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Big and small, mass market or niche, social networks are ubiquitous today.

In the summer of 2010, Perelman School of Medicine student and MBA student Aaron Royston had an idea for another network, one based on sports. His thinking went a bit like this: just because you don’t personally know nine other people who want to play basketball this weekend shouldn’t stop you from organizing a game.

And so Sportaneous, a website and mobile application, was conceived. Royston and co-founder Omar Haroun wanted to make organizing and playing in pick-up sports games easier. Their new social network does just that.

“We came up with the idea pretty much based on our own personal frustrations,” Royston said. Haroun and Royston — both lifelong basketball players — felt that, in the era of smart phones, a dearth of pickup sports contests just didn’t make sense.

“If you’re in New York and you look down the street, you know that within a 10 block radius, probably 100 people want to play basketball, but you just don’t know them,” Royston said. “We thought it would be a great idea to be able to connect with people like that based on common interest and basically create a social network based on location.”

Here’s how it works. First, you start itching for some competitive athletic activity. Then you log onto the site through Facebook or check your phone for games happening in the near future. If nothing catches your eye, you propose a game, a location and a time, which other users will be able to see.

Sportaneous is now headquartered in a tech incubator in New York, and most of its 3,600 registered users live around Columbia University.

According to Royston, around one game every two days is organized in the area.

Recently made available in Philadelphia, Sportaneous has around 150 users at Penn.

Earlier this year, the program placed second in New York’s BigApps competition and was the grand prize winner based on popular choice. The victory gave the fledgling business $20,000 for further development.

As of today, Sportaneous has made no money for its founders or team members. According to Royston, his team of five equity partners will be keeping its collective head down until at least two games are being organized through Sportaneous per day.
Already the application is garnering rave reviews from early adopters. One Columbia student sent an email thanking the Sportaneous team, but not because he had just played a killer match of pick-up soccer.

It was at a Sportaneous-organized game that he met his girlfriend.

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