Student start-ups: Puck App

A Queen’s Commerce grad takes an easy problem and solves it with technology

Credit: 
Supplied by Niki Sawni

If you can imagine the melding of Uber and Tinder, add in a game of minor league hockey and a need for a goalie, you’ll have something similar to Niki Sawni’s app, Puck App.

Sawni, Comm ’13, knew he wanted to start his own business when he graduated from Queen’s.

“From my day-to-day, I always think of what I want to solve and put the idea in a jar. I play a ton of hockey but a lot of the time the problem is finding a goalie,” Sawni said. “Maybe you have one or two and if they can’t make it you can’t play and you have to forfeit the game and lose money.”

The way the app works is that you put in a request for game time, level and rank of the goalie you need. You have a goalie come to the game and you can message back and forth and then you can rate them. 

“If you’re a hockey goalie, there is no downside of being on the app. You get a notification and you can choose to join the game and make around $25 to $30 and if not it’s just another notification on your phone you can ignore,” Sawni said. 

Currently the app is available in cities like Toronto and Ottawa. Hamilton, Quebec City and Windsor, but Sawni is looking to expand, as well to make the app available in Calgary and Edmonton. There are currently 800 goalies on the app, who play around 100 games a month.

Sawni’s inspiration behind the app, other than his love for hockey, was the ability to use technology to solve everyday problems.

“How can I leverage technology to make it the best customer experience? My focus is around the teams looking for goalies, how can I make it as easy for them as possible without reaching a third party?”

Hockey goalie renting services did exist prior to this app, but according to Sawni they didn’t have the same convenience. 

“There were other ones out there but they were really outdated. So, here is a small problem, a uniquely Canadian problem, that technology can solve.”

Sawni’s favourite part of the app is the leaderboard feature, where goalies can log in and see the highest ranked goalies. This allows for goalies to see how they measure up compared to others in the area.

Puck App recently launched a program for young hockey goalies to apply for one of four $250 awards to help them and their families buy equipment, which can often be pricey. 

The most surprising part of running Puck App, Sawni is the personal connections.

“Some people on the app send me messages saying ‘I really need money, anything you can do’ or ‘I am a struggling single dad and want to be able to help my kids out.’ You get really personal with a lot of users,” Sawni said. 

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