Tag: Squadz

Meet the Entrepreneur

Meet the Entrepreneur: Nikhil Panu Connecting Communities Through Sports

Meet the Entrepreneur: Nikhil Panu Connecting Communities Through Sports


Nikhil Panu

Weekend warriors head to nearby courts and fields for exercise, competition and fun, but too often they find either long waits or too few players. That reality plagued Nikhil Panu as a high school student-athlete in San Jose, California and followed him across the country when he enrolled at The Johns Hopkins University. It also inspired a solution.

Panu—the most recent captain of the Johns Hopkins basketball team and a recent master’s graduate from the Whiting School of Engineering’s computer science program—is developing Squadz, a mobile app that follows principles from Airbnb and OpenTable to establish a facility and sports event marketplace.

The app allows people looking for a game, whether it be basketball, tennis, golf or nearly any other sport, to find teammates and competition at a nearby venue. By connecting athletes and coaches to players, events and venues, Panu believes he can make Baltimore’s communities stronger and more active.

Panu participated in the Social Innovation Lab’s 2016-2017 cohort, and the five-month accelerator for social ventures supported him as he launched a pilot program. In the pilot, Squadz produced encouraging results, including 130 bookings of facilities in recreation centers over only a few weeks. Those bookings linked people from across Baltimore, allowing them to gather through the positive outlet of sports.

Below, Panu discusses Squadz, Baltimore and the goals he has for his social venture.
In five words, what does your company do?
Enable and foster active communities.
What are your goals and how will you get there?
My goals are to get access to as many clusters of sports facilities in certain locations as possible and build a user base of active sports participants, coaches and league administrators in those areas. I am looking to partner with high schools, universities, community centers and independent complexes by going through governing bodies or organizations that run them in order to allow them to rent their gyms, fields and courts out to our users.

In addition to drawing existing visitors to these spaces, I will partner with current sports organizations and social leagues to encourage their active organizers to use our platform.
In terms of startups and innovation, what’s one thing that separates Baltimore from other tech hotbeds?

Having grown up and worked in Silicon Valley, the general willingness to collaborate is something I have noticed that stands out in the tight-knit Baltimore startup community. People are always willing to lend a hand or make an introduction because they have a genuine interest in helping fellow entrepreneurs.
What’s next for Squadz and why is Baltimore a good playground in which to grow this app?

Squadz screenshot

Currently, we are working with the city to activate their community centers and schools and bring them onto our platform. Once we have that solid base of venues ready to go, we will be able to officially launch the mobile app in Baltimore later this summer. We are also planning on launching in the San Francisco Bay Area in July with some of the partnering facilities we have developed there. Stay tuned for announcements on both upcoming launches!

In addition, Baltimore has displayed a tremendous interest in providing health and recreation opportunities to members of its various neighborhoods and communities. People want to stay active, and the city wants to help them do so. There are not many cities around the country that have such a dense distribution of community recreation centers. That has made working with the city seamless and has provided us the necessary support to grow the platform.

Although the interest is apparent, there are definitely processes and points that need improvement. That is where Squadz can help. There is a clear opportunity for us to make an impact in Baltimore by keeping local recreation centers operational.
If you could give your past self one piece of advice for creating a startup, what would it be?

As much as you want everything to be perfect, it’s impossible. It is so important to gather as much data through research and user feedback as possible to learn, improve and make informed decisions.
What book are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Shoe Dog by the Nike founder Phil Knight.
What innovator do you look up to? Why?

I have and will always look up to my dad, who built one of the fastest growing early SaaS companies. From a young age, he shared his experiences with me and let me observe what he did firsthand. He always led his employees with passion, dedication and integrity and constantly strived to innovate. He’s the reason I ever had an interest in starting my own company, and I hope to be half the entrepreneur he is.
It’s after a long day of work, and you don’t feel like cooking. What is your go-to Baltimore restaurant?

Chicken Rico is definitely my go-to place. They’ve got a great chicken dinner combo that always hits the spot!
What’s your favorite non-work-related thing to do in Baltimore?

As a student, a lot of my time outside of work was spent in the classroom or competing with the varsity basketball team at The Johns Hopkins University. However, when our team was out of season, I frequently played and still play pickup basketball at many of the local community centers like Madison Square, Virginia S. Baker and 29th Street. I also like to catch Orioles or Ravens games when I get the chance.

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Social Ventures

Social Innovation Lab Announces New Class of Changemakers

Social Innovation Lab Announces New Class of Changemakers

Since 2011, 52 nonprofits and mission-driven for-profits have participated in the Social Innovation Lab, securing a total of $13 million in funding and positively impacting more than 268,000 lives.

On Oct. 26, SIL director Darius Graham welcomed the 2016 cohort. This group of 10 teams aims to build upon the success of previous cohorts by continuing to create change and build opportunities in Baltimore and beyond.

“These ventures were selected through a highly-competitive process from a pool of 53 applicants,” Graham says. “In addition to being promising solutions to pressing social issues in the areas of health, education and community development, these ventures and their leaders represent the strength and diversity of Baltimore’s social innovation and entrepreneurship community.”

Meet the 2016 cohort:

Social Innovation Lab 2016-2017 Cohort

Touching Young Lives – Provides education and tools to help lower the occurrence of sudden infant death syndrome across Maryland. Operated by Shantell Roberts, community member.

ReLac – Developing a vending machine technology and related services to provide breast pumping supplies to working moms. Operated by Meg Stoltzfus, Johns Hopkins University staff.

Beacon – A mobile application for anonymous, text-based group therapy that utilizes advanced natural language processing techniques to increase treatment accessibility for patients and the efficiency of mental health care providers. Operated by three Whiting School of Engineering students: undergraduate Shrenik Jain and alums Ravi Shah and Satya Bommaraju.

Bent Carrot – Strengthens urban communities by reducing food insecurity and promoting healthful eating. Operated by Mark Corser, community member.

The Whole Teacher – Provides health and wellness services to teachers in order to help reduce burn-out and increase retention. Operated by Jenna Shaw, a Johns Hopkins University alum from the School of Education.

Squadz – Squadz is a social activity and venue booking platform that connects the community to play pickup sports, while generating revenue for community centers and recreation facilities. Operated by Nikhil Panu, a Johns Hopkins University graduate student in the Whiting School of Engineering.

B-360/BCCC STEM Scholars – Exposes residents to STEM and increases diversity in these fields by meeting students at their level and providing job readiness and a pipeline starting at the GED or community college levels. Operated by Brittany Young, community member.

Project Charmify – Brings small-scale investment to Baltimore communities in the form of vacant lot revitalization and community-driven programming. Operated by three Johns Hopkins University undergrads: Elyse Oliver (Krieger School of Arts & Sciences), Darius Irani (Whiting School of Engineering) and Jack Alpert (Krieger School of Arts & Sciences).

The Listening Lab – The Listening Lab is a music listening education program that teaches fourth- and fifth-grade students awareness, concentration and intentional listening skills through a series of classroom sessions and live orchestra concerts. Operated by Rebecca Smithorn and AnnMarie Stockmeyer, community members.

Intelehealth – Improving access to comprehensive primary health care for the last mile through telemedicine. Operated by Johns Hopkins students Neha Goel (graduate student in the School of Medicine), Amal Afroz Alam (graduate student in the Whiting School of Engineering) and Emily Eggert (alum from the Whiting School of Engineering).

Take a look by the numbers:

Social Innovation Lab 2016 Cohort Stats

Social Innovation Lab 2016 Cohort Stats

Click here to learn more about the Social Innovation Lab!

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