As a high school athlete trying to get on a university team, Avi Stopper remembers how difficult it was to navigate the college recruitment system. Just over five years later, Stopper, who ended up playing soccer at Wesleyan University, found himself at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business laying the groundwork for CaptainU, an online business that helps young athletes market themselves to collegiate athletic programs.
He recently spoke to FOX Business about what it took to get his business off the ground:
I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and had managed some small businesses. I ran a youth sports coaching business and a lawn mowing business, so I had sales and customer service experience. I decided to go to business school because I felt like I had entrepreneurial inclination but the business that I wanted to start required more expertise. I needed business acumen and a broader entrepreneurial network.
Chicago Booth offers classes like “Building the New Venture” and “New Venture Strategy.” You learn to figure out how to anticipate the cost and revenue assumptions to help you determine funding. In the New Venture Strategy class we discussed different entrepreneurship models and what key questions we needed to answer before exploring that type of business. For a number of classes you had to do real-world assignments, often in groups. If this was a real idea that someone was considering, people got really motivated about it.
I graduated in 2006 and went to work at a start-up consulting firm. I nurse the idea of CaptainU on nights and weekends. I went back to Booth and spoke to my network. Through those conversations, it became apparent that there was some interest in merging the worlds of tech and sports. We entered CaptainU into the Polsky Center’s Center's New Venture Challenge and won a sizable cash prize and office space. We launched from where it all began: in the business school.
When we launched, there were three of us. Now, we are eight plus interns. Through this we have found incredible ways to help high school families. We have gone through the process, and we’ve established trust with customers. We want to continue to consolidate our position in the college recruiting market. It is still very fragmented. You have a huge number of candidates and that makes it very difficult for athletes. When you are a high school athlete and you want to make a college team, the most important thing you can do is market yourself to college coaches. It’s about actively promoting yourself and we provide the set of tools that make kids look great to college coaches.
We have employed many of the skills and ideas that we learned at Booth. Our business really embodies the spirit of the school: to be rational and rigorous about how we do things. We are constantly testing new ideas through scientific methods and it’s always a work in progress. The evolution has been phenomenal to watch.
The school gave us everything from emotional support and lots of love to an incredible amount of logistical support. Having access to an incubator made it so much easier to launch company.
Navigating the college recruitment system can be tough for high-school athletes, but a new online business helps these young competitors grab the attention of recruiters.