ZenSports: The Future of Amateur Sports ~ Catherine Fiorilla

Have you ever found yourself wondering if there were any leagues or tournaments going on in the area? Did you ever miss an event because you didn’t have cash for the entry fee and the director couldn’t take a credit card? Maybe you were out of town and looking for a pickup game or just another person to play a friendly match? In this age of technology why isn’t this easier to do? Mark Thomas, CEO of ZenSports, thought the same way and decided to develop a solution. On July 13 the new ZenSports app launches for iOS and Android. Part meetup, part social media, and part tournament management program ZenSports offers solutions to make it easier for amateur players to enjoy the sports they love with other players.

Mark has been working long hours to get the app ready for launch but was able to set aside some time with Sneaky Pete Mafia to tell the readers about the new ZenSports app

SPM: We really appreciate you taking the time from your hectic schedule to talk to us. Can you tell us a little about your background?Mark: I studied finance and investing in college and founded several HR and recruiting startups. For the past 13 years I worked in real estate investing. I founded a company called Reesio that made software to automate paperwork for brokers and realtors; basically a dashboard for managing the transaction process. In 2015 Reesio was bought out by Realtor.com. I stayed on at Realtor.com for about a year to run the transaction management division. In October 2016 I left to found ZenSports.SPM: How did you come up with the idea for ZenSports and why did you pick pool for the beta test? Mark: I wanted to create an app that would make it easy for amateur players to find matches, leagues, pickup games, social sporting events, and tournaments near them. I also wanted them to be able to pay the registration fees by credit card using their phones. We needed to test the feasibility of this in a small market so in February 2017 we launched the app in the San Francisco Bay area where the company is located and focused only on pool. I picked pool because for about 8 years my main recreational activity was pool and I knew a lot of people in the pool community.SPM: How was the app received in the test market? What did you decide to change in the full release based on the beta test results?Mark: It was well received. After 6 weeks we had about 1100 users and had processed thousands of tournament and league payments. Tournament directors were a little slower to adopt the system so we decided for the next version to focus more on the players and the social aspect of sports. Players will be able to message each other and follow news feeds in an environment focused on sports and free of politics and cat videos. Players will also be able to live stream their matches.SPM: Can tournament directors still run their events through the app?Mark: Yes, none of that functionality will go away. The directors can still manage registration and payments through the app. They get a notification when a player registers and pays and can message registered players with any updates. There are tournament charts and prize money management features they can use for their events.SPM: Does the app save this information so that the director can see how often a player cashed and how much they have earned over time?Mark: The app currently does not track win-loss records but we definitely see the value in that. We are working on re-doing our stats features and hope to have this functionality available within the next 6 months.SPM: Can you give us an overview of how to use the app?Mark: Players register in the app using an existing Facebook account. The app will pull all their relevant information from Facebook. After that players choose which sports they are interested in and what they are looking for; such as money matches, friendly matches, tournaments, leagues, or coaching, and indicate their skill level. After that they can easily search for players or tournaments in their area and even pay the registration fees through the app.SPM: There are many different ways of determining a person’s skill level. How does the app handle this?Mark: We aren’t in the business of making any new skill level rating systems. When registering, players choose beginner, intermediate, advanced, or pro for their skill level. In a future version of the app we may add a ‘crowdsourcing’ ratings feature where players can leave feedback about their opponents’ skill levels after they have played each other.SPM: Why is having a Facebook account necessary to use the app?Mark: It makes the registration process easier and it is also safer for the users. When players contact each other at least they can see pictures of the person on Facebook.SPM: One of the options for which a player can choose to search is money matches. Pool players love to play for money so I could see this being a popular feature. Do you have any concerns that there could be legal issues involved with this? Also, how would you handle situations where a player loses but doesn’t pay his opponent?Mark: There is no legal issue with money matches. No state considers putting money on a skill based competition to be gambling. It is essentially paying and entry fee into a tournament that has only two players. As for players not paying each other, we are working on system that runs like the tournament feature where the players post their money online through the app with a credit card. After the match is over both players will confirm the winner in the app and ZenSports will pay the winner. SPM: What do you hope to see ZenSports accomplish in the future?Mark: I want to bring the world together through sports. There are hundreds of millions of people in the world that play some kind of amateur and recreational sports. While people may disagree on politics, religion, or world peace one thing that remains constant is bringing the world together through sports. We may not see eye to eye on everything, but one thing we can all agree on is that playing sports is fun and it’s fun to win. ZenSports is making that happen and bringing the world together like only sports can.

Mark Thomas is the Co-Founder and CEO of ZenSports and Founder and Managing Partner at Mark Thomas Realty Holdings, LLC. in San Francisco, CA. On July 13 the ZenSports app becomes available and can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play Store.

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Sponsored by POV Pool and Jacoby Custom Cues

Author: Catherine Fiorilla

Photo provided by Mark Thomas

Editor: Shaylyn Troop

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