Sports social network ONz on cloud nine
By Goh Thean Eu January 23, 2015
- Sufficient funding for this year, company still wholly-owned by cofounders
- App allows one to organise or find sports games among local communities
THE past nine months have been surreal for William Yap, the cofounder of ONz Studio Sdn Bhd – not only did he and his cofounders transform an idea into an actual product, they also managed to make it part of a nationwide government campaign.
“The pace that we have been progressing at is very encouraging,” Yap told Digital News Asia (DNA). “But there’s still so much more that needs to be done.”
The app that made such significant progress was first named ‘ONz,’ but has been rebranded as the FitMalaysia App.
The FitMalaysia App is a social network app for sports players. Users can find or organise sports and games among their friends and the local community.
“Currently, the FitMalaysia App, which is available on the iOS and Android platforms, has received over 3,000 downloads since officially launching last month [December, 2014]. We hope to have many more downloads by the end of this year,” said Yap.
Yap said he and his cofounders Rob Lee, Justin Leo and Zachary Tay, as well as their friends, enjoy playing sports such as futsal and badminton.
Like most sports enthusiasts these days, they organise their sessions via Facebook or WhatsApp, a process which Yap described as “quite messy.”
“For example, you have to manually count the number of players that say they are going to join.
“The bigger issue is that the game invitation is only seen by players within that WhatsApp or Facebook group, so sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you are not able to get the minimum number of players needed to proceed with the game,” Yap said.
After some thought, Yap and gang decided to develop a mobile app to address these issues. Together, they successfully applied for and joined the 1337 Accelerator’s Batch 3 in April 2014.
His cofounders have experience in the mobile app industry. Lee, who studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Creative Technology, also runs his own mobile app development and emerging technology consultancy company called Common Extract.
Leo and Tay, both graduates of the Multimedia University, run their own mobile app development company called Mobius Digital Systems. They also won the MSDN Windows Hackathon 2014.
Within three months, the team was able to come up with a minimum viable product version on both Android and iOS.
During the development process, their original idea was to name the app as ‘OnLah!,’ because whenever a game was confirmed, Yap and his friends would usually declare in their WhatsApp or Facebook group that “The game is on!”
However, the team was advised to use a different name instead. “Our mentor Bikesh Lakhmichand (chief executive officer of 1337 Ventures which organises the 1337 Accelerator) advised us that it was better to come up with a name which appealed to a more global audience.
“Hence, the name ‘ONz’ was born,” said Yap, who graduated from the University of Melbourne and had previously worked as a business consultant at Ernst & Young, and Mercer.
It was late last year that ONz’s mobile app got a breakthrough through FitMalaysia, a nationwide fitness campaign to facilitate the adoption of healthy lifestyles amongst all Malaysians, and the brainchild of Khairy Jamaluddin, the Minister of Youth and Sports.
The ONz team approached the Ministry of Youth and Sports regarding a possible collaboration. After discussion, it was agreed that the ONz app would be rebranded as the FitMalaysia App.
Using technologies like GPS (global positioning system) and cloud services, the FitMalaysia App allows a user to create or search for any sports game, at any given time or place.
“Upon login, the FitMalaysia App will immediately show nearby games and important details such as the date, time, venue for these games, as well as the number of participants still required,” said Yap.
“Users can make a request to join a public game with the click of a button. If the organiser agrees to that user’s request, the user will then be added to the list of confirmed participants.
“Users will be able to keep themselves updated on the status of those games as their mobile phone is usually with them. GPS allows us to show the upcoming games that are within the selected radius of a person.
“Data stored in the cloud allows for cross-platform interactions and easy expansion to other platforms in the future,” Yap declared.
ONz Studio’s development of the app is very much in line with the Digital Malaysia programme, which is based on three strategic thrusts to advance the country towards a developed digital economy by 2020.
One thrust is to shift Malaysian behaviour from being consumption-centric and towards production-centric, or to change consumer mindset so prevalent in technology use so that Malaysian individuals and businesses produce as much as they consume from digital technologies.
Digital Malaysia aims to create an ecosystem that promotes the pervasive use of ICT in all aspects of the economy to connect communities globally, and to interact in real time – amongst other things, to boost the gross national income, enhance productivity, and improve the standard of living of Malaysians.
Facebook for sports
For now, ONz is wholly-owned by all its cofounders. Yap (pic) said he hopes that over the next three years, the company will be able to turn ONz into a global one-stop mobile app for anything related to sports – from finding players for a social football game to purchasing the latest sports wearable gear.
“We hope to become the Facebook for sports,” he proclaimed.
To achieve that, first it needs to create an initial wave of users, and then create a critical mass, he acknowledged.
“Social networks succeed based on momentum. People will only join a social network if their friends are already on it,” said Yap.
The company also knows that it needs to make its presence felt outside of Malaysia.
“Our focus for the first half of 2015 is to really polish up the FitMalaysia App. We need to come up with a validated scalable working model which truly meets users’ needs and solves their pain points when organising their sports games.
“This will require a sizeable initial user base which we hope to achieve through our partnership with the Malaysian Government,” he said.
Once the company is satisfied with the FitMalaysia App, it plans to then venture outside the country with a globalised version of the app, tentatively named ONz.
“We target to enter other South-East Asian markets by the end of 2015,” he said.
The company has the necessary resources to fuel its plan for this year, said Yap, but is open to working with the right partners which can help it accelerate its plans.
Besides growing its user base, ONz also needs to have the right people on its side.
“Nine months ago, ONz was just a PowerPoint presentation. I am truly fortunate to know my highly-talented cofounders who have each devoted their time and expertise into making our dream a reality,” said Yap.
“We are deeply grateful to the minister (Khairy) for giving us the opportunity to be part of his FitMalaysia campaign. With the Government’s support, we hope to be able to show the world that we Malaysians are capable of coming up with the next big global tech success.
“Bikesh, our mentor, has also been very supportive and helpful in guiding us through this journey. We would not be where we are today without his belief in us,” he added.
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