In October of 2018, two Trinity Episcopal graduates and former college athletes realized there was a void in the college recruiting process — and therein a business opportunity.
Robert de Wolff and Bryant Drayton, both 26, are co-founders of STAC — essentially, LinkedIn for high school athletes aspiring to compete at the collegiate level.
“Athletes aren’t getting seen,” de Wolff said. “They lack the discovery process, the communication with coaches, and the educational component.
“The whole collegiate athletic recruiting process in general [is broken].”
Drayton, a quarterback at Trinity, played college ball at Ferrum, and de Wolff, a defensive end, played at VMI. Their team includes creative director Jarmal Bevels, a former wide receiver at the University of Richmond, and co-founder and CTO Peter Hanneman, also from the Richmond area.
Drayton and de Wolff have known one another since they were 14 years old. Both experienced firsthand the lack of resources available to high school athletes and together began formulating a business plan to provide athletes with the means to be seen by college coaches.
They quit their jobs in May 2019 and began raising money and talking to college coaches about what resources their platform needed to provide.
The pair quickly realized they lacked the technological expertise required to build the platform — that’s where Hanneman, 29, came in. This is Hanneman’s fourth start-up company, and he helped de Wolff and Drayton build their product from the ground up.
“It’s really awesome what we’re building. But we’re all in it for the why,” de Wolff said, noting that STAC is geared toward athletes who aren’t necessarily blue-chip prospects accustomed to the limelight.
“Our platform is going to provide an impact to people who are in locations that you or I have never heard of, people who right now just don’t have the educational, financial or discovery means to be seen by college coaches.
“But on top of that, they have the talent. So we’re going to open up so many doors and really provide every athlete an equal opportunity in the recruiting process.”
STAC is designed for all athletes, not just those in revenue-driving sports like football and basketball. It’s also set up to accommodate swimmers, runners and so on.
The app is free for athletes, who will enter information to build a public profile available to college coaches. The information, the parameters for which have been provided to the STAC team by college coaches, will include typical specs like a 40-yard dash time and per-game averages. But athletes can also upload a variety of videos, from highlight tapes to single games or even content of them training.
But after the launch, the app will incorporate educational experiences as teaching tools to help young athletes communicate with coaches in a professional manner.
On the athlete side, the app will be geared toward Gen Z teenagers, de Wolff said.
“A 13- to 19-year-old Gen Zer, they’re going to like something that’s hip, something that’s making them want to come back, something that’s fun, something that’s vibrant,” he said. “So our platform definitely shows those characteristics.”
For college coaches, the app will be more data-driven. De Wolff likened it to Uber and Uber Driver, two sides of the same coin with different purposes and presentations.
“We’re going to have STAC for the athletes and STAC for the coaches,” he said.
“It’s going to be the same information, but it’s going to be represented, more so individually, more so about hype that keeps athletes coming back, and also keeps coaches coming back because it’s going to be more efficient and effective data.”
A virtual recruiting process has never been more pertinent than now in light of the coronavirus pandemic, de Wolff said. Instead of a coach flying halfway across the country to scout athletes in a certain area, with STAC they can reach those athletes on their computer or smartphone.
“With everything going on, it’s a huge opportunity. The brand equity that we’ve created among the athletes and the coaches is big,” he said.
“Because we filled a void in a big-time crisis. People will remember you during the tough times. Every company does well during the good times, but it’s what happens during the bad times that really gets you remembered.”
The app launched May 10 in the DMV area, but the team hopes it can gain traction nationally, and there’s no geographical limitation to who can sign up. Parents or athletes interested in the platform can sign up for free at stac.app.