Panelist Recap: House of Genius NYC – Number 8


Rosie Siman was recently a panelist at House of Genius NYC. Here is her recap of our February 28th, 2013 session:

When I was invited to participate in House of Genius, I was immediately intimidated. I had signed up after someone told me to do so, but I never thought I’d actually get selected. But excitement outweighed intimidation so last week, I headed down to Dumbo to find out just what happened at this House of Genius.

Upon arrival, we took seats around a table, introducing ourselves with only our first names. Shortly after, Chris Meade of Sports Recruit was introduced to us. Sports Recruit is an online community built for students who are hoping to go to college with a sports scholarship. He gave us a little bit of information about his company, including some challenges and then it began.

The 12 of us sitting around the table had a few minutes to ask clarifying questions before we were asked by the moderator to provide a thought. There weren’t specifications other than a time limit: 60 seconds. [I learned quickly that if you speak fast, you can pack a lot of punch into 60 seconds.]

Sports Recruit has been around for several years and have a business model built on families paying various amounts of money for correlating amounts of support with help on using the site, setting up their child’s profile, etc. They have a solid amount of traffic but were looking for additional ways to gain revenue. From adding LinkedIn types of features like being able to see who has viewed your profile to charging coaches to take profiles “off the market” for a certain amount of time, we suggested different solutions.

Next up was Stephen Oddo of Walks of Italy. After graduating from college, Stephen moved to Rome and eventually set up a tourism company that sells day trips, unique activities and special access (with an emphasis on small groups & hand picked experts).

Stephen’s business was also fairly established: He was in the process of figuring out the best growth strategy and wanted our thoughts. The table was filled with differing perspectives, from support for a franchise model to a focus on more expensive activities, expanding only when a previous user was looking for recommendations in a new city.

Finally was my personal favorite, Obi, of Pop In Gym. Her startup addresses a problem that many frequent travelers are familiar with: the hotel gym. It’s hard enough to stay healthy while traveling and if hotels do have gyms, they’re usually shit. Beyond travelers, there are plenty of people who have commitment issues with gyms. And people like myself who might want to play racquetball a few times a year, but don’t want to fork over the dough that goes along with having a premium gym membership.

Obi’s app shows you gyms nearby, lets you filter based on your own needs and let’s you purchase a day, 4 day or month pass. Because Pop In Gym was still very new, Obi’s questions felt a bit less specific. I pushed for dynamic pricing (gyms offering reduced rates during slow times, or for specific classes/parts of the gym that weren’t being used) while someone else suggested she begin looking into partnerships with businesses who frequently send their employees around the world (like a McKinsey!)

The evening wrapped with a reveal. Each of us took turns introducing ourselves and providing a bit of background as to what we do. Before the event, I guessed that most attendees would be in advertising (The event was hosted in the office of a research company after all!) but I was pleasantly surprised to find that backgrounds were much more varied.

Now? I just have to figure out who I’ll nominate to go in my place next month. You up for the challenge? [Apply now to attend a House of Genius NYC session]


About Rosie Siman
Rosie writes, speaks, consults, teaches, strategizes & generally plays well with others. She dislikes voicemails and mean people. When she’s not helping brands figure out what they should be doing to harness the digital world, she’s curating a newsletter called The Tuesday Ten, which you should probably sign up for:

Rosie can also be found on Twitter @rosiesiman To collaborate with her check out

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