Zen Sports Launches Mobile App for Pool
Feb. 14, 2017
Feb. 14, 2017
League and tournament software for the pool and billiards industry has historically been a clunky combination of outdated websites and systems with poor design and user experiences. A new startup in San Francisco is looking to change all of that.
ZenSports is announcing today the launch of its new mobile app for both iOS and Android that is dedicated to helping pool players and directors more easily find and manage leagues and tournaments. The app creates a clean and simple experience for players to find, register, and pay for pool leagues and tournaments right from their phone. Players can also track all of their stats, compare themselves to others locally and worldwide, and share their results easily across social media.
Because ZenSports does the heavy lifting of making it easy for players to find and pay for leagues and tournaments right from their phones, directors no longer need to be marketing experts in order to get the word out there about their leagues/tournaments. Instead of spending time and money creating posters, social media ads, and other campaigns, directors can simply create leagues and tournaments within ZenSports and then sit back and watch as players find and pay for them. In addition to helping directors recruit new players, ZenSports also makes it easier for directors to retain existing players through its real-time notifications and in-product marketing.
According to ZenSports Co-Founder & CEO Mark Thomas, “Directors can essentially use ZenSports as their marketing arm to get the word out there about their leagues and tournaments without having to pay a penny on advertising. Instead of wasting time and worrying about marketing, directors can now simply focus on running great leagues and tournaments.”
ZenSports doesn’t stop at just the discovery and payment processing aspect of pool leagues and tournaments. ZenSports also lets directors manage brackets, table assignments, match play results, stats, standings, and rankings right from their phone. Directors can ditch their paper brackets and spreadsheets that they use to manually keep track of everything, and instead just use ZenSports to manage it all. With ZenSports, directors end up spending less time dealing with administrative work, and spend more time building great relationships with players.
Managing the full life cycle of the league and tournament process is a key component of what makes ZenSports special, says Thomas. “Most of the other software products in the pool industry do just one or two things well. They’re features, not products. ZenSports on the other hand, provides a complete solution from beginning to end for both players and directors. We don’t do just brackets or just payments. We help players and directors complete the full life cycle of leagues and tournaments, from the discovery and payments aspect to managing post-league and tournament results via stats and standings. We do it all, and we do it in a way that’s clean, simple, and beautiful to use.”
Design and user experience is another important differentiator in how ZenSports stacks up against some of the fragmented competition that exists. Thomas says that ZenSports uses the most current technology design principles throughout its app, and its clean and simple interface are a far cry from many of the other outdated products out there. “So many league and tournament products in the pool industry look like they were built in 1996,” says Thomas. “That’s just simply not acceptable nowadays. People expect to be be using apps that look and feel like Uber, AirBnb, or Facebook. Not some boring league or tournament software from 20 years ago.”
So how does it all work?
Directors begin by creating leagues and tournaments right from their phone in about 30 seconds. To keep things simple, ZenSports only asks for the most important pieces of information regarding each league and tournament that players would care about. From there, players are able to see those leagues and tournaments when they begin searching in the app.
The search functionality is location-based, so players by default see the leagues/tournaments that are closest to them. But the robust search functionality also allows players to find leagues/tournaments in other cities across the country, and even in other countries, too. “If players know that they will be traveling to another city or country, they can easily search, register, and pay for those leagues/tournaments even before they arrive in those locations,” says Thomas. ZenSports’ search capabilities also allow for narrowing results by things like game type, open or handicap, leagues or tournaments, and specific locations. For example, a player could search for all 9-ball handicap tournaments that are going on at a specific pool hall.
Once players find a league or tournament that they’re interested in, they can register and pay for it with their credit card. Prior to ZenSports, directors would only be able to accept cash or they would need to set up a PayPal link, both of which are a hassle.
According to Thomas, “ZenSports creates a drop-dead simple experience for players paying for leagues/tournaments right from their phone. Gone are the days where players have to carry cash or pay a fee to take money out of the ATM just to play in a league or tournament. Players only have to add their payment info one time, and can then just check out over and over again with that same credit card for each league/tournament.” Players can also update their credit card info at any time, add multiple cards, etc. If players still prefer to pay with cash on the day of the tournament, that’s not a problem, as ZenSports allows directors to add cash players to a league or tournament.
On the day of the league or tournament, directors can manage everything from brackets to table assignments to prize payouts. Players also have complete visibility into everything going on in the league or tournament as well, and they receive notifications when their match and table assignment have come up so that they don’t have to bother the director about where to go or whom to play.
In addition, any player or director that has a ZenSports account but is not actually playing in or running a league/tournament, can view and follow along with those leagues or tournaments as they’re happening in real time (anyone not registered for a league/tournament only has viewing permissions, so they can’t change or edit anything).
This is an important concept that Thomas says ZenSports is using to improve transparency within the pool industry. “Right now, everything is a walled garden and nobody outside of a particular league or tournament can see what’s going on in real time. Directors are literally taking pictures of paper brackets with their phone and posting them on websites and Facebook so that people can see what’s happening. That’s ridiculous. We’ve changed all of that so that anyone can view any tournament or league in progress as they’re happening in real time, whether they’re playing in that league or tournament or not.”
Players and directors can also see someone else’s complete player profile beyond just that league or tournament. ZenSports allows everyone to see every player’s full tournament/league history, ratings, rankings, etc. “Players want to see the full, 360 degree profile of exactly who they’re playing against,” says Thomas. “They don’t just care that someone went 3-0 in today’s tournament. They also want to see how their opponent has performed in leagues or tournaments overall, and how that person’s ranking stacks up to everyone else in the world.”
ZenSports backs this up by showing a world ranking list of everyone in its system. For example, a player can see that he/she is ranked 22nd out of 5,387 players in the ZenSports system. This gives players a better idea of their overall ranking and how they compare to everyone else.
ZenSports supplements the traditional stats of win/loss record with its own proprietary “Z Rating” system. There are several permutations of different rating systems that exist within the pool industry today. While Thomas acknowledges that this is yet another one, he said that there are a couple of key differences between their Z Rating and other systems.
“First of all, most rating systems are overly complicated. They factor in a bunch of unnecessary data like number of innings to complete matches, etc. Our formula is simple -- you go up or down one point for each win or loss, and you get bonus points added to your rating if you place in a tournament.”
“Secondly, we only factor tournament records into our ratings (not league records). This prevents players from sandbagging in their local leagues when the dues/entry fees are super low, and then having an artificially low rating by the time they go into the big money tournaments. We’re going to continue to improve upon the methodology for the Z Rating, such as eventually factoring in opponent rating into the equation. At the end of the day, our goal is standardization, fairness, and trust. Right now, players don’t trust most of the systems out there. They will trust the Z Rating.”
There’s never a cost to download the app for anyone who wants to use ZenSports, and the only thing that players pay for are their league or tournament entry fees. The product is also free right now for directors to use for unlimited leagues and tournaments that they create. Thomas said that at some point, they’ll charge directors to use the product, but haven’t decided on a pricing model yet. He reiterated that players will never get charged anything beyond the entry fee amounts posted in the system.
ZenSports is available for anyone in the world to download in the App Store (iOS) or Google Play Store (Android).