Apps / Sports / Startups

The founder of community sports app eseo wants to use technology to bring Philly athletes together

Ian Campbell has a goal of sharing events and activities with anyone looking for their own athletic community, from runners to pickleball players.

Ian Campbell and Josh Perez, the leader of Swagga House Run Club. (Courtesy photo)
Does a “30 runs in 30 days” challenge sound enticing to you?

For this reporter, that sounds impossible, but for Ian Campbell, it was his next step in connecting the runners of Philadelphia. Campbell is the founder of the sports resource eseo, a free website and app that launched in May 2022 to help athletes to connect with each other.

Yes, he actually did 30 runs with different running groups in 30 days.

“I got to meet so many leaders of the Philadelphia running community and talk to them about their groups about how eseo can be helpful and learn from them,” he said. “We’re working to make running and community sports as inclusive and as accessible.”

The former investment firm analyst grew up in Media, but ventured out to live in different states and countries before returning to the Philly area in 2017. He had a hard time finding running groups and other athletic events to join after he came back. Campbell was connected to gatherings and events through his coworkers, but lost those connections once the pandemic turned everything virtual.

“We launched eseo as Philadelphia’s first community sports resource to help these communities that are forming digitally,” he said, “to empower them and to bring people together around running and other community sports that not only improve people’s mental and physical and emotional health, but also unite people around a common interest and something we can all agree upon.”

The eseo app. (Screenshot)

The website features cumulative lists of digital resources to provide information about local races, nearby pickleball courts and leagues, hot yoga classes and the like. Its map feature will also allow users to search for local groups, events and activities in their neighborhood. The company sends out an email newsletter and has social channels to share notices about upcoming activities. The mobile app is an additional tool to connect athletes in Philadelphia.

Per Campbell, many casual sports events and activities are only shared through word of mouth. His platform allows third party registration sites to upload their events and activities, but eseo’s team also searches for other activities to share.

In November, the company announced a partnership with Run the Day, a race time and registration service.

“It’s as easy as not only connecting with other runners and training partners through the eseo app, but now also being able to streamline registration for that upcoming Reindeer 5K and [allow that info to] exist in in one place,” he said.

Other running apps, such as the popular Strava, are focused on the individual user, but Campbell said he wants Eseo to be focused on building community — to “use technology to bring people together in real life.”

The company is still small, with less than a dozen employees, and is currently bootstrapped, but Campbell hopes to do some fundraising in the new year.

The eseo community is currently made up of mostly people in the 22 to 42 age range, per the founder. And while the site has started out as centering on running and basketball, Campbell wants to make it clear that anyone can get involved, because anyone can be an athlete.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 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 Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

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