Startup Camp: The Social Network Slapshot - InformationWeek

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5/9/2008
03:31 AM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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Startup Camp: The Social Network Slapshot

I am not a fan of hockey. I make no apologies for that, but I do love seeing hockey live. No other sport beats it. So when I sat down with Josh Schachter, the founder of startup HockeyBarn.com, I expected to have to make myself concentrate really hard to appear interested as he rattled off things like shots on goal and the mystical notion of icing. Instead, this passionate young entrepreneur wowed me with a very cool social media idea.

I am not a fan of hockey. I make no apologies for that, but I do love seeing hockey live. No other sport beats it. So when I sat down with Josh Schachter, the founder of startup HockeyBarn.com, I expected to have to make myself concentrate really hard to appear interested as he rattled off things like shots on goal and the mystical notion of icing. Instead, this passionate young entrepreneur wowed me with a very cool social media idea.Josh's goal isn't just to have a hockey site, but to start sporting social communities. And to take it international. Hockey just happens to be first because that's what he knows, but it seems like he's done a little bit of homework on what makes social network Web sites successful. The idea is to provide a site for players, coaches, fans, and parents, from amateur club teams to college to the pros.

The site has the typical aggregation of news from a news wire, but also columns written by industry professionals and players, who will interact with the community. For example, Alexei Kasatonov is a board member and writer. (Because I'm not a fan, I had to ask: he was part of the famed Soviet team that lost to the United States in 1980 and went on to play in the NHL for many years.)

The social part begins with creating an account based on who you are (player, team, fan). For example, if you're a team, you can actually have a fan club. Teams can create a team page, with the coach as moderator. The coach can use the site to post schedules, lineups, rosters, and team and player statistics. There is a nominal subscription fee, Schacter said, but you also are given an ad spot so you can sell, say, local sponsors.

Players can post their statistics and share them with friends or other players. You can have friends on the site. You can blog, post to a message board, post comments on columns or on people's profiles. You can even create your own Hockey card. As a fan, you can give players a star.

Because the site isn't just about the teams and games, it also allows opportunities to discuss things like equipment. There also is a "hockey swap," essentially a Craigslist for hockey equipment. You can also search for rinks, best summer camps, etc., and all of it is user generated and rated.

For those wondering what in the hell this has to do with technology, I suppose it doesn't. OK, the site is built with PHP. Is that good?

Seriously, though, this is about how to build something from scratch whose goal is to create communities. Josh, a former hockey player for 19 years (so apparently when he was right out of the womb) has plans to add video, is thinking about creating a Facebook application, and is looking to make some online games for the site.

Quite an ambitious plan, but the site, which will be ready later this summer, looks very appealing, thanks to the design work of Miami-based Oxidev Interactive. Those of you who are parents of hockey players will find it impressive; and those of you wanting to learn a few tricks about igniting communities may want to swipe a few of Josh's ideas.

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