Long Island yeshiva student Dov Herzberg has turned his fantasy (for sports, that is) into a business reality.
Playing off the concept of sports fantasy leagues, Herzberg, a senior at Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence and a budding entrepreneur, has created a kind of “College Bowl” model for a new Internet-savvy generation.
His creation, “Fantasy Academics,” is an online game similar to fantasy sports leagues, in which players draft students and compete against other schools in various academic subjects through a series of quizzes.
Herzberg’s idea captured the grand prize of $1,500 in the Lander College for Men’s Student Entrepreneur of the Year Competition, besting 44 other entrepreneurial ventures.
The Lander College for Men has been hosting the competition over the past four years. It’s open to all yeshiva high school students throughout the New York metropolitan area, who compete for the title and prizes totaling $3,000. Eighty students participated this year. The competition focuses on the proposal of original inventions buttressed by sound business plans, the idea being to encourage students to think both creatively and logically.
According to Ira Teich, competition director at the Lander College for Men, Herzberg’s invention represents the ideal collaboration of creativity and logic.
“Having a good idea is not enough; you have to have a commercially viable business plan,” Teich said.
Herzberg created the game in 11th grade, a year before entering the competition. “I was with my friends in the lunchroom at Rambam — we all play fantasy games. So I said, why don’t we do fantasy school? I realized it was a good idea, and I went with it,” he said.
What started out as a joke quickly evolved into a full-blown business endeavor. Herzberg went home that day and created an informational website for his idea. From there, others in the school expressed interest, and “Fantasy Academics” came into fruition at Rambam.
Here’s how “Fantasy Academics” works: Once you draft students to form a team, each team member hands in his quiz or test scores to be added up and averaged. Whichever team has the highest average in each subject receives a certain number of points.
The game was successful within Rambam, but it wasn’t until the next year, when Herzberg’s business teacher John Naclerio suggested it to him, that Herzberg decided to enter the contest. He was up against tough competition with inventions like second place’s “Med Watch,” a bottle cap that alerts people when to take their dosage of prescription medication, and third place’s “Heat & Go,” a heated seat cushion for the disabled. In the end though, Herzberg’s organization and determination led him to win the grand prize.
“The competition gave me more confidence that I could succeed in the future,” said Herzberg.
Herzberg plans to continue with “Fantasy Academics” throughout college and market it to companies like Kaplan and Sylvan Learning Center as an interactive learning tool that can be fun and motivating for students. He is currently working on patenting the game and constructing a website.