By Phil Dailey
Do you want to know where a nearby game of pick-up basketball or soccer is being play? There’s an app for that.
Thursday afternoon at the La Jolla Recreation Center, about 10 locals took part in an organized pick-up basketball game, all thanks to the help of a new iPhone app, Sportaneous.
While working at a law firm in Palo Alto, Omar Haroun became a bit frustrated that the firm’s basketball team was never able to play a game, due in large part to schedule conflicts. Haroun’s long-time friend Aaron Royston was experiencing a similar issue at Wharton in Philadelphia where he’s pursuing and MBA and medical degree.
With busy schedules, full-time jobs and just not having the time to look a place up to get organized, the two thought they could figure out a new way for people to come together to play pick-up games — basketball, lacrosse, flag-football — without all the fuss.
“So we put our heads together and thought, iPhones and location-based technology has really changed the world and you can essentially, with two clicks of your button, locate anybody within a mile radius who’s up for doing the same thing as you,” said Haroun, the co-founder and CEO of Sportaneous. “But there hadn’t yet been anything that applied that to sports.”
Both Haroun (Columbia) and Royston (Penn) are currently on a leave of absence from their graduate programs to focus on their new idea.
They attracted two other La Jollans to help with the project in Nick Shiftan, a La Jolla Country Day and Harvard graduate, and Brady Dinnsen, who is a La Jolla High and University of Arizona graduate.
Shifton is the lead technical adviser while Dinnsen is the head of marketing operations.
“We thought a tool like this would be fantastic for people in our shoes, as well as people new to a city that might not know a lot of people and want to play sports rather than run on a treadmill,” said Royston, who along with being a co-founder is also the president of Sportaneous.
And what they found through their own research was that they were right.
“Our market research in pretty compelling in that area that 69-percent of people who are between 18 and 65 workout weekly and 75 percent of them would prefer to play a team sport rather than workout at the gym,” Royston said. “But the fact of the matter is, of that, 12-percent of the people have played a team sport in the last month.”
He is the son of La Jollans Colette Carson and Dr. Ivor Royston.
With the app, which can also be accessed online at
and used on other smart phones as well as the Internet, it’s much easier to find a place to play a sport.
For now, their app mostly contains data for pick-up games and where to play in San Diego County and New York City, but as it gains steams, more cities will be added.
Dinnsen has spearheaded the efforts locally.
“I’ve been spreading the word while these guys have been at school back East,” he said as he prepared for a game of 5-on-5.
As for the app, which is free to download, it was officially launched Wednesday and users can log on via their Facebook account or simply register as a new user.
During the next few months, the pair will be tracking their downloads and see where it takes them.
“First and foremost, our motivation why we did this is so we can solve this problem,” Haroun said. “So if we do that and never make money off it, we’ll be really excited.
“Our real mission is get people active, to get people who play sports to play more sports. People who don’t play sports, to start playing sports again.”