For an idea that started between friends at a BBQ, BOUNCE Middle East has come a long way. Over the past 12 months, the trampoline park has opened new facilities in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Lebanon, with another to come at Dubai Festival City before the end of 2019 and two more in the Kingdom next year.

The recent expansion is the continued realisation of a dream that began for CEO Doran Davies when he was still working as Director of Products for HTC.

“I was hosting a BBQ back in 2013 and my friend Ross [Milton, current BOUNCE MD] showed me a video of this place called BOUNCE in Australia. He asked me if I wanted to open one in Dubai and I’m a real sucker for a start-up – I love that sink or swim mentality. So I said yes. Now we’re business partners.

“One of things I thought about, honestly, was about what my kids would be able to say when asked what their dad did for a job. I thought it would be cool if their dad ran a trampoline park instead of working for a mobile phone company. It was a really conscious decision and I’m glad I made it.”

Licensing the BOUNCE brand from its Australian parent company, Davies and Milton opened the Middle East’s first trampoline park in Dubai’s Al Quoz district in 2014. A straightforward concept, its popularity grew quickly and further facilities were opened in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

“The key is that we offer a sports and entertainment option that is super simple – anyone can do it,” Davies explains. “When we opened in Dubai people were thinking ‘what the hell are you doing opening a warehouse full of trampolines?’ But there’s a beautiful simplicity to it. No skill is required, no upper age limit – we are not at the mercy of market trends.

“Now we are the largest international franchise partner of BOUNCE – we still have a close relationship with BOUNCE Australia as we were their first international arm. There is a lot of shared destiny there.” Expansion for BOUNCE Middle East has been careful and considered, with Jeddah and Doha the first non-UAE venues before the high-profile opening of the world’s first ladies-only trampoline park in Riyadh last December.

“Saudi Arabia is an obvious choice to go to when it comes to expansion in the sports entertainment market,” Davies says. “It is the biggest country by population and that population is very young, with spending power. The entertainment sector has previously been under-served so there has not been a lot for that young population to do.

“We had noticed that we actually had a lot of Saudi customers on vacation coming to BOUNCE in the UAE so it seemed a natural step. The sports entertainment space is begging to be filled and we know the authorities are certainly driving the growth of community-driven grassroots sports facilities. That’s really where we hit the sweet spot.

“We’ve been welcomed in with open arms and work with many of the bodies over there – the GSA [General Sports Authority] and GEA [General Entertainment Authority] have been really supportive around what we are doing. Last year the GEA even did our press release and supported our marketing for the BOUNCE Riyadh opening, helping with managing local media and the like. They’ve been great to work with.”

Deciding the right time in a product’s lifecycle to take it into a new market is always a difficult decision but Davies feels like BOUNCE has, so far, timed it right.

“When things are going well I think there can be a temptation to just go crazy with signing leases and expanding as quickly as possible. We’ve always felt that more important is judging the right location and the right people to operate the location. That might take time but then you have the foundation for a successful business.

“It was always the ambition of the brand to roll out across the region and I’m proud at what we’ve done. Could we have gone quicker? Yes, but we could have been slower too! There aren’t a lot of businesses in the current climate that can talk about the growth rate that we can.”

Dealing with the development and opening of physical locations has been at the heart of BOUNCE Middle East’s business model so far but there has been some exploration of alternative revenue streams ,

“There has always been a desire to move our experience outside of the four walls of the venue,” Davies says. “We’ve developed some mobile units and around 18 months ago we designed a custom trailer that could take BOUNCE to schools and corporate events. There is a lot of demand for it and you see when it is out at events that people love it.

“We also don’t want to restrict ourselves to just the traditional trampolines and we are looking at creating alternatives for a younger audience. For example we opened up a VR concept recently.

“My vision is that we effectively have a sports entertainment company that will have multiple offerings for multiple age groups and multiple segments. These will appear in multiple countries and on multiple sites in those countries.”

Having created a scalable business that appears to translate well to different markets and has potential for diversifying into other offerings, Davies admits BOUNCE is now starting to look further afield than the Middle East.

“Before I set up the business it was always the ambition to go far and wide,” Davies says. “The concept is robust and we have built a strong brand, a rich database and great awareness in the market.

“The GCC was the natural space for us to roll out as Dubai is our home – that was the first foray. But we are exploring plans outside the GCC right now and the vision absolutely goes beyond the region. When you’ve got the confidence in the product, the sky is the limit.”