New start-up DepthChartz to give student athletes a fighting chance

University of Memphis MBA student Zach Harrison is the founder of the new DepthChartz website, which helps high school and college student athletes gain first exposure.

 
Lifelong soccer player Zach Harrison began playing football later in his education, serving as his team's kicker when he earned his undergraduate degree from Samford University. He wanted the opportunity to continue playing football as a kicker for a semiprofessional team. The big problem: no one knew who he was. Because of his relative lack of experience and playing time, it was a challenge to attract the attention of professional organizations.
 
"So I made a tape of me kicking a football and sent it to a bunch of arena football teams. The second they had the tape they were all interested," Harrison says. "I traveled around doing a few tryouts and then tore some ligaments in my knee, and the whole pro thing was over before it started."
 
In early 2010 he began thinking about the reality of being good enough, but that simply not being enough. "What mattered was the exposure, the right connections, the right people knowing who you are and being able to vouch for you," Harrison says.
 
While rehabbing his knee, he realized he had met countless other skilled, young athletes at the professional tryouts who were also struggling with being unknowns.
 
"So many of them had such amazing talent, that you could not believe--once you saw them in person--that no one had heard of them," says Harrison. "The reality is there will always be more athletes than there are coaches and recruiters to find them, so I came up with a simpler way to initially find the athlete."
 
With a highly search-functional framework, DepthChartz provides student athletes with exposure to college and professional outlets through highlight video submissions and validated stats.
 
"We allow any athlete, male or female, in any NCAA-supported sport to upload a highlight video for free. Then coaches, recruiters and even fans can come and search for those athletes using detailed search parameters," says Harrison, who compares the service to searching for cars on autotrader.com. "We want to make it easy for coaches to find what they are looking for and easier for kids to get that first exposure."
 
Harrison began outlining his idea into a business plan in 2009 and has been working with the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Memphis' FedEx Institute of Technology this year. He plans to expand the company's revenue stream in the future with additional paid resources, including in-depth reports, as well as new advertisers. His goal is to eventually attract every student athlete in the country.
 
DepthChartz will also allow coaches to list and promote their camps and training services, creating the prospect for top talent-opportunity pairings.
 
"Through business school and the hard experience of trying to start my own company, I've realized the importance of mutually beneficial relationships," explains Harrison, who began entering local start-up competitions like Start Co.'s "48-Hour Launch." After pitching his idea, he won entry into a two-day coaching session during which entrepreneurs and professionals work together to take an idea and form a solid business plan.

After winning a 48-Hour Launch, Harrison entered "Student Start-Up Madness" at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. With no product yet built and no developer to pay for the DepthChartz website, he didn't expect to go far in the contest. But yet again he made it to the compettion's finals. Of the 64 college students selected to participate from around the country, Harrison was chosen as one of the "Entrepreneurial Eight" to compete in the final round of the student tournament.
 
"That exposure caused the University of Memphis to be very interested in helping me further this effort, and they are actually paying for the development of the DepthChartz website," Harrison says.
 
The DepthChartz website is scheduled to be completed in early May.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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