â€‹Balancing a star-powered athletic life with a rigorous college course load is no easy feat. But not only is Purchase College senior Max Pearce accomplishing both, he’s taking steps to share his skills with the wider sports community. Starting this summer, the Tuckahoe local’s new startup, Flynance, will offer hands-on educational programs where young athletes can focus equally on academic and athletic success.
The idea for Flynance was born from Pearce’s personal experience. “My life as a student was very busy,” he recalls. “A large portion of my time was spent on academics, and the rest of it was spent on the basketball court.” Observing that many athletes struggle in the classroom, Pearce worked hard to avoid that pitfall and excel in his finance and economics studies.
His excellence on the court is undeniable: This year, Pearce was one of eight men’s basketball players nationwide to compete in the Slam Dunk Championship on ESPN2, sponsored by State Farm. Pearce was voted into the competition by more than 370,000 fans, earning him the title of “Dark Horse Dunker.” That groundswell of support didn’t come out of nowhere. Pearce’s online popularity soared in July 2016, when an Instagram video of his high-flying slam-dunk went viral and garnered more than 60 million views. Pearce continued posting Instagram videos and gained more than 12,000 followers over the course of the next year.
“I analyzed the demographics of those followers and noticed that most of them were athletes,” Pearce explains. “After realizing that I could potentially reach the minds of more than 10,000 athletes, I decided that I wanted to use this following to my advantage by trying to change one of the biggest problems in sports culture, ‘the Unprepared Athlete.’” With help from his teammate, economics club president, and future co-founder Derick Ansah, Pearce came up with the name Flynance to integrate the sky-high slam-dunks he was known for with the academic interests that he so valued.
Flynance faced its first test in a Shark Tank-like competition at Purchase College, the culmination of a semester-long entrepreneurship intensive co-developed by economics education platform GenFKD and the Purchase economics department. Out of 55 student-submitted startup pitches, only eight were selected to compete for the grand prize of $5,000 in startup capital. Gaining momentum from Pearce’s established and supportive following, Flynance went on to win it all.
Now, Pearce is focused on the future of Flynance. “The Flynance Group aims to create a robust, hands-on program that focuses equally on professional development and athletic progression,” he says. “We understand that most camps and programs solely focus on athletics or only focus on academics. Flynance plans to integrate the two through a self-built curriculum that will be implemented in summer camps and after-school programs.”
Westchester area schools will be the first to benefit from Flynance’s pilot programs. “Westchester is a wonderful place to start our company because this is where its name resonates the most,” says Pearce. “We hope that Flynance will catch fire throughout Westchester school districts. That will allow us to branch out into the tri-state area and then establish a firm presence on the East Coast. Our long-term goal is to have our services available to schools and athletes all around the country.”