GameChanger gets $6.8M Series B to make sure busy parents never miss out on a child's MVP moment

By Michael Carney , written on April 2, 2014

From The News Desk

There are few prouder moments in a parent’s life than when their child gets the game winning hit in a little league game, or makes the proverbial buzzer beater. But what of busy parents who can’t be at every game or grandparents living across the country who too want to be in on the action?

GameChanger offers a youth and amateur sports-focused social news product aimed squarely at solving this FOMO (fear of missing out) problem. Parents who enroll in the service can get animated, real-time updates on game progress, including details like “Jimmy sunk a 3-pointer with 1 second left on the clock to put the Mustangs up by 1.”

Today, GameChanger announced a $6.8 million Series B funding round led by led by Trilogy Equity Partners, with participation from existing investors Tenfore Holdings and Costanoa Venture Capital.

In the time since launching the service in 2010, GameChanger has scored over 4 million baseball and basketball games (other sports coming soon) and documented more than 1.2 billion individual sports plays, according to founder and CEO Ted Sullivan, a former minor league baseball player with the Cleveland Indians organization. Sullivan claims this makes the company the fastest growing product in amateur sports.

By offering coaches and managers intuitive tablet-based scorekeeping software for free to replace their old standbys of paper and pencil, the company has been able to access the live game data needed to power this platform.

“We’re not adding any work, they’re already doing this, we’re just switching the medium and making the data more useful for everyone,” Sullivan says.

The company then packages and distributes that data in an aesthetically pleasing format to eager parents and fans willing to pay. GameChanger costs $7.99 per month or $39.99 per year, with one account covering an entire household across multiple kids’ teams and sports.

Free trials are available that include updates for the first 10 plays of a basketball game or the first inning of a baseball game. In addition to getting the full game’s worth of updates, those who pay for the service can also review stats and monitor scores during and after games. After the game, paying users get what Sullivan calls “a personalized, newspaper quality story about the game,” generated programmatically through a partnership with natural language communication startup Narrative Science.

You can imagine how easy a sell it is for parents to spend $10 to never again miss one of junior’s big moments.

The new round of capital is earmarked for expanding the service beyond its flagship sport baseball (and softball) and the newly added basketball to include football, volleyball, soccer, and other popular youth and amateur sports. Sullivan and his team of 30 also aims to expand beyond scorekeeping and gameplay updates to become a broad sports platform. In his vision, this includes elements of scheduling, social sharing and communication, and other related services.

“We build micro-communities and ecosystems around each team,” he says. “We think we can solve other problems like recruiting, local advertising, and fundraising. (AKA, no more bake sales). We have data about where games are located, when they start, and who plays well. We also have enormous parent and fan engagement.”

When a company centering around youth activities starts talking about all the data they have, the hair on your neck should stand up – mine does. But Sullivan is well aware of the legal and moral boundaries in this regard, saying that GameChanger is committed to respecting privacy and security concerns of all its users.

“Coaches and parents get granular controls to decide what data is visible and to who,” he says, noting that this can be important for competition reasons as well. “You can make it so that parents can only see their own kids’ data or that certain stats are redacted. We’re fully compliant with COPA laws and do not match full names of minors to locations.”

There have been numerous prior attempts to build a social platform around youth sports, all with underwhelming results. WePlay, for example, tried to ride its celebrity co-founders to popularity with a focus around youth fantasy sports. Sullivan acknowledges that it's a hard problem to solve.

“Past attempts failed because the dynamics of the market have been very challenging,” he says. “ It has both hyper-fragmentation – it’s really a prosumer market – and seasonality.”

It’s a thorny market with a number of emotional issues. For example, how do you incentivize the parents of the kid who isn’t exactly an all-star or the team that never wins a game? Judging by its early results, GameChanger has largely solved these and other problems, in part by offering a product that puts kids' achievements as its central focus. The platform simultaneously solves very real problems for parents (as well as distant relatives) and coaches.

“We don’t want to be taking money out of coaches’ pockets – they pay with their time,” Sullivan says. “But parents and fans who can’t be there in person want to follow play-by-play. Giving the admin tools away for free in conjunction with a subscription model for works for everyone, and has allowed us to build a great business."