#About the project
With Chember, you can find streetball communities near you. Create your streetball profile, discover the Chember map, see live court densities, and find or create games. We designed Chember for basketball lovers who want to connect with streetball communities around them.
I (Ege) started this project with a few friends from high school. I was studying abroad in Italy last semester, and Italy was one of the first countries that had to, you know, quarantine and all that when Covid-19 hit. In Italy, I had some friends from high school from my high school basketball team, and they suggested going out and playing streetball with local folks. I liked to do that, but on the other hand, I also wanted to build complex software projects. I experimented with frameworks and MongoDB for school projects and wanted to learn more about how to turn this into a project. I told my friends about the idea of building a streetball app. The advantage was that we didn’t have to talk to our users cause we were the users. I took on the technical responsibility for the project, and that’s how it started. Now we’re a student formed startup that gained 10k users within three weeks after our launch, and we’re continuing to grow.
I was already familiar with MongoDB. With the help of MongoDB, We were able to manage various types of data (like geolocation) and carry it out to our users performantly and without worrying about the infrastructure thanks to MongoDB. We work very hard to bond more communities around the world through streetball, and we are sure that we will never have to worry about the storage and accessibility of our data.
To give you an example. In our app, you can create streetball games, you can create teams, and these teams will be playing each other. And usually, we had games only for individual players, but now we would like to introduce a new feature called teams, which will also allow us to have tournament structures in the app. And the best part of MongoDB is that I can change the schema. We don't worry about schemas; we add the fields we want to have, and then boom, we can have the team vs. team feature with the extra fields needed.
#How it works
I first started to build our backend and to integrate it with MongoDB. This is my first experience doing this complex project, and I had no other help than Google and tutorials. There are two significant projects that I should mention: Expo, a cross-platform mobile app development framework, and the other is MongoDB because it helped us start prototyping and building very quickly with the backend. After four or five months, our team started to grow. More people from my high school team came onboard, so I began to teach the group two front end development and one backend development. By the end of the summer, we were able to launch our app.
My biggest concern was how the backend data was going to be handled when it launched because when we founded our Instagram profile, we were getting a lot of hits. A lot of people seemed to be excited about our app. All the apps I had built before were school projects, so I never really had to worry about load balancing. And now I had to! We got around 10.000 users in the first weeks after the launch, and we only had a tiny marketing budget. It’s pocket money from university students. We’e’ve been using our credits from the GitHub Student Developer Pack to maintain the MongoDB Atlas cluster.
For our startup, and for most companies, data is the most important thing. We have a lot of data, user data, and street data from courts worldwide. We have like 2500 courts right now. In Turkey, we have like 2300 of them. So we have quite a lot of useful data, we have very detailed information about each court. So this data is vital for our company, and using Atlas, it was so easy to analyze the data, get backups, and integrate with the back-end. MongoDB helped us a lot with building this project.
#Challenges and learnings
COVID-19 was a challenge for us. Many people were reluctant about our app. Our app is more about bringing people together for streetball. To be prepared for COVID-19, we added a new approach to the code, allowing people to practice social distancing while still being active. When you go to a park or a streetball court, you can check the app, and you can notify the number of people playing at that moment. With this data, we can run schedulers every week to identify the court density, like the court's human density. Before going to that court, you already know how often many people are going to be in that court.
I also want to share about our upcoming plans. Our main goal is to grow the community and help people find more peers to play streetball. Creating communities is essential for us because, especially in Turkey and the United States where I've played street ball, there's a stereotype. If you're not a 20-year-old male over six feet or so, you don't fit into the streetball category. Because of this, a lot of people are hesitating to go out and play streetball. We want to break this stereotype cause many folks from other age groups and genders also play streetball! So we want to allow users to match their skills and physical attributes and implement unique features like women-only games. What we want to do in the first place is to break the stereotype and to build inclusive communities.
We will be launching our tournament mode this summer, we're out like almost at the testing stage, but we're not sure when to throw it due to COVID-19 and the vaccinations are coming. So we'll see how it goes. Because launching a tournament mode during COVID might not be the best idea.
To keep people active during winter, we are planning to add private courts to our map. So our map is one of our most vital assets, you can find all the streetball courts around you know in the world, and get detailed information on the map. We're hoping to extend our data for private courts and allow people to book these courts and keep active during winter.
I want to share the story. I'm sure many people want to build great things, and these tools are here for all of us to use. So I think this story could also inspire them to turn their ideas into reality.