Student Profile: Omar Haroun '12, Founder of Sportaneous
What is the mission of Sportaneous?
Sportaneous harnesses location-based technology to make it easier for busy people to play sports or participate in group fitness activities with those around them at any time. Our mission is to get people more active by removing the barriers that currently exist for people who want to play sports or work out with others in their local communities.
Who is your target audience?
Although initially we thought our target audience would only be young professionals like ourselves, we quickly released that Sportaneous appeals to the 62 percent of Americans aged 18 to 65 who exercise regularly. This realization came when I was talking to an older surgeon about Sportaneous and he responded by saying, “This is incredible! How long an operation takes is so unpredictable that I can never commit to a tennis game in advance, but if I was able to propose a game an hour before the operation ended, I would definitely do that over going to run on a treadmill by myself.” That surgeon was 64 years old.
What businessschool classes are helping you right now in managing your business?
I'm in the Greenhouse Class right now with Professor Cliff Schorer and Brendan Burns. The Greenhouse Class has been an incredible experience and I have learned so much from the professors and my fellow CBS entrepreneurs. I highly recommend Greenhouse to any current or aspiring entrepreneurs.
What was the last insight you learned that influenced your current business approach?
When we launched our Beta in San Diego we learned ALOT from the feedback we received. One of the biggest things we realized is that even though it's relatively easy for us to acquire users (most active people who hear about this sign up), actually getting people to change their routine and log-in to Sportaneous every time they go to work out with others or play sports is a challenge, and requires incentives. After brainstorming with our team members Bill Walton (NBA Hall of Famer) and Luke Sassano (MLS soccer player), we came up with the “Sportaneous Hall of Fame.” Our Hall of Fame rewards our most active users with things like discounted tickets to professional sports games, free athletic apparel, etc. The New York Red Bulls recently partnered with us to offer free tickets and access to the pregame on-the-field warm up to the 15 users that play in the most Sportaneous soccer games in the month of April!
How do you use social networks to promote your business?
We leverage facebook so that you can log-in through facebook, and your profile photo automatically shows up in the games you play. This also allows you to Facebook friend everyone that you play with, before or after the game. Also, we recently won some awards in the NYC BigApps competition, put on by Mayor Bloomberg recently. Sportaneous won both the popular vote (from the public), and the second overall prize from esteemed judges that include Fred Wilson, Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter) Naveen Selvadurai (founder of Foursqure), and several other very prominent VCs.
What advice would you give to a Columbia student entrepreneur looking to launch their business while in School?
Go for it! You only live once, and even though it's never easy to start a company, doing so while you are in grad school is definitely a better time than when you're working for someone else. The Lang Center is doing a fantastic job of embracing and encouraging entrepreneurship, and there are so many resources here if you are entrepreneurial enough to seek them out.
Recent media mentions:
NYC BigApps 2/0 Winner - Sportaneous
NYC Announces BigApps Winners Roadify, Sportaneous, And DontEat.at
Winning Big at NYC BigApps 2.0
Mayor Bloomberg Announces Winners of NYC BigApps 2.0 Competition
NYC BigApps winner brings commuter info to phones