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College Football Recruiting Can Be Inefficient. Zcruit Wants to Change That

Zcruit uses predictive analytics to help college football programs target the right players.
Image: Matt Alviti,  Miles Shuler
The Northwestern football team practices in 2014.M. Spencer Green / AP file
/ Source: NBC News

In an as-told-to essay for College Game Plan, Ben Weiss, co-founder of Zcruit, reveals what he learned navigating the business development process as a student.

The CEO: Ben Weiss, co-founder of Zcruit

School: Northwestern University

My dorm room pitch

Zcruit helps college football programs recruit smarter through predictive analytics. Schools waste the majority of their time and money pursuing the wrong prospects in today's recruiting process. With Zcruit, we help connect schools with the right players at the earliest possible time, all while helping them develop better quality recruiting classes.

How I found my passion

I spent all my time in high school pouring through blogs and really trying to track what was going on in the world of college football recruiting. It was something I was really passionate about and was spending a lot of time outside of school on.

The Zcruit team with Ben Weiss, center, in black. His advice for his school self? "I would say to go with the flow a little bit more."
The Zcruit team with Ben Weiss, center, in black. His advice for his school self? "I would say to go with the flow a little bit more."Zcruit

When I was a senior in high school — after I found out I was going to Northwestern — I saw there was really no one writing about Northwestern football recruiting.

I saw a blog had an opening for someone to start writing for a forum, and I just started doing that. I was writing an article a week on college football recruiting with a focus towards Northwestern, and even more of a focus on statistics and analytics.

Before I began my freshman year, one of my articles made it onto the desk of the head of recruiting at Northwestern University. I went and talked to him and he offered me a job working for the Northwestern football recruiting department.

How do you juggle work and school

This past quarter has been the first one where it’s been really hard for me personally because we’re finally at the point where we have a product we can sell and we’re client-facing.

Before this we could say, “Oh this is a tough week with midterms,” or “I want to do this socially and relax what we’re doing a little bit,” but now that we have actual customers we’re responsive to, suddenly everything is really tough.

There’s always more time that I know I should be putting into Zcruit. I’m fortunate that my recent course load was lighter than what I've had in the past. I think the one thing that has maybe fallen by the wayside is the social part of college, but I’m fine with that for what we’re going through.

Having a support system

My family has been amazing with this whole process. Especially with me deciding to do this full-time after graduation. There’s no way I could have done this without having their complete support behind me.

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Also, there’s a Northwestern entrepreneur community. We have something at Northwestern called “The Garage,” and it’s kind of a startup incubator and co-working space. We have amazing people who work there. They've served as amazing mentors for me and the rest of my team. It has really helped us push ourselves and get this thing off the ground.

What I’d tell my high school self

I would say to go with the flow a little bit more. I came into college and came into everything being very thought out around what the future is going to look like and what the future is going to hold.

This whole process of entrepreneurship — of starting my own venture has — really been such an organic one. I really never could have predicted it, in any way, shape or form.