SPM graduate Andrew Abramson ’10 launches social-decisioning app Swayy

What to wear to dinner. It was a simple decision, thought Syracuse University Sport Management graduate Andrew Abramson.

Abramson ’10 grew frustrated as he waited for his fiancée to prep for a night out in Los Angeles. As Heather Farone, SU ’10, tried on dress after dress and asked his opinion, Abramson impatiently told her to “just pick one.” It was at that moment he had an idea: Heather should take a photo of herself in two of the dresses, send it to her friends and let them decide.

And just like that, in September 2014, the social-decisioning app Swayy was born.

Here’s how it works: A person takes photos of their dilemma or question, and uploads them to the app, which then sends the poll to the person’s contacts. Swayy users then vote on the question at hand and the results are sent back to the user.

Abramson, who works full time as an associate for Korn Ferry International in Los Angeles, and is a part-time student in the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, presented his idea for Swayy in an entrepreneurial competition at USC in 2014. Much to his surprise, he won.

“People were coming up to me after the competition, saying, ‘You have to launch this app, I would totally use it,'” Abramson said. “Or they said, ‘My girlfriend needs this,’ or ‘I need this to decide on restaurants.’ ”

So Abramson teamed up with fellow USC MBA student Andrew Costa, who is originally from Syracuse and an Air Force Academy graduate, to work on Swayy. “He was floored, and we both saw a major opportunity, and wanted to go for it,” Abramson said.

Abramson, an Alexandria, Virginia, native, was not always interested in creating apps. He attended SU and completed his Senior Sport Management Capstone with Octagon, a global sport marketing agency in San Francisco. After graduation, he accepted a position with Octagon in its NBA division based in McLean, Virginia.

“I wanted to be a sports agent and was on track to become one,” he said. “But after working in the industry for a few years, I learned a lot about myself and found out I had other interests besides sports. You are on call 24/7 and it drains you. I had to get out.”

In July 2013, Abramson acted on those interests and initiated a transfer to Octagon’s Los Angeles office, so he could enroll in USC’s part-time business school. Not long after that, USC fired its head football coach, Lane Kiffin, and Abramson quickly grew interested in how colleges and companies conduct executive searches. It was then he learned about Korn Ferry International, the firm hired to find USC’s next football coach. After researching the company and networking, Abramson landed a job with Korn Ferry in January 2014.

Abramson, 27, and Costa, 27, are in the final year of their three-year program at USC, and are set to graduate in May 2016. Costa serves in the Air Force in El Segundo, California. The duo recognized they did not possess the coding or programming skills needed to launch the app so they hired developers Rishi Mody and Sachin Medhekar in early 2015.

Next up? Funding. How were they going to find the funds necessary to develop, research, and ultimately launch an app nationwide?

“We started a business plan and got quotes from people in the industry, and then just opened up our rolodexes and called family, friends and anyone we could think of,” Abramson said. “We put together a thorough pitch deck to raise money, explained our idea and ended up raising the $200,000 we needed. People told us that they could relate to the app and would use it.”

As of November 2015, Swayy had been downloaded via the Apple iTunes store more than 8,100 times. The free app is not currently available on other devices but developers are expecting the Android version to be ready by late 2015.

“You don’t just submit an app to the Apple Store and be done. It’s a tireless process that never really ends,” Abramson said.

Abramson said the next step for Swayy is to develop its sport programming. He envisions patrons to have the ability to send fantasy sport questions to experts to help with decisions, voting and commenting.

“People told us they wanted to be able to send a poll to friends or experts asking who to draft as their fantasy football quarterback,” Abramson said. “Or should they bet on a certain team to win? The sports application part of the app really captivated a lot of guys. Fantasy sports are becoming a burgeoning industry. People will look for an edge any way they can and would love to send their questions to experts. And of course, they all said they’d use it when their girlfriend asked them to help pick a dress.”

Eventually, Abramson envisions Swayy users to tap into restaurant, retail and wine experts to help with decisions. He plans to bring on experts from the four major sports leagues to interact with Swayy users, joining NHL.com’s Pete Jensen, who has a presence on the app.

The Class of 2010 graduate said the Department of Sport Management at Syracuse University prepared him with the knowledge and real-world skills to work in the industry as well as the vision and courage to branch out of his comfort zone.

“I attribute getting my first job to the connections I made through Sport Management,” he said. “The faculty are amazing and I owe a lot to them, especially Gina Pauline, Rick Burton and Michael Veley.”

For now, Abramson plans to continue working at Korn Ferry until he can transition into a full-time career with Swayy. He’s also engaged to Farone, who attends dental school at the University at Buffalo. They met as freshmen in their Skyhall dorm and got engaged in 2013.

“We need Swayy to continue growing to a point where we can raise enough venture capital so I can work on it full time,” Abramson said. “As of now, we have no physical office, as the developers are working out of their apartments. It’s my dream to run my own business and with the success we’ve seen so far, it’s a strong possibility that this can happen.”

Syracuse University director of Sport Management Michael Veley agrees.

“Andrew epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit that is the essence of sports,” Veley said. “He has combined skills in business, marketing, social media and technology to create a cutting-edge product. In areas where he has lacked expertise, his professional networking has connected Andrew with knowledgeable people. I’m very excited for the fantasy sports part of his app.”

Abramson’s advice to current Sport Management students?

“Be assertive and proactive reaching out to people to get the job or internship you want. I sent hundreds of emails to people about Capstone opportunities, made lists and more lists and spent hours and hours on LinkedIn, contacting people in the industry telling them how I could add value to their company,” he said. “Start off doing menial tasks, anything you can do to get your foot in the door and then move up.”

It worked for Abramson. Time will tell if Swayy takes off like he envisions, but he’s confident it’s on the right path. If it doesn’t, he said it’s been a great experience and sees himself sticking with apps and developing another big idea.

Perhaps he will “Swayy” you to join him.