Jan Hudec, Canadian alpine ski racer and Olympic medallist, is now the driving force behind PandaHaus, a new social networking and crowdfunding app designed for athletes, starting with the competitive ski community. It has recently branched out to support equestrian athletes as well. Hudec’s vision is not just to create a social network, but a social ecosystem where members of the community support one another.

Since ski racing is a relatively unknown sport in North America, funding is scarce and training is expensive. Corporate sponsors are often reluctant to get on board due to a lack of exposure, and athletes often find themselves struggling to make ends meet. Many turn to crowdfunding, but current platforms such as GoFundMe or Kickstarter take a large cut of those funds which can make it simply not worth it.

As an alternative, Hudec and partner Steve Van Zutthen are developing their own crowdfunding platform within PandaHaus. The idea is to have athletes wishing to raise money add a ‘fund me’ button to their profiles. Hudec has also personally sponsored some of his teammates through PandaHaus during periods of low funding.

Another big part of the app is fostering interaction between developing athletes and already established World Cup competitors. “One of the things that we want is for everyone to feel like they’re part of the same community,” says Hudec. “It’s not just like following some superstar on facebook… you are a skier in a ski community with Lindsey Vonn, you just happen to be at different stages in your [lives].”

The app also swaps “likes” for “panda points,” a system which allows users to give content anywhere from one to 21 panda points. Hudec hopes that by gauging how much users enjoy content, younger athletes will be able to have their photos and videos bumped to the top of the newsfeed. Top level coaches and sports psychologists have also joined in to share tips in a section of the app called the 13th floor.

Niche markets have become a trend in sports technology, inviting gadgets and wearables designed for every sport imaginable. With this in mind, it seems that PandaHaus is hoping to settle into the very specific ski and equestrian worlds for the time being.

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