Tech Thursday: Sportaneous, the app to find pickup games

I just read about an app called Sportaneous which helps the user find pickup games in the area. It's not out on Android so I can't try it yet, but conceptually this is a great idea.

I play a lot of basketball, and finding pickup games in a new area can be tough. Generally I just look up all the gyms/courts in the area, then go to them and see if someone there knows when pickup games usually happen. This works, but it usually takes a few weeks/months to figure out the pattern. I love the idea that there is a place where I could look these up, and hopefully share the time/location easily with friends.

Apparently this app recently showed well at NYC BigApps 2.0. The linked video/write up there does a good job of summarizing the features.


  1. I already want this to be awesome. But unfortunately it is only set up for New York and San Diego. And even more unfortunately, I don't live in San Diego any more.

    But as soon as this thing comes to San Mateo/Peninsula, I will be using it.

  2. Great point - the service being good is completely dependent on the quantity of contributors in every different city. I also need it on Droid before I can use it on my phone.

    But if it takes off it will absolutely fill a void right now for information that I want.

  3. I can't help but wonder if the App and it's title are in direct competition with each other. If the title wins, the App doesn't sell and pick-up games stay spontaneous. If the App wins, it sells well, and the title becomes ironic (for lack of a better word) as pick-up games are no longer spontaneous, but planned, events.

    Note: Yes, I do realize the title itself doesn't completely jive with the goal of the app, nor is spontaneity an inherent trait of pick-up games.

  4. No, Scott...I think you're on to something there. The title refers to a current spontaneous action, but if they are Twitter-successful, many pick-up games will be planned events.

    If they are super successful and start making some money, do you think they will buy out adult rec leagues and organize the games/leagues/officiating?

  5. I can see where that would be a natural extension for the product, yes. Or organizing tournaments over a weekend or something...

    This has its biggest value not just in basketball (which is relatively easy to find anywhere in the US given some legwork), but for sports which are more obscure. Imagine getting a kickball game or a jai alai game together by realizing there are other interested people in the area. Or a cricket test.

    Haha the name thing is cracking me up Scooter... I didn't think about it before you said it, but now I can't stop seeing that.

  6. I think it's biggest contribution will be in football. There are many people who want to play a pick-up football game, it's the most popular sport in the US, but it's hard to get 12-22 guys in cleats all at the same field marked by some cones.

  7. Hi, all.

    I'm Charlie, the Head of Marketing at Sportaneous. It's great to see that so many of you are interested in what we're doing, and we really appreciate your feedback. It's a surprisingly civil and literate crowd here. Almost forgot I was on the internet for a moment.

    Since I've got answers and a suspiciously empty Friday evening, I'll take your points in order:

    SF and the Bay Area is next on the list. We've got our big NYC launch party at the Red Bull Arena on May 15th, and soon after we'll be focusing our attention on the Bay. We've already got a couple of guys on the ground in SF, SJ and Oakland working full-time to prepare, and pretty soon I and the rest of the team will be heading west to launch in your neck of the woods. We'll also be going live in Boston and Philadelphia over the summer, and L.A. will be following shortly thereafter. Then we'll let popular demand determine where we launch next. Any suggestions?

    We were aware when we first committed to developing the app that our success would be determined by the volume and enthusiasm of the people using the app. It turns out, as we had hoped, that the kind of folks who use Sportaneous are motivated, enthusiastic early-adopter types. There's a fantastic Sportaneous community in SD, and we're seeing a crowd developing in NYC, too. What has really surprised us is how much of a social enabler Sportaneous has proven to be. People are making new friends and connections at the games, and we've even heard of a couple of dates originating from co-ed volleyball and frisbee games.

    I'm an Android fanboy myself (about to switch from the Evo 4G to the Thunderbolt), so that's something I can guarantee is on the way. We're going to make sure we have all the fancy, flashy features (and we do have some awesome stuff in the works) live on the iPhone app before we start building apps for Android, Blackberry and the rest, though. It's also worth noting that you can still use the web service at, which we designed to function fully on the standard Android browser.

    It's obviously not so spontaneous for the users proposing games or fitness activities days in advance, but once we've developed a substantial user base you'll be able to find multiple games in each sport happening in your area at any given moment. That'll allow you to spontaneously join a game of pick-up football or soccer, for example, when previously you would have had to start the process of rounding up friends days in advance. Besides which, Sporganized just doesn't sound right.

