During their junior year at Bloomsburg University, students Paul Rosa and Sean Roth came up with a concept for a sports website and app.
After a few brainstorming sessions they discovered a problem. Online sports forums had no emotion. It was just post after post of nothing but words. There were so many websites out there where people talked about sports. However, none of them allowed you to talk face-to-face and go back-and-forth ranting about your favorite teams’ successes or woes. Roth had recognized this after listening to sports talk radio.
“It really all started one night at my apartment when we sat around brainstorming ideas,” said Roth, a supply chain management major. “We knew we wanted to do something online but really had no direction to start.”
Finally, the duo came up with their idea. It would be a site and app where fans could post 15-second video rants and polls about sports. It would be the evolution of the online sports forum. Rosa and Roth called it sploops.com.
“It was common during the week to have sports talk radio or ESPN on in the background while doing work or hanging out with friends,” said Roth. “I had my own opinions on the topics that are discussed, but it’s typically incredibly hard to get onto these national shows and have your voice heard.”
The next step would be to get their idea out there and raise money to help kickstart their dream.
Getting Their Feet Wet
They decided to write a business plan and enter multiple student business plan competitions. Rosa and Roth entered the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) student business plan competition in the fall of 2012 (http://passhebiz2012-2013.istart.org/). The competition was open to any college student in the PASSHE system. The duo took third place out of more than 200 submissions. They were awarded $2500 for their business plan at the awards ceremony in Harrisburg during the spring of 2013.
Rosa and Roth also entered the Greater Susquehanna Keystone Innovation Zone Business Plan Competition open to student entrepreneurs from Bloomsburg University, Bucknell University, and Susquehanna University. Rosa and Roth won the competition and took home the first place check of $3000. The duo even made the cover of the Press Enterprise for their efforts. (https://bunow.com/51072-bloomsburg-students-take-third-in-passhe-business-plan-competition)
Winning the competitions was vital to getting their idea going, according to Roth.
“The money we were able to walk away with from those competitions was critical to some of the next steps we had to take, but the biggest win of the entire process was the connections we made throughout the competitions that allowed us to vault what at the time was just an idea, into a fully operating business.”
The Sploops idea was validated. Rosa and Roth decided that they would create a legal partnership in case this idea ever turned into something big. They called it Vast Frontier Innovations LLC. “We wanted to prove that you don’t have to be from Stanford or Harvard to become a big-time entrepreneur. Most of all we were huge sports fans and we just wanted to create something cool for sports fans to use,” said Rosa, a public relations major.
Molding this idea into reality would come at a cost. The duo needed programmers to make the site actually work, and they were not cheap.
“It was very difficult because these programmers are very expensive,” stated Rosa. “At minimum they can charge up to $100 an hour. Once we finally got the first beta version working it looked like a website from 1997. We had figured out the core functionality but we still had a long ways to go.”
Time Waits for No Man (Or Men)
However, time was starting to become a factor. The spring semester of 2013 was winding down and Rosa and Roth knew that graduation was upon them.
“Sean and I were graduating. We knew we had to find jobs,” said Rosa. “If we were going to make this work we were going to have to work tirelessly on nights and weekends. I can tell you honestly that there have been a lot of sleepless nights over the past few years. But that is what you do if you have a dream…you don’t give up.”
After graduating from Bloomsburg, Roth secured a job in supply chain management with Target. Rosa moved to New Jersey and now works in the New York Yankees front office. Both say that Bloomsburg played an important role in their early success.
Roth-“Bloomsburg University was instrumental in getting us to the point where we are today. There simply aren’t many better places where you can find such an eclectic group of brilliant people, all willing to help you or at least get you in touch with the people or resources you need.”
Rosa-“I can honestly say we were very lucky. We had a lot of support not just from our family and friends but from the University as well. Everyone liked the idea of these two young entrepreneurs coming from the mountains of Bloomsburg.”
The Here and Now
Sploops.com launched live on September 22 of 2014. The website is currently enabled for desktops and laptops. The mobile app is currently in the final stages of development. Sploops has already started to gain a user base. People are posting rants and interacting back-and-forth. In one month the website version already has over 12,000 page views from over 350 different cities and 25 countries across the globe.
“We are making improvements and updates to the site every day,” states Rosa. “The more people use it the more valuable feedback we get. Sports fans today are smarter than ever. It was about time we gave them a platform to have their voice heard.”
Looking Towards the Future
As for the future of their website, the two young entrepreneurs know that mobile is the way to go.
“The mobile app is at the top of our priority list right now,” says Rosa. “We are putting all of our time and resources into completing the mobile app development.”
“There’s no doubt in any of our minds that our next goal has to be mobile,” says Roth. “There are endless amounts of statistics and research backing the fact that in this day and age it is simply more common, especially for our younger audience where video is thriving, to be accessing the internet from mobile platforms. We know that our site will only thrive off of “in the moment” emotion and there’s nothing easier than taking videos right off your phone whether at an actual event, a sports bar, or in the comfort of your own home.”
The goal for the duo is not just to be big, rather, the biggest.
“We know that our site will only thrive if we can build a community, and that community will only develop if we are giving the users something that makes them type “sploops.com” into their browser before “espn.com, says Roth.”
Paul Rosa and Sean Roth have proved that you do not have to come from a big time school or have big time money to succeed and create something special. All it takes is hard work and a desire to succeed.
Stay tuned for more articles and updates on the development and growth of Sploops, and a big congratulations to Bloomsburg graduates Sean and Paul.