Necessity is the mother of Jin Won Choi’s invention.
The 31-year-old is a fan of soccer, but he’s never been much a fan of searching for soccer games.
When Choi was a student working towards his master’s degree at Western University, he would drive around London for about 30 minutes at a time looking for pickup soccer games.
If he was lucky he would find a few people on a field, but sometimes the players would just be finishing up their game.
“It’s all about timing, you had to go at the right time,” Choi said. “I figured there must be a better way.”
Choi, who has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Waterloo and a PhD specializing in financial mathematics, decided to build an app called Footy Finder to help save himself some time and gas.
It took about two months to build, but the free app works by signing up to the program with a Google account and putting in your postal code. If a user wants to start up a game of pickup soccer all they have to do is take a picture of the field where they want to play. A notice will then go out to other people signed up in the area with the location of the field and the time of when the post went up. The post will be removed after two hours.
Currently users can only put up a post with an Android, but anyone can sign up to receive the email notices. A post can be done anywhere in North America.
“I figured I would make this app to make my life easier,” Choi said, adding he plays two to three soccer games a week. “I felt that other people that I played pickup soccer with would be interested too.”
Choi is seeing the app grow in small increments. The idea is new and two weeks ago it had 20 people registered. Last week there was 30.
He thinks it’ll take about 100 local enrollees before someone could start a pickup game from scratch, but sees a possible bright future for something he calls his “hobby project.”
He thinks Footy Finder is something that could connect the community, while also helping new residents find their game.
Choi lived two years in Vancouver before returning to London and he remembers how hard it was to even find a soccer field in the West Coast city. Footy Finder could help with that too.
Choi has ideas to grow the app if more people sign up, such as profiles created with a player’s position or notices sent by text message.
“I’m not really trying to make money off of it, but when you make something it’s extremely satisfying to see other people use it,” Choi said. “It makes you feel like you’ve done something worthwhile with your time and a little bit of your money.”
Driving around looking for a game wasn’t worthwhile, but putting on cleats for some more minutes is valuable time spent in Choi’s opinion.
Now all he has to do is wait for a game to pop up on Footy Finder.
“I do hope it gains popularity,” he said. “I want to be a user.”