Ben Borton is not a typical tech visionary. His love is not for code but for community — using technology to transform our cities and our sense of what it means to come together. As the Chief Strategy Officer at PingPod Inc, he endeavors to transform these concepts into a new norm for urban culture.
Borton is equally dedicated to his role as Co-Founder of PodPlay Technologies, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PingPod. Exemplifying this, Borton shares, “I joined PingPod because of the people, the product, the mission, and the opportunity to build a category-defining rectech company.”
PingPod, established in 2020, is reinventing the experiential retail landscape with tech-enabled autonomous venues for ping pong and pool, while PodPlay licenses that technology to venue operators across various experience verticals. Borton’s inspiration circles back to his longtime association with Max Kogler, PingPod’s CEO.
Back when Borton and Kogler were partners in a quantitative hedge fund, they honed their knack for “turning math into money.” But an urge to create a tangible change in the world trotted them down a road from hedge fund investors to enterprise architects.
Borton’s transition from finance to tech to startups was catalyzed by his experience as an angel investor in Learnvest Inc., a tech platform aimed at making financial advice accessible and mainly targeted toward women. Enchanted by a similar blend of technology, positive economics, and a noble mission, Borton identified great potential in PingPod when Kogler pitched the idea to him in 2019.
Borton explains, “I like to say that we are ‘using technology to increase the quantum of fun in the world.’ What could be more philosophically positive than that?”
At the core of PingPod’s philosophy is finding a balance between mission and economics. A great mission, Borton emphasizes, must be accompanied by sustainable economics — delivering substantial customer value and generating profits.
“The last piece of the puzzle is doing something truly different, something that makes a tangible positive change in human behavior,” said Borton. For PingPod, this change is bridging the gap between expensive “eatertainment” venues and their low-end, poorly equipped counterparts. Their tech-driven venues stay open 24/7, delivering a combination of value, proximity, flexibility, and community while maintaining a healthy profit margin.
The autonomous operating model pioneered by PingPod is powered by PodPlay’s technology. PodPlay’s uniqueness is threefold: a fusion of hardware and software that supports features like video replays and digital scoreboards; a mobile-first approach that keeps the user experience frictionless and easy to use; and thirdly, dogfooding – using their own software to understand pain points better.
Reflecting on future advancements, Borton sees the potential for technology to reshape cities profoundly. He believes that autonomous experiences, growing e-commerce, an expanding experience economy, and a work-from-home culture will influence our urban fabric.
Borton proposes that autonomous experiences could be part of rethinking urban organization. “Smarter cities start with first principles – if we could start a city today, how would we go about building it? But you have to ask how that change comes about. Although technology shifts what is possible, change in the end is social,” he muses.
The ambition of PingPod and Borton extends beyond making fun experiences more accessible — they aim to redefine the way we perceive and inhabit our cities. With technology as their tool and a noble mission as their compass, they are set on their course to contribute positively to societal evolution.