By GREGORY ZELLER //
Now batting: SemiPro.
Originally scheduled to go pro last fall, the scheduling and stat-tracking app for amateur athletes – brainchild of rookie entrepreneurs Jason Le Goff and Bilal Muhammed – will finally kick off March 20 on iOS devices.
The circa-2014 Manorville-based startup – which also includes marketing specialist Colleen Le Goff, Jason’s sister, and new operations veep Jeffrey Elias – had hoped to debut its intramural-sports app in October. But it “took a little bit longer than we thought to get off the ground,” according to Le Goff, who noted assorted bugs and a lengthy stretch of internal testing, followed by field trials that began in earnest in January.
SemiPro also took advantage of the timeout to add a few enhancements to its game, including an “Open Spots” feature allowing users to search for contests in need of players. Users search via embedded Apple Maps that show every registered Open Spot match with a pushpin, highlighted red if there’s an opening.
That added feature – in addition to the app’s basic functionality, which allows players to schedule contests in their favorite sports and invite other registered users to join – should help SemiPro transition nicely to the majors, according to Le Goff, who said the extra months since the original tee time were well-spent.
“We’ve got it to a good point now,” the president told Innovate LI. “We’re very excited to see what people think of it, see how they use it and learn how we can grow it from here.”
Growth is definitely the game plan. With the basic, debugged “match creator” finally ready, programmers led by cofounder Muhammed, SemiPro’s chief mobile officer, are already working up the next version.
SemiPro 2.0 has “a lot more in store,” according to Le Goff, including functionality that allows users to store team rosters and a comments area attached to each created match, “in case you want to talk smack or change the time of the game.”
Also on deck: League-management functions – think schedules and standings – and statistics-based features tracking a player’s performance across a single game, an entire season or even a backyard-legend career.
Not every sport will enjoy those statistical features, at least not at first, and those that do are yet to be determined, Le Goff noted.
“We’ll check to see the top five or six sports people are using this for,” he said. “We’ll add more features keyed into those sports’ needs and grow from there.”
That wait-and-see approach is a constant throughout the SemiPro business plan, partly because it’s the nature of the app-development beast. While they’ve pitched SemiPro in business-plan contests and private investor meetings, Le Goff and company know venture capitalists are waiting to see a finished product in action.
“They want to see an app released and a user base growing,” Le Goff said. “Something they can actually see, other than just the concept.”
The principals are following that lead. While they’re eager to expand to other user platforms, for instance, they’ll first measure how the app performs on iOS before creating an Android version.
“We want to make the core really robust,” Le Goff noted. “When we add the league features and everything else, we want everything to fall in line and work seamlessly.”
That said, the president has a fairly good idea where this goes from here, including what weekend-warrior sports are most likely to take the lead. Golf is a likely contender, he noted, along with “all of the mainstream sports, like football, hockey, soccer and lacrosse.”
The company also has a decent notion about future verticals, with Le Goff referencing high school athletics as a potential happy zone.
“I know a couple of athletic directors at a couple of different high schools,” he said. “The thought is to see how we can get into that pretty large community.”
And SemiPro’s masters are firm on a business plan that will keep the app forever free to end users – the players – while monetizing through advertising and by charging organizations like the local Pop Warner chapter for league-based solutions. Those charges would work on a sliding scale, according to Le Goff, depending on the size and scope of each amateur league.
SemiPro’s word-of-mouth marketing approach figures to get the digital-application equivalent of a steroid injection when the app goes live this month. It’s also boosted by Elias, a recent hire who still works as an account executive at massive New York City-based programmers’ network Stack Overflow.
Elias has “many, many sports contacts,” Le Goff noted, making his old college hockey rival a perfect fit for the SemiPro squad. The plan is to push the live app via word-of-mouth and social media, growing enough to lure investors before stepping up direct marketing to high schools, municipal rec leagues and even the owners of amateur sports venues, such as ice rinks.
“We’ve gotten good feedback from people,” Le Goff said. “We’ll go back to them with the solutions we have now and see how they like it. By the end of the year, I think we’ll be in a better spot.”