Baseball marketing platform hits home run at CR Startup Weekend

When he pitched the idea Friday evening at the inaugural Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids, Zach Sanderson—who previously worked as a sports photographer at Stanford University—simply thought it would be cool to create a digital alternative to traditional baseball cards. "Stanford's baseball team didn't print cards because it was too expensive and by the time they’re

Major Trading Cards took home first prize at the inaugural Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids. 

When he pitched the idea Friday evening at the inaugural Startup Weekend Cedar RapidsZach Sanderson—who previously worked as a sports photographer at Stanford University—simply thought it would be cool to create a digital alternative to traditional baseball cards. 

“Stanford’s baseball team didn’t print cards because it was too expensive and by the time they’re printed, the season is almost over and they’re out of date,” Sanderson told Silicon Prairie News. “My first thought is, ‘That would be a cool type of thing to have available on an app,’ and that’s what I initially pitched on Friday.”

What originally began as an idea for photographers and teams to share digital, up-to-date baseball cards with fans, morphed into Major Trading Cards, a mobile marketing platform for minor league and college baseball fans. Major Trading Cards would allow teams to reach their fans both inside and outside of the stadium through customizable features like digital player cards, push marketing and ticket promotions. 

As the team researched problems many minor league or college baseball teams have, Sanderson says they found that on average about 48 percent of seats remain open during most games.  

The five-person team included Sanderson, Jason Kristufek, Joshua McNary, Aaron Frerichs and Keevin O’Rourke. Sanderson says that following Startup Weekend the team plans to pursue the idea.

“We’re going to be talking to a lot of people,” Sanderson said. “We’re going to continue this conversation with them to see what the best next steps are.”

Born Ready, a mobile app that provides an interactive, comprehensive childproofing guide, took second place. The third-place finisher was VoLUP, a social platform that matches volunteers with nonprofit organizations that complement their unique skill sets and recognizes participants’ commitment to community service. 

“I said this after the final pitches, but this was probably the most hashtagged event in Iowa’s Creative Corridor since the creation of Twitter,” David Tominsky, one of the event’s organizers, told Silicon Prairie News. 

For finishing in first place, Major Trading Cards received three free months in Vault Co-working, a $125 gift card to Moo.com and a BlendCard with $125 on it. Born Ready received a $75 gift card to Moo.com, a BlendCard with $75 on it and two T-shirts from RAYGUN. VoLUP received a $50 gift card to Moo.com, a BlendCard with $50 on it and three copies of RAYGUN’s book “The Midwest: God’s Gift to Planet Earth.” 

Tominsky added that the remaining five Startup Weekend teams received a BlendCard with $25 on it as an incentive to get together again after the weekend is over. Each participant also received a five-day co-working pass to Vault.

The inaugural event kicked off Friday evening with more than 100 people gathering at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance to hear the event’s 68 attendees pitch 35 ideas. While nine teams were originally formed, only eight continued through Saturday to present during Sunday’s final presentations. 

Judges at the event included a wide range of community members, such as Jeff Pomeranz, city manager of the City of Cedar Rapids; Patrice Carroll, president and CEO of ImOn Communications; John Osako, co-founder and vice president of development at Infomatics Inc.; Amanda Styron West, CEO of Seed Here Studio; and John Schnipkoweit, co-founder and CEO of NextStep.io. 

“What I’ve been telling people is that when we set out to do this, I knew it was going to be awesome,” Tominsky said. “I just had no idea on what scale and it exceeded any expectation I could have had.”

For more on Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids, read our previous coverage:


Credits: Team photo from Major Trading Cards on Twitter.

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