Why do I love sports, David? I’ll give you one answer: The Sandlot.
If I had one wish, there is a distinct possibility that I’d wish to be part of the Sandlot gang. Even for just one inning. Hell, I’d probably give up my firstborn to be friends with Benny the Jet.
For me, the Sandlot is summer perfected. It’s a movie that represents everything that I love about baseball, and about sports. An imaginative, carefree world apart from adult supervision, where baseball rules all. I wanted to live that life as a kid, and I still dream about it as an adult. Shag fly balls all day, hit the pool and pretend to drown just to get the chick in the lifeguard stand to give me CPR, camp out and roast some mallows, throw in some chew at the Fourth of July Carnival…the list goes on.
The point is, no matter how old we are, whether we are playing or watching, sports make us feel like kids again. Sports serve as an escape, a passage to a world that is care free. When you’re in the outfield, and a ball is hit, what do you do? You go catch it. That’s it. It’s simple. It’s perfect.
In the words of Benny the Jet: “Man, this is baseball. You gotta stop thinking. Just have fun.”
Think about what sports really are. Think about sitting in the stands at a baseball game. Think about how much money you spent on tickets, parking, beer, hot dogs and the jersey you’re wearing. Now think about what you’re actually watching:
Grown men throwing a ball and hitting it with a bat, and catching it if they can. Think about how much we pay and how many people are doing the same thing as you. And on top of all that, think about how many people are sitting at home, watching, and wishing they were where you are watching these guys throw around this little ball. It’s one group of guys playing against and trying to score more than another group of guys. It’s the same game 9 year olds play, just not quite as well.
Sports is a strange phenomenon. Even though I am aware of what I just said, I still love it. I still pay just as much if not more attention than you. I check ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, read sports magazines, watch Sportscenter—I even pay for a subscription to Rivals so I can pretend to be a recruiting insider. Hell, I’m trying to start a sports business. I can’t help it. No matter how aware you are or I am of the simplicities of the game—be it baseball, football, basketball—it just doesn’t matter.
We love sports and we love the players and we love the game because of the moments, the memories, that legendary play, that amazing drive. We love our dad telling the story of when he saw Secretariat win the Triple Crown. We still get just as angry when the Aaron Boone home run is replayed. That guy in the uniform who you idolize, whose poster is up on your wall, whose name is on the back of your jersey—some people don’t even recognize him walking down the street. But it doesn’t matter. Not to me, not to you, not to him. Some of you might not have the feelings I do. But for those who do, we may not know why—but we know we love sports, and we’re not going to stop anytime soon.
John Biggs’ recent article on TechCrunch, “Forget Incubators: Here Comes The Cauldron,” (http://tinyurl.com/875v7sb) presents a fascinating take on the highly regarded and extremely popular “accelerator” model for startups. He argues that the incubator often falls short on results and rarely lives up to its lofty promise for entrepreneurs due to the very environment it creates.
Instead of the standard incubator, where a handful of dissimilar startups are dumped into one community, Biggs’ suggests a “cauldron” or “anchor” model, where a large established company (think Google, Amazon, ESPN, etc.) creates a program to work alongside other startups that are battling to operate within the same industry. The idea here being that the startup lives as a kind of friendly parasite within the walls of a larger corporation as an endosymbiont (I hate science too … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endosymbiont), growing and gaining experience from a well-established company. The “anchor” then benefits by tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit that now exists within its community.
While this is an intriguing idea, to me it’s akin to throwing a bunch of baby seals into a tank with one voracious Great White Shark. (Note to self: call “Shark Week” producers with episode idea.) While the shark and baby seals share the same water (a.k.a. work in the same industry), there’s no guarantee that the shark wouldn’t just start chowing on those baby seals. I’d be terrified if I were trying to build Spogo within the confines of ESPN.They may not want to compete with us in the beginning, but what if we started gaining significant traction and stole some of ESPN’s mobile audience? As a baby seal, I’d be much too slow. ESPN could put together a team and pump out a product in weeks.
Aside from the competition aspect, I think there is merit to the traditional concept of an incubator. A social network startup may not have many similarities to a cloud-computing platform, but both companies are surely encountering similar obstacles along the way. I’d also likely rather learn from entrepreneurial mentors (which an incubator program would provide) than from a VP of sales at ESPN who worked his way up within the same organization.
The “cauldron” is bubbling on the surface with ideas, but is there a big hungry predator swimming under the surface, too? Keep in mind that Spogo is just starting to apply to incubators, and we’re just a baby seal, but, hey, we’re learning to swim fast.
Yes, that’s the line I decided to start with. I have writer’s block and it’s my first blog post.
I think I want to take this time to tell everyone about what our vision for Spogo is. As is true with all start-ups, the end product changes drastically from the first iteration, but we think we have a blueprint for a mobile application that finally makes sports social. Imagine this:
You are sitting with a group of friends at your favorite sports bar watching the game on Sunday. Your phone buzzes—Spogo is asking you what you think the result of the kickoff will be. You’re feeling lucky and select “Return of Greater than 40 Yards” and wager 30 points on it. The odds are 6:1.
The ball is kicked off, and the returner jets down the sideline and is finally knocked out of bounds after a 55 yard return. In real time, Spogo rewards you with 180 points. Your phone buzzes again, and Spogo prompts you with a local deal—150 points for a free beer—right at the bar where you are watching the game. You select the reward, unlock it with your points, show your phone screen to the bartender, and slug down an ice cold frosty—for free.
Just yesterday I quit a job that pays far more money than I likely deserve to start a company with my best friend. I’m scared out of my mind, but I couldn’t be more excited.
Today, Friday the 13th (uh-oh…) 2012, David and I officially start Spogo. What started months ago as an idea over gchat, has suddenly become a real opportunity. For months we worked 80+ hour a week jobs and gave Spogo our best effort whenever we had the time. In the beginning it was just something fun to think and to talk about. We’d day dream over gchat about how incredible it would feel to get up from our cubes, belt out a “Screw the man! I’m outta here”, and just walk out of our respective offices. It kept us entertained as we sucked down coffees and rotted away in our desk chairs.
After a few months we started to get really excited about Spogo. Our idea had evolved from a day dream into a potential reality. Suddenly we were scheduling meetings with advisers on weekends, working on pitch decks late at night and setting up calls with lawyers during lunch breaks. We’ve slowly but surely made progress. And over the past few weeks we reached a tipping point. It was time to make one of those game changing decisions.
The only way to give Spogo a fair shot is to leave our jobs and go after it with all that we have. So that’s what we are doing. Sure it’s a risk. A big risk. But really, what’s the worst that could happen? If not now, then when? We have an idea that we truly believe in and will do everything in our power to share the vision and make it work. If it doesn’t, life will move on.
Without a doubt my life is going to change. From six figures to zero figures. Filet mignons to Hamburger Helper. Grey Goose to Aristocrat. But these are all irrelevant. I’m finally going after something with 100% dedication. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that. I’m prepared. I’m ready. While the decision isn’t made in blind faith, it certainly qualifies as a leap of faith.
A couple weeks ago when I finally told my Dad I was leaving my job in New York to go after Spogo, he quickly shouted “ARE YOU F#&@ing Crazy?!”
I guess time will tell.