    On another note, you talked about the app selling well (or not). The Sportaneous app and web service are completely free and always will be. We'll even be offering free gym, fitness, yoga and boot camp sessions for which you'd normally pay a pretty penny. Talking of free...

    (continued in next post)

  8. Aaron (second comment)
    You read our minds! We've got Sportaneous basketball tournaments and mini-leagues tentatively planned for the summer already. We're working on sponsorship deals with various product companies that will provide the cash necessary to rent facilities and hire officials for Sportaneous tournaments. We never liked the idea of having to pay a few hundred bucks to join a rec league, so we'll be providing free alternatives.

    We're adding a whole bunch of new sports in the next week. We see perhaps our greatest value in facilitating pick-up games that wouldn't or couldn't otherwise have happened. As Aaron mentioned, it's nigh-on impossible to round up twenty-plus football or softball players at short notice, and we want to offer a place where people can find one another. Likewise, if you're struggling to find others who share your passion for jai alai or pétanque or korfball, we want to help create and connect that community in your city. Likewise, we'll be helping people find one another for communal jogging, biking, hiking, tai chi and just about any other fitness-related activity you can imagine.

    Anyway, I hope I managed to shed some light on Sportaneous there. I'll be here if anybody has any questions. Oh, and give me a shout if you're in the NYC area. We can hook you up with some free tickets and general swag at our launch party next month.

  9. Hi Chris,
    Might I humbly suggest expanding internationally sooner rather than later, say in...Paris? The French are bass-ackwards when it comes to organized sports that aren't soccer and the occasional pétanque tournament. Basketball courts are pretty spread out, but there is a huge American ex-pat community in the city that is probably dying for some good, old-fashioned pick-up action!

    The "civil and literate crowd" remark might be the highest compliment that FIWK has ever received, so thanks for that! If nothing else, we pride ourselves on our ability to talk about just about anything.

    Off to find a pick-up cricket test match! Keep up the good work, Sportaneous and my fellow FIWKers!

  10. MP: Chris (aka Charles) should avoid Paris if he can manage. What the fiwk is petanque?

  11. I fail. I'm terribly sorry, Chris (if you're even still reading now). So much for being literate and/or civil. I blame the time difference, my lack of Internet this weekend, and coming back to this all having happened while I was away.

    Pétanque (h/t to CHARLIE for the first mention): you throw a tiny wooden ball, or "pig". Two teams of three throw three balls per player to try and amass the most points possible by getting as many balls close to the pig. Lots of strategy involved - knocking away another team's ball, calculating the distance and arc - but a whole lot of French people play it while drinking heavily. Which, of course, is awesome.

  12. Charlie,

    For your reference the four of us met as sports officials for UCLA Intramural Sports. We have a great perspective as both players and referees for a wide variety of sports.

    If you would like any casual advice or an outside observer's perspective, we would be happy to help you out. We want you to succeed so that we can take advantage of your services.

    Two of us grew up in San Diego, two of us grew up in the Bay Area. All four went to college in Los Angeles. One currently lives in LA, two currently live in the Bay Area and one lives in Paris. I bet you can figure out the Parisian.

  13. Was Sporgy taken?

    Good point on the finding games component as being spontaneous - especially for newbies to the neighborhood/sport. I hadn't thought of that angle.

    Ditto to what Aaron said: we're wanting you to succeed for selfish reasons. :D

  14. I've spent more than my share of time in Paris, so I know how tough it can be to find a good basketball run. There's a decent streetball community out there, but beyond the organised tournaments and events (Quai 54 and so on), there doesn't seem to be all that much happening on the ground. Our priority right now is to reach critical mass in the U.S., but we've got one eye on Paris, London and a few other European markets as well. I lived in Greece and the U.K. until I was eighteen and spent a good deal of time in France, Spain and Italy, so I can definitely see how Sportaneous could be useful in Europe, perhaps even more than in the U.S. and Canada.

    Anyway, we really appreciate your support, and we'll definitely be in touch for your input somewhere down in the line. We'll have to set up a FIWK pick-up game or two when we're live in your respective cities. We'll make sure you're on the VIP list for your local launch events, too.

  15. If you get off the ground in Los Angeles I would be very happy. I could, at the least, add my local area pickup games to the mix.

  16. PS - MP, did you really just try to make French bocce ball sound like something cultural? Petanque? Really?

  17. It IS cultural, you idjit. It's France; everything from sports to being inapprope with the hotel maid is in the realm of culture.