Richmond graduates create an iPhone app for sports fans

Published: November 15, 2012, 12:59 am ET
Nabila Khouri /The Collegian
Robins School of Business 2010 graduates David Shack and Andrew Vassallo launched the interactive iPhone app, Spogo, that helps users win for correct predictions during live football games.
Collegian Staff

Every great business was born in a basement, said David Shack, a 2010 graduate, about working from the home office in his basement.

Shack, along with Andrew Vassallo, another 2010 graduate, came up with an idea to create Spogo, an interactive application for iPhones that allows its users to make predictions during live football games. If the predictions are correct, users win virtual points and prizes to use at participating sports bars in Boston and New York City.

“The idea was conceived just over a year ago,” Shack said. “I used to work in advertising, and Andrew was in investment banking when we came up with the idea. We started working on it while still at our old jobs in Boston, and just about four months ago, we left those jobs to work on it fulltime.”

Vassallo and Shack were both graduates of the Robins School of Business and were roommates all four years at Richmond.

In August, Vassallo and Shack joined forces with their friend Matt Sobel, a 2012 graduate to expand the business beyond Boston and into NYC.

“I went to Boston to visit a friend and met up with Andrew and David,” said Sobel, a political science major. “I heard about their idea, and I knew that I could bring it to the city, and they trusted me enough to let me do that.”

“My interest in entrepreneurship came from entering the Robins School of Business pitch competition,” Sobel said, “and eventually placing second.”

After trying to launch his idea from the competition failed, Sobel went to work full time in NYC, he said.

He juggles a full-time job and his work with Spogo, he said. “It’s pretty much what I do during my lunch breaks and when I get home from my full-time job.”

The idea for Spogo came when Vassallo and Shack noticed a problem among sports viewers and decided to embrace it, instead of trying to change it, they said.

“The problem we saw was that people are attached to their cell phones no matter where they are,” Shack said. “Whether we like it or not, that isn’t going to change. So we’ve created a game that engages sports fans with what they are already watching, rather than having their phones act as a distraction.”

The prizes that users can win differ, depending on the bar they choose to use the points at.

“So far, we’ve partnered with more than 50 sports bars all over Boston and New York City,” Shack said. “About 30 in Boston and 20 in New York City.”

The application launched on Friday, Nov. 9, and according to the Apple application store, it has received five-star reviews.

“The intention is to grow it into a national game where people can play and redeem points no matter where they are,” Vassallo said.

Sobel said: “The goal is to expand to other major towns and cities by way of partnering with national brands and retail brand chains.”

All three men agreed that the ideal location for their application would be at a chain, such as Buffalo Wild Wings.

“For this football season,” Vassallo said, “we are partnering with bars at no cost to them or the app user.”

“We aren’t making any money from Spogo right now, but the idea is to sell it into larger chains of sports bars and stadiums, so they can have an alternative marketing platform. Spogo will give them a chance to reach their fans through advertising of different promotions and deals on the app.”

Spogo already has more than a hundred users, Shack said. “We haven’t even had a full week of games yet, so we are pretty pleased so far.”

According to a blog post on the Spogo website, there were a few glitches during the first game on the application, but the Spogo team plans to fix any errors and incorporate any ideas the users might have to make the app better.

The three men spoke highly of several Richmond professors who were inspirations for their interest of entrepreneurship.

“My favorite professor was Roger Schnorbus, and he was definitely a big part of my early interest in entrepreneurship,” Shack said. “He’s been a great adviser to us through our development of Spogo.”

Although Sobel was a political science major he credited amanagement professor Jeff Pollack as being an inspiration for his entrepreneurial interests.

“He told me to look for opportunities where others may not see them,” Sobel said.

Contact reporter Nabila Khouri at nabila.khouri@richmond.edu

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  • David S

    Thanks for the article, Nabila. Although to clarify, I do not work in my parents’ basement.

    - David