Alumni launch activity matching app

Posted on Monday, April 11, 2016

Brooke Stephens, Kim Tang, Mona Hafez, Nabil Maadarani, Franck Mamboue and Lalit Azad stand flanked by posters of a sketch of a woman holding a tennis racquet and of diagrams of sports fields. Poster text says Play More, OrbitHub, Organize and Play.

The OrbitPlay team: (from left) Brooke Stephens, Kim Tang, Mona Hafez, Nabil Maadarani, Franck Mamboue.

By Brandon Gillet

Looking for someone to play tennis or squash with? Seeking a rock-climbing partner or a worthy adversary for a game of chess? A new activity matching app has you covered.

OrbitHub, a website that helps users find partners for racquet sports, is branching out with the new, free-to-download OrbitPlay, a real-time activity matching app pioneered by five uOttawa alumni.

“The cool part is that it’s not just a racquet sport app. It’s not just a sport app, even,” said Mona Hafez (BComm ’06). “It’s a multi-purpose activity app.”

Unlike other activity matching apps, OrbitPlay’s algorithm creates matches in real-time. You get to play when you want to, not days later. According to Hafez, most apps generate matches based on proximity and skill level, but users need to figure out the where and the when themselves.

“The burden is on the users to send multiple messages to line up their schedules, and they might end up playing days later,” Hafez said. “The whole goal of OrbitPlay is to facilitate that process.”

All users need to do is turn on their visibility when they feel like playing. They can then send or receive play requests from potential matches based on proximity, skill and age.

The OrbitPlay mobile phone screen with 12 squares showing a variety of activities to choose from, including jogging, board game, chess and rock climbing. Each square includes an icon depicting the activity.

Here’s what the OrbitPlay app looks like on a mobile phone.

The idea for the app stems from Hafez’s own experience. When she moved to Mississauga after graduating from the Telfer School of Management, she had no one to play tennis with. Her solution was to commission a team of web developers to build a site to find players in her area, and the TennisOrbit website was born. On the suggestion of friend Brooke Stephens (BASc ’08), another site, SquashOrbit, was added.

Support from Startup Garage

For the first couple of years, the pair operated both sites as passion projects, but in 2014 they became involved with uOttawa’s Startup Garage.

“That was when we became a company and received government funding (through Startup Garage) to develop the app,” said Hafez. “We’ve received immense support from Startup Garage and the Entrepreneurship Hub.”

OrbitPlay’s team today includes Franck Mamboue and Nabil Maadarani (both BASc [Software Engineering] ’15), as well as Kim Tang (Algonquin College). The company added more options to the app and made it more versatile for people of various ages, skills and interests.

Hafez says the app can also help international students make new friends on campus and adjust to living in Ottawa.

OrbitHub plans to extend the app from Ottawa to cities across North America, where they already have a user base from their websites.

“Las Vegas, for example — we already have a user base for tennis there,” said Hafez. “In New York we have squash players.”

The app launched on Android (beta) at the end of March, and will be released on iOS in the next few months.

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