In 2006, then University of Utah student Trevor Meier started a website that at the time was a simple way to manage tennis tournaments for his racquet stringing customers.
“To make some extra money while in school, I started stringing tennis racquets. At the time, many of my customers were frustrated with the high cost, and quick exits to the USTA’s tennis tournaments. Knowing I knew a lot of tennis players, one of them suggested I host my own small tournaments and invite all my tennis friends to join.”
Little did he know, that idea would grow into a tennis website used worldwide, and it all began with these small, local tennis tournaments.
“It was a blast. We had 8 player tournaments where everyone would pay a $10 entry fee. $50 was paid to the winner, and $20, to the runner up. Most of the matches were even played in my parent’s backyard.”
Seeing the overwhelming response to these tournaments, Trevor started working on a fully automated version that allowed players to sign up and pay entry fees online. But, he would first have to learn how to make it all work. He knew he had to learn how to code.
“I remember buying the book ‘PHP & MySQL for Dummies’. I think I read the book in 2 days. I could barely put it down. It answered so many questions I had. From that point on, I was addicted to coding.”
A few months later, and many late nights and long weekends, Global Tennis Network (GTN) was born, and the website www.GlobalTennisNetwork.com was ready.
“When I first released Global Tennis Network, I remember being frustrated with how long it took for Google, Yahoo, and the other search engines to index the site. Back then, it could take weeks for your site to show up on the search engines, and even then, your site could be listed many pages deep in the search results.”
With automated tournaments up and running on GTN, Trevor looked for new ideas to expand the site’s functionality. He quickly came across a website with online tennis ladders.
“The tennis ladders on this website were very basic. I had heard of tennis ladder before, and I really liked the idea. I knew I could create a better system. And once I released a working version of the ladders, it was clear that it was going to be a very popular feature.”
So now, he just needed to get more people to join and use GTN. With no money to advertise, and no experience releasing a new websites, Trevor began promoting GTN anyway he could. He sent emails, contacted clubs, posted messages on forums, exchanged links with other websites, and even posted flyers at local tennis courts.
“It all worked, but it was an uphill battle. I realized that I needed to focus on making the site good enough that people would spread the word for me. I decided to completely focus on adding new features to the site.”
He next began working on a tennis court locator tool. He soon found that there was very little data available online. He would have to gather much of the data himself.
“It was very tedious. I would search tennis sites for any data I could find. I even used google maps to find courts visually. At one point, I outsourced some of the work to a guy I found online who lived in the Philippines. I paid him anywhere from 10 to 25 cents a court. That was a huge help.”
The tennis court locator tool on GTN was a big success, and with enough data, he next created GTN’s first iPhone app, “Tennis Court Locator”.
“The tennis court locator app never has made a lot of money, but players searching for tennis courts still brings in more traffic to the site then anything else.”
With these tools, GTN now started to grow faster then ever. And after just a few years, GTN reached a milestone of 10,000 members.
“I think it was around that time that the members of GTN began to see it’s potential. I was responding to hundreds of emails, countless phone calls, and even a trip to Ft Lauderdale to discuss a possible partnership. It was clear that there was a big demand for a site like GTN. I knew that I was on to something.”
The next few years, Trevor spent much of his free time attempting to add almost any feature the members requested.
“It was a ton of work. The members had so many good ideas. I could barely keep up. At the time, I had a full time job for another company, so I had to work on the site at night and on the weekends.”
With help and feedback from the GTN members, the site added tennis leagues, partner searching, a court scheduling tool, calculated playing levels, and most importantly, the ability to create your own online tennis communities called “networks”.
“GTN gives any player, anywhere in the world, the tools they need to create a network and organize their own ladders, leagues and tournaments. These networks have completely changed the way people meet and play tennis. We now have networks in 80 countries around the world.”
Along with over 1600 networks, there are now over 55,000 members, and over 120,000 tennis matches have been played through the site. And thanks to a tennis court submission tool, there are now over 28,000 tennis court listings. This is by all accounts the largest database of tennis courts in the world.
“It is cool to think that the work I have done is used by people all over the world. The site has connected so many people, and it is helping people play more tennis. It has been very rewarding, and I have meet a lot of great people along the way.”
Trevor still spends a lot of his free time answering emails, adding new features, and making overall improvements to GTN. Today, the site actually makes a small profit.
“Ideally, I would love if GTN made enough money that I could work on it full time. But until then, I will just keep working on it any chance I get.”