Early Adopter: LateralSports.com–Kayak for College Sports Online

If you’re a big fan of collegiate sports, the prospect of locating all the games you want to watch can be daunting.

Assuming the game you are looking for isn’t deciding some crucial tournament that lands it on ESPN2, where do you go? A school’s athletics Web site? The site for the specific team? For the venue? What if the game is out of conference or pre-season?

And while these issues may seem like the lament of the crazed sports fan, Tom Bleymaier, co-founder of LateralSports.com, believes he’s onto something thinking there’s a problem to be solved.

“There are 347 Division One schools in the NCAA, which means about 6,500 teams total,” explained Bleymaier in a recent interview. “We want to be the one place online that fans can go to locate the games they want to watch–we want people to search with us, and be confident that if we aren’t listing it, then it just isn’t available.”

He and his co-founders, his brother and sister, built LateralSports.com not only to connect users with the hard-to-find games, but to highlight games fans didn’t even know they were interested in.

Indeed, a quick search for San Diego State Softball, where a friend is a coach, showed where I could watch online this weekend. Searching for my hometown ZIP Code revealed 42 active collegiate athletes from my high school alma mater, and showed where I might watch the games of those currently in season.

This sort of discovery seems to be exactly what Lateralsports.com is designed to elicit.

Said Bleymaier: “Big name schools think that people who want to see their games know where to find them. We agree that all of their existing fans may, but there are 200 kids and their new freshmen’s old high school who would watch the game if they knew about it. We can send alerts to anyone from that hometown to tell them when games are on, and connect them with where to watch.”

The alerts, emails and texts could be more helpful than they sound–and not just for the fans.

“NCAA rules actually restrict who a college can send such alerts too,” said Bleymaier. Those rules don’t bind Lateral Sports, and we could be a pretty useful middle man for athletics departments.”

The real bet for Lateral Sports, though, seems to be on a new kind of social connection between would-be fans and the games they could be watching. The connection it hopes to build on is something different than the jersey-wearing hero worship that might bring fans to pro sports.

“Part of our growth will be tapping into that wiki-like loop. If someone is a big Alabama fanatic, and they send us a good link for where to watch a game, we need to put that up,” he said. “People are already doing that work, but it’s on message boards and forums, not one, easy to use, central place.”

Bleymaier said that today the LateralSports.com site has complete listings of where to find games and live statistics for baseball, lacrosse, golf and tennis–the larger spring sports. That list is far from complete, but not bad for two weeks after launch.

The company is currently part of the Stanford design school’s (d.school) Launchpad class, run by Michael Dearing and Perry Klebahn.

The class takes new and existing ideas through an accelerated process of prototyping, user testing and iteration–and has developed somewhat of a reputation for attracting interesting ideas.

It was the same Launchpad class that birthed the Pulse news reader less than a year ago.

Although he dodged questions about being the “next Pulse,” Bleymaier said the long-term vision for LateralSports is to scale up and include all college sports from all divisions, and later plugging in high school and pro level play as well. He wants fans to be able to log in and track a player’s career from the high school JV squad through their retirement from pro ball (whatever ball that might be).

I talked with Bleymaier, who looks every inch the all-American boy, on his way out of a session of the Launchpad class. I grilled him on the idea and some of the barriers to scale–all the while dodging every sports metaphor that came to mind.

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