the attention of some major players. From Wilson to Naomi Osaka‘s coach Wim Fissette, Tory Sport by Tory Burch to Sakara Life, Goyal gained some big backers, and earlier this year closed a $2.5 million funding round. In the process, she’s assembled official partners, which she characterizes as a group that is “aligned with our vision to truly create access to the sport, which can manifest in so many different ways.”

While growing Break the Love, Goyal consistently taps into the braintrust that she’s built through the investment round.

“We got a really healthy mix of investors,” she said. “People from within the world of tennis, investors who are not within tennis but in the broader fitness space, investors who are in the sports tech space, but then also investors who have the real estate background.”

Game. Set. Match.

As Goyal looks to the future, she’s visibly excited about what’s next for Break the Love. While the company will focus on geographic expansion, following the data into new places and spaces across the country, it will also cater to younger players. But her vision doesn’t stop on the court.

“There’s been a rise in interest in outdoor activities, from camping, hiking, biking, et cetera,” Goyal said. “So, we are excited to eventually be able to empower anyone to be an athlete on their own.”

While the details of the expansion remain in process, her vision is laser-focused. And Trisha sees Break the Love as the lever of another company that’s been thriving for the last 50 years.

“That’s always been the motto: just do it. I think for us, it’s like, you want to be able to actually enable somebody to just do it.”

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