When Mubdu Alali arrived as a newcomer to Canada in 2011, he used sports and physical activity as a way to connect with his new community and ease the transition to a new country. This experience inspired him to create Bloxo, a mobile app that facilitates the organization of sports outside of official leagues, which recently won a Startup Spotlight Award from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“I love soccer, but it was difficult to find other enthusiasts and games in the city,” says Mubdu. “I began organizing pick-up soccer games, but I soon realized how challenging it can be to find players, book fields and collect payments.” His solution was to build a platform that could streamline the process of organizing sports: Bloxo.

Bloxo is available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. It works as a multi-sided marketplace that caters to two user types: organizers and participants. Organizers can create activities, share them with people across various platforms and easily collect payments. Participants can discover and join games and activities in their locations.

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MIT Startup Spotlight Award

One Bloxo’s biggest achievements since its 2019 launch has been the recent win from MIT. Each year, MIT picks a select number of international startups to pitch for their Enterprise Forum. This global exposure has allowed the platform to broaden its reach to more of North America, allowing for continued growth. The team has even been invited to speak about their company on an MIT podcast, scheduled for release sometime in July.

“The competition was great and all the staff and other competitors were extremely nice and super helpful,” Mubdu says. “To be recognized among many other brilliant startups was an honour!”

Bloxo was offered a gift certificate to a Boston restaurant as a prize for winning, but chose instead to donate the prize to staff at a hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts who are working with COVID-19 patients.

Adjusting for COVID-19

Bloxo has moved quickly to adjust their platform as most organized sports in Nova Scotia have been cancelled for the foreseeable future due to the current COVID-19 global health pandemic. Although a period of strict social distancing was enforced in our province and across Canada, Bloxo was able to continue offering certain types of events on the app, including virtual yoga classes and meditation, due to the versatility of both the platform itself and its users.

Providing an accessible platform was a major focus for Mubdu when designing Bloxo, and this has become even more important in the wake of COVID-19. Bloxo organizers virtual tools like Instagram Live and Zoom to run activities that participants can join remotely. The team also noticed a rise in organizers offering free or ‘pay-what-you-can’ activities for those experiencing economic hardship.

As restrictions continue to ease in many parts of the country, including in Nova Scotia, the offerings on the Bloxo app have slowly started to transition back to normal, although safety protocols have been carefully monitored to ensure that only activities that follow health guidelines and can maintain appropriate social distancing are being displayed on the platform.

“For now, we will continue to offer virtual activities on the app, but we will slowly start to reintroduce our original sport offerings, as they are allowed in each province. As restrictions ease, we will encourage people to get involved again in the sports they love, but we also encourage them to continue to take the necessary precautions like limiting team sizes, wearing masks and sanitizing their hands and equipment,” says Mubdu.

The team at Bloxo has been working on releasing version four of the app, which is scheduled to launch within the next month. The ability to use technology to shine light on physical activity that fosters connection, inclusivity, and well-being is impressive!

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