Fandium raises $1.25 million for sports app that blends storytelling with betting

By Erin Griffith , written on May 23, 2013

From The News Desk

The theme of storytelling in 2013 rolls on -- now, with the launch of Fandium, its being applied to sports. The company was launched by the founders of horse betting site which sold to Churchill Downs for $127 million in 2009. This week Fandium raised $1.25 million in seed funding from angel investors in the gaming industry to fuel its development.

The app's goals are two-fold. For one, it is a repository for social content related to any given sports game. Using geo-location and hashtags, the app pulls in Instagram photos and Tweets related to games into a single feed for easy consumption. Likewise, there is realtime scoring info and stats, and users can contribute their own observations to games that don't live on other social networks.

The other element is gaming. Fandium offers virtual points for all kinds of engagement, but users can also make friendly wagers with their friends or strangers over game outcomes to win more points. It makes sense, given the founders' backgrounds, that the app incorporate some sort of wagering. Right now the points don't really lead to much, however, users can purchase them in-app to bet against each other. The only kind of online betting that's legal today is horse betting. But co-founder Larry Lucas says it's only a matter of time before online gambling is legalized, which might provide Fandium with a business model.

Fandium isn't the first app to aggregate social content around a live event. Mahaya, which is still in beta, does just that. As does Stublisher. Others, like Tapestry, Treemo and Backspaces, attempt to bring context to social content for people with actual stories to tell.

Fandium may be the first to focus its storytelling tools on sporting events. Lucas says the sports vertical is one of the strongest interest graphs, and that fans don't necessarily want to communicate with their friends about sports. They want to consume content and communicate with others sharing the experience of being at the game. This is why "Ureport" is set up as a bit of a backchannel to the game to allow people to comment on what's happening with a community of people experiencing the same thing.

Fandium is set up to work in single-player mode where content is pulled into the app regardless of whether your friends are on the platform, so it doesn't require network effects to work on day one. "The critical thing is that when you jump into the pool its warm," Lucas says.

Sports events are expensive, all-day activities now with many different moving parts to track, from the tailgate to the post-game. Says Lucas: "People want to know what is happening at an event whether they're in the bleachers or in the fancy court-side seats."

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