Stellar Startup answers hoopsters' question: 'Where's the game?'

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Mohammed Harris isn’t just the inventor of the CourtVision app for basketball matchups, he’s also a pickup-game and league-play participant.

By day, Mohammed Harris digs deep into cancer diagnostic research at his start-up, Prevnos. At night and on weekends, he’s off to the basketball court to work the muscles, sweat out the stress, and socialize with pals.

Yet, the entrepreneurial gears never shut down for the research scientist and fitness freak, he says, explaining how this “India-born, New Jersey-raised” go-getter has scored two fascinating finalist entries in the Philly.com 2017 Stellar Startup competition, warranting back-to-back profiles Sunday and Monday.

“Let’s talk about the fun stuff first,” he said.

That would be CourtVision, Harris’ matchmaking and team-building app for amateur basketball players looking to score a spur-of-the-moment pickup game or maybe some hoops action with a bit more structure. “It can fill a need for millions of guys like me, answering, ‘Where’s the court?,’ ‘Who’s hanging there?’ and, ‘Can I get in on a game?’ ”

In development for two years, CourtVision, a free mobile app that’s easy to use and resourceful, points players to local games. “First thing you do is register, create a profile that tells us you’re not a bot and lets us qualify your skill set,” said the inventor and programmer. Then, working with Google mapping and the geo-fencing technology in your smartphone, CourtVision software highlights the closest 20 of about 15,000 indoor and outdoor courts already in its system and signals who’s there and ready to play ball. Once you’ve arrived, the app adds you to the available participant pool visible to the rest of the CourtVision community. Users compare its functionality to Foursquare and dating apps.

“Its ability to aggregate games, the whole work flow, is the most important thing,” said Harris. “You don’t want to go to a court location and not find anyone else there.”

Most indoor locations CourtVision maps are membership-based — including his lead partner at the regional YMCA. But Harris negotiates with facilities “so you can play pickup games there without paying any fees” as an introduction to the fitness centers. “We bring in a lot of foot traffic, which then leads to people becoming a member.”

A hosting hall also shares revenue generated in the pay-tier version of the project — CourtVision Leagues — which puts members into a structured program of weekend game action for $75 a season. It includes “12 games guaranteed, 25 minutes long, just one fast-paced quarter, with pickup-style play,” Harris said. “We supply referees, stats tracking, uniforms. All games are recorded on Go-Pro cameras. There’s a messaging platform in the CourtVision app, and you can also shout out and share content on your social media apps if you’re linked to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.”

Sparked by a $5,000 investment and just one helper, CourtVision now aims for the more than 2,700 YMCA facilities in the United States to easily implement the CourtVision program. “CourtVision users are everywhere … from California to Nevada to Michigan and Illinois.” But the majority are in New Jersey and New York, “which has more outdoor courts per square mile than anywhere else in the country, with 800 in the five boroughs,”  Harris said.

CourtVision counts the herd through Google Earth photos enhanced with a proprietary algorithm to identify courts. It came up with many go-tos in our geo-zone, with times of operation specified for the Y’s.

A majority of app users hit the courts after work from 6 to 10 p.m. and on weekends, with league play starting at noon and ending at 6 p.m. The average age of users in paid league play is 26.6; for those working the free app, it’s 22.3. Harris would also like to pump up the senior league, open to the 30-plus set.  He personally joined about a year ago.

“Growing up in Union, N.J., I met all my friends playing basketball, from elementary school on. The camaraderie of playing is great, and basketball is one of the best ways to get an overall exercise to keep you healthy and active.”

Building out the CourtVision cause “wouldn’t take more than $500K and could potentially take off explosively, whether we obtain funding or not,” Harris said. What’s the competitive landscape like? “Pretty wide open.” The locator app Courtsoftheworld.com is Eurocentric. Zog Sports organizes leagues “more for social entertainment.” Hudl.com has pivoted to video analytics for high school teams. And NBAFit.com promotes the pickup b-ball cause — but in the abstract.

Harris sees a good CourtVision fit with ClassPass, an online service that motivates exercise seekers to take classes at a variety of boutique fitness studios. “They’re looking to move into the sports market and are well-funded to acquire us.”


Awards Event

When: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12.
Where: Fels Planetarium, Franklin Institute, 222 N. 20th St., Philadelphia 19103.
For more information: www.philly.com/stellarstartups

Monday:  How Stellar Start-up Mohammed Harris’ invention of Hybrid Fusion FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization) testing aims to nip cancer in the bud.