Everything About Sports Is Here! (March 28, 2017)
Mysu, a social platform from Boğaziçi University open to everyone interested in sports and healthy living...
My Sports Universe (Mysu), a web-based social platform focusing on sports and healthy living, aims to bring together people who have any interest in the world of sports. Mysu began at Boğaziçi University and in a short time started getting investments. It connects athletic trainers, sports facilities, sports enthusiasts, and those who intend to start sports. Mysu aims to become a social marketplace; it has no equal in Turkey or around the world, and owes its difference to the academic support it receives.
We listened to the story of Mysu from Prof. Ayşegül Toker, Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences of Boğaziçi University, who has supported Mysu since the project stage as an advisor; and Yusuf Öç, the founder of Mysu, a graduate of BU Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering who is currently working towards a PhD.
How was the idea to develop Mysu conceived?
Yusuf Öç: Professor Toker is my dissertation advisor. We were working together on a totally different subject, and we had to talk to some firms and gather analytic data. We had problems at that stage; at one point we got stuck. Then Prof. Toker said, “You are very much interested in sports; you can work on a topic related to sports technologies.”
Ayşegül Toker: Unfortunately, we do run into such problems in projects that require acquiring data from firms. The firms in Turkey usually like the projects but when it comes to sharing data, problems begin. My main area of research is the adaptation of new technologies and particularly digital technologies by consumers and firms. Yusuf and I would often talk about sports: that’s how the idea of working on sports came about. I have been doing pilates for over two years; Yusuf is very closely involved in sports. The adaptation of sports technologies is a topic we both know and like very much.
Yusuf Öç: When we started the project, we first conducted literature search to find out if anything similar had been done before and found very little work directly related to our topic. Later, we conducted preliminary field work and interviewed both people who worked out or played sports and those who did not. During those interviews, before mentioning the topic of sports technologies, we asked some basic questions: Do you exercise? How often do you exercise? Which sports facilities do you go to? How do you decide which one to go to? Or do you get help from a trainer? We received a very narrow range of answers. At that stage we also realized that there were no online projects to support sports enthusiasts, let alone sports technology. Then we began to interview professional and amateur athletes. We asked them if there were any internet sites on sports that they followed. In short, the interviews revealed what was missing and we decided to concentrate on a project that would offer a solution: a social marketplace for athletes.
How can users benefit from Mysu?
Yusuf Öç: Actually, our aim is to establish a sports network where everyone who wants to exercise can find friends, trainers or sports centers. Even if the user is not looking for any one of those, Mysu offers a wealth of online sports and health content. Because of the country’s current agenda, social media is very confusing and very political these days; we want to create an environment where the individual can make time for himself and read only sports related material.
How does Mysu get trainers to join?
Yusuf Öç: Professional trainers and institutions have a separate page on Mysu. For instance, we support our members in photo shoots that will be posted on these pages. We found out that it is difficult for athletes to have an opportunity to promote themselves. Of course they share on Facebook or Instagram but since these venues contain a wide variety of content, what they share may go unnoticed. To a large number of professionals who do not have their own web page, Mysu offers a platform where they can organize their online entities; they can take reservations or post timely shares.
“Transparency and Dependability”
In the area of professional accounts, we developed a standard that will differentiate us from others: A trainer who is not certified cannot open an account in Mysu. We have two objectives which we will never compromise: transparency and dependability. No one going to a sports center asks the trainer if he is certified. But as an intermediary institution, we have the responsibility to do that. For instance, an individual who has had pilates lessons for two years can technically be a trainer, because he has learned the techniques to do that but a trainer who has no knowledge about joints and muscles can cause injuries.
Ayşegül Toker: During our research we saw that the prices at sports centers can change according to the client. Many sports centers do not share their prices online. The consumer, not being very knowledgeable on the topic, may opt for lower priced facilities to economize. But we wouldn’t want to get counseling on sports from a person if we do not know the kind of training he/she has had. Following the recommendations of Barış Çunguroğlu, an international trainer who has advised and supported us all along, we are planning to classify trainers into three categories as “international”, “national” and “local” on the basis of the certificates they hold. Our objective is to help those trainers who take their education seriously to be able to promote themselves better.
