Lakeridge grad's app will help sports programs
Ben Swinford played football and baseball while at Lakeridge High School and was involved in a host of sports while growing up in Lake Oswego, and he loved almost everything about his athletic experiences.
The one issue Swinford kept encountering, though, was that he and his teammates couldn't always locate a decent recording of the greatest moments at local games, with the crowd sometimes missing the chance to film a triumphant touchdown or walk-off homerun.
Swinford realized that the problem must plague youth sports programs everywhere — and he had an idea about how to fix it. He would create an app that parents, friends and other youth sports fans could use to instantly upload their youth sports video to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or via text.
With the support of a childhood friend and other colleagues, including friends from his years at Cornell University, Swinford founded Rapid Replay in the Los Angeles area in 2016. At the time, he had a couple of internships under his belt after having graduated from Cornell with a bachelor's in computer science engineering.
"Rapid Replay is a sports video platform that consolidates all the best crowd-generated video highlights at sporting events," explains Swinford, CEO and lead engineer of Rapid Replay.
The company's name is a twist on the phrase "instant replay" and a reference to those moments when a big play or game highlight is shown again, sometimes on the large screen at a stadium. Now you can have your own instant replay with Rapid Replay, Swinford says.
"It's the Jumbotron in your pocket," he notes.
Because of his local connections and his knowledge of the faithful support that sports at Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools receive, Swinford has decided to focus on the two schools for the launch of Rapid Replay in Oregon this fall.
"Why not pick our two favorite schools?" he says.
What's more, he's decided that the local kick-off will also serve as a fundraiser for both schools' athletic programs. Every video that people post through the Rapid Replay app will lead to a donation through a fundraising effort called "Filmraising."
Most schools can earn up to $1,000 per season for their athletics programs with Rapid Replay, but for Lakeridge and LOHS, it's up to $3,000. These funds can help a team fulfill the usual needs, such as jerseys, equipment or transportation for team outings. A check will be sent at the end of each month that's made out to the athletics department.
"The more (the app) is used, the more money will be generated and given back to the high schools," Swinford says.
The "fall push" will commence during the first football game of the season; other schools in Oregon may also participate, as will schools in Phoenix and San Diego. The app is free to download and use for school employees, students and families, Swinford says.
The company plans to raise revenue through larger partnerships. Lakeridge and Lake Oswego high schools both happen to have websites on the Michigan-based sports information technology platform Varsity News Network (VNN), for example, which has handy team schedules and rosters on its websites but is in need of strong video content.
Needless to say, Swinford didn't get Rapid Replay off the ground alone. He enlisted the assistance of fellow Cornell graduates Nick Busto (baseball), Alyssa Gagliardi (hockey) and Andy Iles (hockey), all of whom were involved in college athletics and youth sports growing up.
Busto, who graduated from Cornell with a bachelor's in economics, says he was eager to jump on board when Swinford shared his idea, even though he was working at financial services giant Morgan Stanley at the time. Busto says he knows how much youth programs need the financial support, based on his experiences raising money for sports teams in the Seattle area.
"I grew up selling poinsettias and pumpkin pies and (coupon books)," he explains.
Busto notes that if he and his friends had gotten lucky enough to lay their hands on some video of their games, they would have "watched it over and over and over again."
He also really likes the straight-forward Filmraising campaign.
"It's about as simple as it sounds," he says. "You pull out your phone and you film. And for each video, you're earning incremental income for your school."
Swinford also is receiving support from Thomas Iwasaki, a childhood friend from Lake Grove Presbyterian Church and a Lake Oswego High School graduate. Swinford and Iwasaki played soccer together as children, but Swinford stopped playing at age 10 and focused on baseball and football instead.
Iwasaki stayed with the sport and was honored as Oregon's 2009-10 Gatorade Soccer Player of the Year in 12th grade. He went on to play soccer at University of Portland, where he graduated with a bachelor's in finance. He's currently also serving as the product manager at Portland-based NurseGrid, a tech platform for nurses to handle schedule management and communication.
Iwasaki says he readily agreed to support Swinford's endeavor, and he respects his friend's idea and the man himself.
"He's multi-talented," Iwasaki says.
Another Lakeridge graduate, Chris Barman, also is stepping up to work for Swinford, leveraging his knowledge of marketing. Barman, who is the son of Lake Oswego School Board member Bob Barman, is a University of California-Los Angeles graduate. He says he wishes he'd gotten good video when Lakeridge won the Oregon High School Lacrosse Association's state championship tournament in 2013, but the team didn't get any video of that event.
Barman says he treasures his high school sports memories.
"High school sports, I would give anything to go back for a moment," he says.
Busto says he feels much the same way. And now, this group of young professionals will be able to provide the power of a time machine for users of the Rapid Relay app while also advocating for the athletics programs of local schools.
"This is our way of going back," Busto says.
Swinford says he's just glad to be able to give back.