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Startup Spotlight - FanAmp
All Things Venture #082
No intro today - let’s dive right in! Today’s Startup Spotlight features FanAmp, a verticalized social media platform for the sports and live events ecosystem making content consumption easier, more dynamic, and more enjoyable. FanAmp is led by Greg Kallman a Cornell grad (Go Big Red!!!!) and BCG and JP Morgan alum.
FanAmp is launching the platform beginning with a community for Formula One fans, and will be expanding out from there. That’s it from me. Enjoy and win the day everyone!!
Greg! Introduce yourself for the audience. Tell us what Fan Amp does, and what your vision is for verticalized social media.
Yeah, sure. So I guess first with Fan Amp, because that's probably what people will care about more than who I am. So basically, Fan Amp is a community hub that makes fans feel like superfans. And what that really means is, it's about giving entertainment fans a single place that they can go, where they can access the communities, they can access live conversation, they can access the tools that they need to feel like they're part of the sports and the shows that they care about. In my mind, it's really about creating a community and platform that's personalized, centralized, and specialized for modern content consumption.
Okay so on the other hand, who I am. After leaving Cornell, where you and I both went, I went to JP Morgan. I worked in the private bank, and then, after working with the C-suite, went to BCG, where I spent about six years all over the world, working on various different projects, and so I guess, like, who I am in the professional context has always been someone who's very focused on identifying and breaking down consumer problems. So we did a lot of consumer work which was very focused on the, how do you sort of right the ship when you have these massive corporations who are delivering existing value, but have a lot of very big pain points, acute pain points and they're unclear how to solve it. That’s where we would step in, and in a matter of weeks we'd become an expert in a space that we had nothing, no exposure to, before. And so, after running that muscle twenty different times all over the world, I got very, very good at sort of identifying opportunities in different spaces, and had the privilege to work on a couple new venture launches. That experience really showed me that the problem that I was seeing in my own life related to, like, getting involved in UFC. Getting involved in Formula One was something that was broken, and that I could actually solve.
Let’s double click into that. How did you identify the problems in terms of fan engagement and existing models of entertainment?
Yeah. So, well, one, I just sort of thought of it by, like, my brother's a huge UFC fan, and in the past we had never been close around it. We've gone to a fight or two, but I didn't fully understand it. So I was trying to get into the sport, especially during Covid when you were sitting on your couch, and you can't go out or do anything, so I was doing that, and similarly with Formula One, what I noticed is like: I was finding it hard. I was struggling. There was an information overload. Personalization was a challenge; information discovery was a challenge. Like, you could go into Twitter, and you could follow a Formula One account. Sure, right. But there's so much noise that you have to sift through on that, and you also need to know who are the right people to look for, and I don't want to log in every day and think about what is the work I have to do to get this information. Like, I needed someone to teach me. To teach me what mattered and what to pay attention to, and then I could really enjoy the experiences. And basically one of the defining moments for me in terms of starting Fan Amp was, one of the days as I was getting into it, I was sitting on the couch. I had a couple of friends over, my brother’s here. One of the fighters breaks his leg, and it is gnarly. I look to these guys who have worshiped the sport for years to, like, react with me, and instead, no one looks at me. They all look at a different place on the internet on their phone to see what someone else is saying, to see what some artist is saying, what a commentator is, saying, whatever; So I was like, wait a minute I'm not the only person who's brain is scattered across the web to follow this. There’s something here.
So if we think about the readers of All Things Venture, who should try Fan Amp, and why should they try it as an early user?
Fan Amp works for two different personalities, for people who are looking to get into an event, and for the avid fan. We're starting with Formula One. So, for people who are looking to get into Formula One, right, it's an incredibly easy outlet; you tell us the teams you like, and that's it, and then we will show you content related to that, and then everything else you need as a fan is in one place.
And then for the avid fan, right, the long-term goal is to expand this to multiple different events/experiences to keep you engaged. And, so you would be able to come for your interests and tailor the experience not just to, like, Oh, I like football, or I like basketball, but to the particular teams.
Talk about that tailoring experience more. One of the things that I've been reading and learning a little bit more about over the past few weeks is just the use of AI, especially in our content and media consumption.
Yeah, I mean, I think it's, it's incredibly additive to the experience and something that we will definitely incorporate in the future. We don't have Google's AI or, Tik Tok’s AI at the moment, right? But we are being thoughtful about it, and this has been from day one about basing the experience around what you care about. For example, if you said you like Mercedes Formula 1 team, then when you go to the newsfeed to sort of see the summary of what's happening, it's going to show you things related to Mercedes, right? And as that scales out, and as that gets better, we can show you the most relevant articles we can curate. So, you're not seeing five of the same headlines. You're seeing the one that's most important, or the one that you find to be most interesting. We can start to build around your behavior. But knowing what you care about has always been core to the business, and always will be, because we want to make this experience end to end of being a fan for anything as personalized as can be.
