Startup Spotlight: An Interview with the Founders of TempoRun

After Benny Ebert-Zavos and Josh Leider won Michigan State’s Annual Broad Pitch Competition and got into the school’s startup incubator for their tempo-based running management and radio-streaming application, TempoRun, the head of the incubator suggested trying out for a pitch competition on a much bigger stage: the Student Startup Madness stage.

Despite some technical issues during their pitch, which required Benny to improvise TempoRun’s 30-second demo video live on-stage, the judges chose TempoRun as the Student Startup Madness 2012–2013 National Championship Finals winner. The publicity from winning Student Startup Madness helped grow their app to 80,000+ global downloads over the next two years.

Josh: Aside from the pitching, the event, and all the people we met, the publicity we got from winning Student Startup Madness was really what set things off for us. I think from that point on it became not just a side project but, wow, we’re starting a company.

Benny: There were some really awesome people, and I think at the time we didn’t really realize the doors that were going to be open from this experience. It was a bit of shell shock, honestly, after we won, and then all of the media inquiries that we got right after the publication came out that we were the winner, and all of that exciting stuff that happens after.

After winning, the TempoRun team was interviewed by CNET, CBS, Fox, Men’s Health, Health, Digital Trends, and Complex and even had a full-page spread in Entrepreneur Magazine.

That article is still framed on the wall of Josh’s grandmother’s house, and on Benny’s desk, where he is currently a Sr. Communications Specialist for a large San Francisco based technology company. Josh is a UI Designer and Strategist working on a venture in Detroit. TempoRun closed shop in 2015, after Spotify launched a competing service, Spotify Running.

Despite shutting down TempoRun, Josh and Benny credit their company, and the publicity from winning Student Startup Madness, with much of their and their team’s success today.

Josh: The experience was invaluable. It was amazing. Every job I’ve gotten since then has been because of TempoRun.

Benny: Our entire team, because of the TempoRun experience, landed these incredible jobs. One of them is a product manager at Twitter. One is on the product team at Lyft. Another one of the guys is in San Francisco at another startup.

Benny and Josh aren’t done yet. With their SSM credentials and fame, plus their experience running TempoRun for 2 years, they are sure that one day they will be running a company again that’s focused on their passion: running.

Benny: We ultimately got to the point where we had to decide, do we work on this full-time or look to pursue other learning opportunities. “TempoRun had an amazing, amazing run, and let’s build on this experience for our next endeavor.” I still believe there is currently a demand for better running products.

Josh: The future is definitely still in running. We’re just waiting to have that next great running idea, and then we’ll be back — Benny and I will be back to the drawing board doing that.

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Are you a student startup? Apply to Student Startup Madness 2018 and compete to pitch on the Student Startup Madness stage at SXSW!