It is possible to be trained online by well-known trainers
Mysu is a very recent application but it has made an impact in a short time. I believe your professional account is limited to Istanbul for the time being. How will you solve this geographical restriction?
Yusuf Öç: Currently we have 300 singular and 80 professional user accounts. We aim to reach 1,000 professional trainers and institutions and to raise the number of singular users to 100,000 within the next year. Those are good figures for an enterprise that does not yet have an active a marketing strategy.
Ayşegül Toker: At present, our priority is the supply side; without the supply we cannot give the user anything. In online enterprises, there is a concept of “critical mass”. If the “critical mass” is not ensured, users will not be satisfied because they will find the content inadequate. Currently Yusuf is concentrating on reaching trainers so that a wealth of content will be available to the users when we move on to the marketing and advertising stage.
Yusuf Öç: We are planning to overcome the geographical restrictions through our video tutorials. We want everyone to exercise, but having a personal trainer or going to a sports facility can be costly. Finding high quality content is very difficult; there are thousands of videos on YouTube but we aim to provide professional content. We are currently shooting with Rıfat Özkök, Mr Universe World Champion. Since Rıfat Özkök lives in Istanbul, he cannot train people in Ankara or Diyarbakır or İzmir. To reach those who want to be trained by a world champion, we offer online content daily for 8 weeks.
Physical wellness means spiritual and mental wellness
Ayşegül Toker: The project has a social aspect as well. 30% of the Turkish population is struggling with obesity, and that rate is increasing. The situation is no better elsewhere in the world. The concept of “wellness” comprises not only physical but mental and spiritual dimensions as well. These are all integrated: when you feel good physically, you feel good spiritually and mentally, too.
We added the subtitle “Motivation for Sports” to Yusuf’s dissertation. We borrowed the concept of “locus of control” from the field of Psychology as used in the literature on weight loss and applied it to our project. In very simple terms, the concept means “I am at the helm of my life; I can succeed if I want to.” Actually, we reached this conclusion from observing the people we talked to on the field. We thus developed our hypothesis: adaptation of sports technologies is directly related to motivation for sports. We are planning to share the information from the academic research on mysu.com.
Individualized sports algorithms will be developed at Technopark
Yusuf Öç: From that point, we come to the MysuMatch project. This is a sports matching algorithm never before done in the world. There are many different parameters: it’s not just “I’ll go to the sports center”, or “I will lift weights” type of thing. What is the psychological state or the motivation of the user? Does the user want to burn fat or live a healthy life to meet his/her expectations? These are very important questions. When asked, people say “I want a good physique”, but actually they have not grasped the importance of doing that in a healthy way. The algorithm called MysuMatch will discover the type of sports that suits you best according to your ambitions and motivation, and recommend not only the suitable sport but also trainers and sports centers. We have already applied to develop this algorithm at Boğaziçi University Technopark.
Mysu is beyond a marketplace; it is also a social network. You are also developing the infrastructure for sports activities. Can you talk about that?
Actually we are interested in everything related with sports. For example, if you want to play a game of tennis, you can find and invite a friend over Mysu, find the court, and organize a match. We are developing the infrastructure for organizing activities and tournaments. The most popular form of exercise in Turkey today is “halı saha” soccer games (soccer played on a miniature field). In Istanbul alone there are over 2,000 miniature soccer fields. Such infrastructure will increase sports activities. We offer this service free of charge to Boğaziçi University Sports Club because we want to bring back to life and support the spirit of sports at our University. Boğaziçi University has a strong sports tradition; the first Turkish team to ever go to the Olympics was the Robert College team. We believe that we should benefit from and support such an environment. Our President Prof. Mehmed Özkan told us that he, too, wanted to revive this tradition. We want to develop this project to channel the energy of young people to sports and we aim to integrate new ideas constantly.
News: Gökçe Büyükbayrak
Photographs: Talat Karataş/Office of Corporate Communications