Pando

A sports social network that wants to take on Twitter pockets $1.5M in seed money

By Hamish McKenzie , written on October 16, 2013

From The News Desk

Each major league baseball team in the US plays 162 games a season. NBA basketball teams play 82 games a season, as do the NHL hockey teams. The number is 16 for NFL teams, and 34 for major league soccer games. That’s to say nothing of college and high-school sports in all the same categories. ESPN has six TV channels. Ever taken a taxi? Then you’ve heard sports talk radio.

If there’s one thing that foreigners must know about Americans, it’s that they have an endless appetite for sports. Watching them. Talking about them. Sometimes even playing them.

Boston’s Fancred, however, is convinced that people want to obsess over their pastime of living vicariously through the exploits of physically imposing youngsters even more. The TechStars startup’s social network for sports fans launched its iPhone app in March, allowing people to share photos, comments, and links about their favorite teams and players. At the same time, those users could earn points, Klout-style, that measure the rabidity of their commitments to their teams.

Today, the company is announcing that it has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Atlas Ventures, Militello Capital, Star Power Partners, and a group of angel investors. It plans to use the funding to grow its user base, develop the product, and set up partnerships.

Fancred is one of Boston’s buzziest consumer startups, having received the stamp of approval from high-profile Atlas and been founded by former executives from online video company Brightcove, which went public last year. CEO Hossein Kash Razzaghi was Brightcove’s East Coast sales lead, and he brought with him the company’s director of engineering and its creative director.

While niche social networks have in the past failed to chip away at the broad dominance of Facebook and Twitter, Razzaghi sees hope that Fancred can be for sports what LinkedIn is for professionals and Spotify is for music. “There are plenty of ‘niche’ social networks that are used by millions of people around the world every day,” he says by email.

Still, Fancred is going to face a hell of a challenge when it comes to staring down Twitter, which apparently has big plans for boosting sports-related media and discussion on its platform. Twitter right now is owning the live events discussion space, and its malleable, spontaneously formed, and ephemeral networks are only ever a hashtag away.

Facebook, too, might be an imperfect beast when it comes to providing a venue for sports discussion – we’re all too busy lethargy-liking baby photos – but it is also happens to be where everyone and all their friends hang out on most days. Fancred will have to build its network not only alongside Facebook’s, but in spite of it. That’s no easy task, and one at which others have failed in the past, while others are still struggling. Yes, Path, we’re looking at you.

Fancred, however, takes heart from the reception ESPN got when it launched in 1979. One of its competitors for sports fans’ hearts and minds wondered if there would ever be enough demand to support a 24/7 sports news channel. The magazine’s summation of the then-new television enterprise? “One of the strangest creations ever.”

No doubt that tradition of weirdness would be one that Fancred would be proud to be part of.