Runners of any ability can relate to the feeling Josh Leider had during a summer workout last year. "'Lose Yourself' by Eminem came up on my iPod, and it was the perfect beat for the pace I was running," says the recent Michigan State University grad. "Running never felt better than it did at that moment; it was amazing. But next, a song came up that was a totally different pace. It completely threw off my stride. It also made me wonder why I couldn't match all of my music to my running pace."
Leider ran his question by fellow MSU student Benny Ebert-Zavos, a marathon runner. The two found that there were apps on the market that adjust song tempos as a runner's pace changes, but none that categorized music according to tempo. With that, TempoRun was born.
The iOS app, which sells on iTunes for $2.99, helps users run at their ideal pace by categorizing the music in their libraries from level 1 (walking) to 10 (sprinting). Runners select a level, which can be changed with arrows on the simple interface. The app also keeps track of distance, times and calories burned, and even incorporates a streaming service, TempoRun Radio, which provides music at each numbered pace. The app saw 2,000 downloads the first day of launch.
Leider and Ebert-Zavos took advantage of MSU resources to launch their product. A computer science professor hooked them up with student developers; they worked together on the coding, collaborating through online project-hosting site GitHub.
TempoRun won a 2012 MSU pitch competition, earning the team $5,000 and access to The Hatch, a student business accelerator in partnership with MSU's Entrepreneurship Network. There they found more pro bono resources, such as interns who designed a logo and worked on marketing and legal efforts.
The pair used the prize money and a grant from MSU Hillel's Jewish Business Association to buy computers, trademark their idea and create an LLC. At the professor's suggestion, they entered TempoRun in the 2013 Student Startup Madness, a competition for college digital projects at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference. MSU funded the trip, and the app took first place. "We were going up against teams from Stanford and Harvard. At first we looked at it as a joke, thinking there was no way we could compete," Ebert-Zavos says. "But when we kept advancing to more rounds, we started taking it very seriously."
The win netted them $5,000 in Google Cloud Platform credit and access to the judging panel of execs from Google, Square, BrandYourself.com and TechStars. "We were able to meet some extremely influential people in the tech business, and we know we can turn to them now for support," Ebert-Zavos says.
Members of the TempoRun team--which also includes Phil Getzen, Adam Proschek and Ryan Tempas--hope to build careers around the app. They're now researching a cycling version. "There's a lot of testing, with things like pedal stroke turnover, that will need to be done," Leider says. "Everyone wants to find a way to make their workouts more enjoyable. We want to help people do that."