Former Spartan football players work to promote app startup SYMPL
Spartan alumni Matthew Eleweke and Mark Meyers work to promote their app startup, SYMPL, with a goal to have their app used on every college campus in the nation.
Both played for MSU Spartan football and graduated with degrees in creative advertising. Eleweke, a Detroit native, graduated in May 2017. Meyers, from Toledo, Ohio, graduated in May 2016.
“Our app helps the busy college students keep on top of their work. It’s really for the students who are involved, who struggle with keeping up to date with what’s in class. It sends you push notifications on upcoming assignments and exams in your classes,” Eleweke said. “If you want to create a study group, you don’t have to go on Facebook… You can pull up the SYMPL app, see who your classmates are, and shoot them a message really quick."
The SYMPL app also includes a map with study groups, when a classmate posts to a study group, an alert is sent out to everyone within the class.
The idea for their app came in 2013, on the first floor of Case Hall. It was their sophomore year and the idea for SYMPL was a long way from being solidified.
“It started in my dorm actually, we had just saw ‘The Social Network’ movie and that inspired us to start thinking about ways that we can get involved in technology,” Eleweke said. “We just started thinking about problems that people deal with on a regular basis. That led us to start thinking about student problems and ultimately it ended up being SYMPL.”
A common theme arose through their brainstorming, they wanted to help and create a product for students.
“I knew that we wanted to create something for the students and find a problem that students go through everyday,” Meyers said. “When we first started to come up with the idea we had very broad ideas with trying to do things on campus," Elewke said.
Eleweke transferred to Eastern Illinois to further pursue his collegiate football career. After a year away from East Lansing, he returned in the fall of 2016 to finish his degree as a Spartan.
“Through transferring and ending football, we ended picking it up seriously in 2016. That was when I transferred back here.” Elewke said.
In September of 2017, Eleweke and Meyers were accepted into a startup accelerator program in Redwood City, California with Global Silicon Valley. It is run in coordination with the Google Launch Pad.
“We had the opportunity to go out to Silicon Valley and start working with GSV labs out there and they are a big key in this thing,” Eleweke said. “They brought us back to square one and really helped us understand what is really important when it comes to starting business.”
Eleweke and Meyers were the only American startup accepted into the program.
“They put funding into your startup in return for a small equitable percentage,” Eleweke said. “From there they connect you with investors, you get mentors which they call Entrepreneurial residents. They really focus on your idea and help you get to the next level with it.”
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the SYMPL team. Finding like minded people was a struggle. Three engineers and a project manager are apart of the SYMPL app team.
“It’s impossible to do it by yourself,” Eleweke said. “The support that you have around you is everything. It will make or break you.”
SYMPL stays true to its name, they want to make life a little simpler for the average college student. They want their app to be used at every college campus in the nation.
“We want this ultimately to be used by every student. We always say this is more than ‘Apps’. This technology, the SYMPL platform, is our way to express who we are and express a voice that with the students,” Eleweke said. “We had the opportunity to sit down with university presidents, we have relationships with professors and teachers now, which is something we never would have expected. We just want to take advantage of those opportunities.”
The young men credit their Spartan football experience as life changing. Eleweke said if did not play football, he wouldn't have pursued his dream to create the SYMPL app. It has brought them both a new and different perspective in the world of technology.
“A lot of stuff we learned playing football is exactly what we use when applying it to SYMPL, and we get a lot of great results. We feel like we're bringing a complete new culture to technology. We got out to Silicon Valley, and everyone is excited because no one has meet someone like us before.”
The duo will be busy in the months to come. They will be traveling to Los Angeles for meetings with potential investors, and then on to Arizona State University. In December, the SYMPL app team had the opportunity to pitch their idea to Google. That exposure helped put themselves in position to gain investors.
Though the SYMPL app team has kicked off on the right foot, Eleweke and Meyers are not trying to get caught up in the moment. The young men said there is still a lot of work to be done, however, they will never forgot their midwest roots while pursuing their careers in California.
“Thanks to GSV Labs we have a home out there now,” Eleweke said. "We probably go out there once a month. Michigan will always be home.”