Today I had the opportunity to sit down with Lower East Side member Ken Zamkow of SportsGuru and I got to learn all about a really interesting new type of Sports Enthusiast Platform! If you always wanted to be a sportscaster or have your opinions about sports heard – this is the platform you’ve been looking for!
Q: Where are you originally from Ken?
I grew up in Israel and I moved here for school to go to the University of Virginia, I’ve been in New York for 10 years.
Q: What is SportsGuru?
SportsGuru is a place where fans talk about sports using short videos. We let anyone record short videos of themselves of 60 seconds or less talking about whatever is going on in sports, giving their reactions, opinions, and analysis. We make those videos more professional and fun by adding automated onscreen graphics, user rankings, and more, to give the videos the look and feel of a real sports TV show. Our goal is to build a community of very passionate and knowledgeable sports fans who will come to record videos of themselves talking about sports, and for other fans to discover authentic opinions and unique points of view about their favorite teams beyond what they might get in other media, yet without the noise and clutter of other social platforms. We recently launched our private beta for iPhone. It’s me and one other co-founder, Andreas Schmid.
Q: How did you decide on the name of your company?
Since we are a fan powered sports network, we thought the name SportsGuru really represented that idea very well of letting any fan become their own expert and create their own sports talk show sharing their expertise via short videos.
Q: What got you interested in sports initially?
I’ve always been a sports fan, but more specifically about how I started SportsGuru – before launching SportsGuru, for the last 7 years my job was to market, sell, and implement video streaming technologies to many sports organizations like the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and a number of sports networks and online sports platforms. Through that I got a first hand look on what they do on video, what kinds of content is available, what types of content is more difficult to find, and the landscape of sports and social media. That showed me that there was a gap in user generated sports video, that this content was very difficult to produce and to find, and it was a noisy and cluttered experience. On the other side of it — as a sports fan — I’ve realized that it was always difficult for me at some point to find content about my favorite teams, whether pro or college. I would go on mainstream media and then on my team apps and watch all the analysis, interviews, and press conferences, I would go on local media to watch videos about my teams, and at some point it started becoming very repetitive throughout the day. One of the reasons for that is that mainstream media has to cover hundreds of pro and college teams, local media has limited resources, and what ends up happening is that there is only so much time and attention that they can devote to each team. So I thought, hey I’m sure there are a lot of fans out there who know a lot about the team and want to share their opinions, but how do I find them? It was very difficult to find them on other social media, so I thought, wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where fans could just record short videos of themselves talking about sports so other fans like me could discover it? and that’s how I came up with the idea for SportsGuru.
Q: So is SportsGuru more for collegiate or professional sports?
Any sport. It can be your highest-profile sports like professional football, college football, basketball, baseball and so on, and it can also be for much more niche content that might not be covered. If people want to talk about their lacrosse teams, or tennis, or about track and field, here’s an opportunity for them to do that whereas until now these sports didn’t typically get a lot of coverage.
Q: What would you say is the specialty of your company / how do you differentiate yours from other platforms?
We have 3 main things that we do that make us unique. We only focus on sports, we only focus on short videos, and we only focus on fan opinions. That combination does not exist right now. You have other social platforms that are much broader – they cover music, entertainment, and news, therefore it is very difficult to find the right high-quality sports content on them. You have companies that show all kinds of trick shots and other things about sports, but it’s not fan opinions – it’s not really sports talk. You have a lot of other places, whether it’s social networks or message boards where people can chat about sports via text, but it’s not video. We think that our combination makes it a very appealing offering — fan videos are a much more fun thing to consume, and we make it much easier to create those videos. The automated graphics that we add into the videos is something nobody else does.
Q: Where do your biggest sports fans come from?
It’s really all over the map. We have fans from all over the country, with very diverse interests. We launched during NFL season, so right now one of our biggest content sources is people talking about the NFL, but that’s not the only thing. We already have people talking about college basketball, about the NBA, we have people talking about mixed martial arts, it’s really all over. That was our goal to begin with – we wanted to create a place where you could talk about any sports and you could discover content about any sports more easily, no matter what it is.
Q: What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur so far?
I think there have been a few moments and it is hard to pick one, but I will pick one. In different stages of your start up, there are different milestones and achievements. When you first raise outside funding that’s a big moment, when you get your co-founder to join you – that’s a huge milestone, when you actually have the first working version of your product it’s a very proud moment, when you get important partners like NFL teams, and when you grow your team to the point where you need a bigger office space – that is also a very fun moment. If I had to pick one, I think the most meaningful moment for me so far was when outside people, who I never met before, started using our product and they told us that they love it. They didn’t use the words ‘like it’ – they said “I love it!”. That was the most meaningful thing, the fact that we got our first users and that they enjoyed the experience.
Q: Where do you see SportsGuru in 5 years?
Our goal is to become a trusted sports media source. We want to be the place where fans come in to catch up on whatever is going on. We want to build this community of a lot of great sports video creators, who will regularly upload videos talking about sports and to have many other fans come in on a regular basis to hear sports opinions, and across different devices and channels.
Q: What has been your experience as a member here at The Yard?
It’s been great. We are a very downtown company in terms of our personality, both me and my co-founder Andreas have been living in the East Village long before we knew each other. The whole idea for
SportsGuru was developed in conversations in about a dozen different sports bars, coffee shops, and restaurants in the East Village and the Lower East Side. Many of our interns are from the NYU Sports Management Program. So this neighborhood is the focal point of everything we do. For me it was very important to find a coworking space that was within walking distance, and being able to take my dog Daisy with me also was extremely important, because that just gives you a lot more flexibility in your day and creates a great vibe. Those were the things that really attracted us the most here. After moving to The Yard we realized that there is more of a personal feel, the community here- even though there are more than 200 people in this building and The Yard has a number of other locations, I think it has more of personal touch than some of the other coworking spaces that I have seen. We love the rooftop too!