Blythewood man dreams big with new sports-food app

Sports enthusiasts Denaro and Tika Ponds inside the Carolina Panthers’ stadium in Charlotte. | Photo: Contributed

BLYTHEWOOD – A Blythewood entrepreneur has global hopes for his latest venture, a smartphone app for food delivery – right to your stadium seats! It will also help app users navigate large entertainment facilities.

“It is an on-demand seat delivery service,” says Denaro Ponds, who says his new app, Nikao, is going live this fall at the Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“We are basically designing the app to serve all national league events.”

He plans for the service to be available at the national-level facilities that host all sports, from football, hockey, baseball, and soccer to wrestling and even NASCAR, plus other large events that take place at major sporting venues, such as concerts.

Ponds says the project was inspired by a trip with his wife, Tika, to watch the Dallas Cowboys play football in Charlotte. He says he was frustrated when he went to get food and drinks from a concession stand and missed important moments in the game.

He wished he could have both – to immerse himself in the game and to have food and drinks to enjoy with his wife while they watched – without climbing stairs, fighting crowds and standing in long lines.

He said to himself then what many entrepreneurs do when faced with a challenge – there should be an app for that.

Not just for those spouses and dads who don’t want to struggle balancing food and drinks while climbing the crowded stands, he says, but also for those whose physical limitations prevent them from being able to easily travel through the stadium and purchase items they want to buy.

So, he started calling around to find out who could help him build the app and ultimately settled on the app and ultimately settled on a team in India. He initially sought investors, he says, but ultimately chose to self-fund the project, citing a desire to control more details of the final product, such as the price the app will charge to customers.

Next he took a deep breath and began searching for phone numbers of team owners in an effort to gain access to stadiums for his app service.

He first called what he thought was the office of Atlanta Falcon’s owner Arthur Blank.

“I was surprised when Mr. Blank answered the phone, it was his home phone,” Ponds said, still marveling at his good fortune.

As Ponds launched into his spiel, he said Blank was receptive and inquisitive about the project. He said they had a good conversation.

“He did explain, though that while he owns the Falcon’s stadium and could give us access to it, we would need to work to build our own relationship directly with each vendor to build the business,” Ponds said. “He was very helpful, and he pointed us in the right direction.

“We thought the hardest part would be getting the first owner to say ‘yes.’ But, actually it turned out to be quite easy,” Ponds said.

“Now we know our goals, and we know Mr. Blank and it’s more like, “Okay, Arthur, we’re ready.”

He said the app is designed to serve everyday people, rather than just big spenders.

“Not everyone can afford to attend a lot of games or events,” he says. “The app is for everyone but I especially want it to be enjoyed by the families who would just love to go to a game and enjoy it and also enjoy the amenities provided at the game,” he said. “That’s where Nikao comes in… I want to be the link.”

“We want the app, whose name is derived from the Greek word for “victory,” to give the user the very best experience when they do go,” said Ponds. 

In addition to food and drinks, he says, the app will enable those attending games to have souvenirs and comfort items like ponchos and umbrellas delivered to them in their seats.

The app is a slightly new direction for Ponds and his wife, who currently own businesses in a decidedly different domain: a bail bonds business, a company that provides GPS tracking for people released from jail, and a nonprofit aimed at bringing families impacted by the criminal justice system back together.

But the common thread, he says, is his desire to serve others and make their lives better.

“What links them all together is that we serve,” he says. “Everything is serving. We love to serve. That’s the link.”

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