Imagine watching the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup or other big-time sporting event with one of the players who won it and picking their brain on coaching strategies and player evaluation throughout the contest.
West Virginia University alumnus Bill Hinchey is making that dream a reality with a new app for iPhones and Android phones that connects Pittsburgh sports fans and some of the all-time great athletes who played for the Steelers and Penguins.
Hinchey and childhood friend Rob Phillips have created Steel City Buzz, a social networking app now available for free through iTunes, Google Play or athttp://www.steelcitybuzz.com/.My WVU business degree helped me to be prepared for all the challenges of a startup by giving me a great foundation in accounting, business law and marketing.
1982 graduate of WVU College of Business and Economics
Hinchey is a 1982 graduate of the College of Business and Economics and former WVUStudent Government Association president. His company, Launch Farm Apps, is based in Bethlehem, Pa., but he is originally from Pittsburgh and, like many WVU students and alumni, has been a lifelong fan of the town’s sports teams.
“The idea behind it was really simple,” Hinchey said. “I’m a big Steeler fan. During games, I like to connect with friends sitting across the field or who aren’t at the game but the existing social networks never got it done. They were inefficient and clunky. So my business partner and I decided to build our own that really delivered what we wanted to see in a sports based social network.”
Hinchey credits the College of B&E with helping to launch his career. Launch Farm Apps is his second start-up company; he sold his first several years ago.
“My WVU business degree helped me to be prepared for all the challenges of a startup by giving me a great foundation in accounting, business law and marketing,” Hinchey said.
Also, he has remained connected to the school, acting as a judge in the WVU-hostedStatewide Business Plan Competition.
“I really enjoyed being a judge for the Statewide Business Plan Competition,” he said. “The students’ passion and enthusiasm for their projects is contagious and was certainly a motivation for me.”
The concept for an interactive social network sprung from Hinchey’s connection with Mel Blount, a Hall of Fame cornerback, who played for the Steelers from 1970 to 1983. Hinchey had had several business dealings with Blount and was on the board of directors for Blount’s youth home. After watching a few football games with the Hall of Fame cornerback, Hinchey thought other fans would also like to share his insights.
A pro athlete like Blount, Hinchey says, “watches the game differently than most fans. He sees schemes and defenses. He looks at things like who’s running great pass routes, who would be hard to defend. He sees the game two or three plays down the road and where teams have an edge because of the way they’re coached.
“It’s mind blowing; it absolutely changed the way I watch a game,” he said. “And I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to be in the same chat room with your buddies and some of the legends of game?’ With this app, you get a chance to see the game through their eyes.”
Hinchey’s new app enables you to network with and get feedback from Steelers greats like Blount, Louis Lipps, Rocky Bleier and Jack Ham, or Peter Taglianetti, a two-time Stanley Cup winner for the Penguins. The app also includes networking opportunities with other Pittsburgh celebrities including rocker Donnie Iris.
Eventually, Hinchey wants to expand the line of celebrities and create a complete line of apps tailored to specific college and pro teams, including the Mountaineers.
“This launch is the tip of the iceberg for us,” he said. “I can’t wait for the day that Mountaineers fans can watch a game and interact with players like Major Harris, Amos Zereoue and Jeff Hostetler.”