SportsHi CEO Alexander Miles earned rapturous applause last month when he announced, to an audience of potential investors and associates, that the startup was moving to Baltimore. Today, the youth enrichment-focused company went even further by rebranding with a new name: Breakthru.
The startup’s new name also reflects an expansion of its original mission, which grew out of Miles’ time coaching rugby at several New York City high schools. At the time, the former semi-professional rugby player wanted to ensure that the all-girls team he coached in Harlem could get the same scholarship opportunities as his all-boys team at the private Fordham Prep. By calling and making connections with coaches, Miles was able to get some of the girls full rides to Brown University.
Miles and CTO Gean Martinez created SportsHi to replicate that process of connecting student athletes from marginalized communities with coaches and scholarships. Now, as Breakthru, the company’s scope has increased to open pathways for all students — especially underrepresented ones — regardless of their interests.
Miles announced that relocation while presenting at the closing demo day of the Techstars Equitech Accelerator, which had selected SportsHi for its inaugural cohort. He credited that experience with opening his eyes to local opportunities and supporting the startup’s growth.
“There’re still so many opportunities on our platform that can help people who are not focused on sport, and that’s okay,” Miles told Technical.ly. “Where Equitech really helped us was around the scaling of our business model and tapping us into the Baltimore ecosystem.”
Miles said that 65,000 students have downloaded the company’s app, with 60% being female and 75% coming from underserved communities. The app matches high school and college students to scholarships, educational resources, career opportunities and mentors that can boost their likelihood of success. One student, the golfer Sydney-Reese Harris, even earned a $5,000 scholarship from NBA star Andre Drummond.
That model still guides Breakthru, which now applies the framework to a broader audience with expanded prospects. For instance, a company like Lockheed Martin can now craft a scholarship for engineering students and reach candidates through the platform.
Ahead of his own relocation here, Miles admitted that Baltimore reminds him of his hometown of Sydney, Australia. Going through the accelerator, through which he and colleagues worked with UpSurge Baltimore, also opened his eyes to the particular charms of Charm City and its tech scene.
“There’s a chip on your shoulder, the community is really tight [and you] punch above your weight,” Miles explained about Baltimore. “That’s Australians right there. I feel comfortable in those environments.”
Miles added that Baltimore, compared to his soon-to-be former home of New York City, presents tremendous support for companies to grow. Moreover, he looks to channel this potential into opportunities for Baltimore youth to use Breakthru’s platform.
“In New York, you’re in a line of 200, and you’re probably towards the back of the line,” Miles said. “In Baltimore, when you’re coming with an open mind and wanting to impact the community and ecosystem, you’re at the front. And there’s someone at the front of the line with open arms to give you a big hug and say, ‘Let’s go.'”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.-30-