Taking It On The Run

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MSU students hit on idea for mobile app to help runners.

Benny Ebert-Zavos and Josh Leider with their prize from the Eli Broad Business Pitch Competition

Farmington Hills native and Michigan State University business student Josh Leider likes to run for fitness. One day while running, a song came onto his iPod that really put him in the zone. “I began to run to the tempo,” said Leider, 21, who attended Temple Kol Ami. “And when the song ended, it really threw me off my stride.”

That experience led to an idea. What if he could create an entire playlist of songs whose tempo matched his preferred pace? He thought about it and put his head together with some fellow MSU students, including Jewish business partner Benny Ebert-Zavos, an avid runner.

Ebert-Zavos, 21 and a fellow business student, hails from Maryland and is currently Jewish Business Associate President at MSU Hillel. He and Leider got in touch with an adjunct professor in the Computer Science Department, who directed him to his best students, Adam Proschek and Phil Getzen. Together, the team created TempoRun, an app that allows users to run at a consistent and enjoyable pace, using music tempo as their guides.

The app, which will be available on iTunes in the spring, will scan users’ music libraries on their iPod or iPad and categorize their songs by tempo, levels 1-12. Users can also opt for a streaming music service that will search for music by genre and then categorize songs by tempo.

“Our goal is to help runners,” says Ebert-Zavos. “If they want to run 5 miles at a 7-minute-per-mile pace, they’ll be able to find their favorite music that has the tempo level to help them achieve that goal.”

Users will also be able to buy workout plans with preset playlists to help them meet their running goals, such as a 10K in 35 minutes.

“We have experience running to the tempo of music, and it does enhance your running abilities and make working out much more enjoyable,” Leider says.

A study from Brunel University has proven that running while listening to music can improve an athlete’s ability up to 15 percent, adds Ebert-Zavos. “We’re trying to capitalize on this statistic.”

Encouraged by their adviser at The Hatch, MSU’s business incubator, in August, they entered South By Southwest’s Student Startup Madness Pitch competition, a fun and exciting nationwide tournament providing college student startups the opportunity to grab the attention of potential investors and leaders in the startup community.

“We didn’t think we’d have a chance, going up against teams from schools like Harvard and Stanford,” says Leider, who will be working at Camp Tamarack this summer. “But last month we learned we made it into the top 32, and just recently learned that we are one of the eight finalists.”

TempoRun also won the $5,000 first-place prize at the 2012 Eli Broad Business Pitch Competition last month in East Lansing, beating out 27 other student-entrepreneur teams from MSU.

Next, the team heads to Austin, Texas, in March to pitch their app to a panel of successful investors and entrepreneurs to compete for valuable technology tools provided by Google developers. If they win, they plan to use the prize to develop the next generation of TempoRun, as well as invest in the human capital needed to ensure users have a quality experience.

Leider and Ebert-Zavos say they are on track to launch the app in April, which they will do with a charity 5K run in East Lansing. 

By Jackie Headapohl, managing editor

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