What are the “aha” moments you see early users of Fan Amp having? We’ve talked about how, at least for me, as a user my “aha” moment would be centered around being able to watch/consumer basketball with my dad. I’m in New York, and he’s in Houston, but being able to replicate the feeling of being together would be like magic. So said another way, I’m very curious to hear about what you’ve learned in terms of delivering those magic moments for consumers early on.
Yeah, I think of the ones that was most impactful to me was sort of the validation around making things easy. I sat down and spoke with one user where he had used the application, seen the news feed, and when I say newsfeed I don’t just mean ESPN, or Bleacher Report, it’s from all over the web. It’s Youtube, it’s Twitter, it’s podcasts. All of it is tailored for Formula One, which is what he cares about, and he sits and tells me, “there’s been nothing that’s done this for me, that makes it so easy.” And that’s the “aha” moment, it’s not going out and inventing brand new mode of media consumption like Tik Tok. What it is, is about making the experience that exists today better and more exciting and more engaging. That has a lot of value for people. That’s been a huge “aha” moment we’ve been seeing, how that really lights people up when you give them something that’s easy to use.
How many Formula One races are there a year?
So there's 22 Grand Prix in the season. So you have those weekends. You have a qualifying race, and then you have a Grand Prix race, and then there's a handful of sprints.
Let’s say I’m a Lewis Hamilton fan. I'll be able to see across Twitter, across Youtube, across Reddit , across ESPN, across any other content source on the web, relevant information to help me stay up to date on Lewis Hamilton.?
So, another question for you – obviously a key component for the sports industry are the commentators around sports. Tony Romo, Stephen A Smith, Patrick McAfee. Those guys and girls are the characters that bring story lines to life – humor, conflict, drama. Would I be able to see their commentary, as it relates to Lewis Hamilton as well?
Yeah, exactly. So the idea is or the difference would be I’m not going to show the user everything that has ever been said about Lewis Hamilton. The idea is to give you the best of the best. To curate the experience. We don’t want you to do the work. We do the heavy lifting, you can just come in and get the best commentary related to what you care about. So for in your example, you have like a Will Buxton or someone else in the Formula One space. We would pull his commentary in. He could be walking in the paddock or looking at the team’s car, assessing the upgrades. That’s the type of stuff that’s relevant and that we’d show.
Okay so rounding out the last few questions. One of the main questions that we constantly think about within venture is the “why now” and the mega trends that are occurring. Social media is a defined business model, AI is a known area of interest where investors want exposure. But let’s set those two tech trends aside and think about the sports industry in general. Are we at the beginning of a mega trend within Formula One? And I think a good frame of reference is like late 2000s for snowboarding. Shaun White said basically a huge part of his success is just being in the right place, right time where snowboarding as a sport just took off globally.
100% Dez. The choice of Formula One was not strictly a coincidence of personal interest. As I was doing my research to build Fan Amp, I made this thing I call a placement slide. And it basically just lays out all of the different sports, shows, and the types of content that you could build communities around where this platform is applicable. Formula One was chosen explicitly because of what you’re describing. Drive to Survive, on Netflix, has kind of unlocked this sleeping giant of interest in the US. It is unquestionable, in fact they’re the root cause of the interest of this new, younger, more digitally engaged fan base for Formula One. This new fan base, and by the way there’s a bunch of new fans, they’re the perfect audience for Fan Amp. Fan Amp is applicable to everyone, but it’s built for this younger fan base that is digitally engaged that wants to play along, and that uses as second screen when they watch – that is the audience that Formula One is unlocking so I believe it’s just a perfect storm for Fan Amp to begin.
Love it Greg. Loooooove it. Okay so last question. What advice do you have for other founders, for potential founders who are currently thinking about making the plunge, or want to make the plunge but don’t have an idea in mind to execute.
I think the best advice I can give is two things. One is, it takes time, and then the other thing is, don’t be afraid to get started. And when you do get started, you really have to put effort in, and I’ll explain what I mean by that. So, coming back to one though, it takes time. Even with Fan Amp, all of the iterations were a multi-month process with a lot of self-reflection at a time where I was really thinking about things, and really had the mindset of “okay it’s time solve a problem.” Everyone comes up with ideas all the time, like I wish I could open up my peanut butter jar from the bottom to get the bottom bits out. But like that’s stupid haha, I’m not going to go all in on that – it’s a passing thought. So, having that mindset, I think, helps you. And then the other piece of it is, being in that mindset means you’ll then hopefully invest the time to go further than just a cursory Google Search of, “hey, does someone else do this?” Really, when you think of something, or a couple of things, like, you really need to go into it. I had a running Powerpoint, of course, as a former consultant, of all of the different ideas that I was thinking through at the time, and it wasn't like one idea with a couple of bullets on it. It was literally, I was pulling slides of things to assess:
How does the market look? Who are the competitors? What are people saying? I literally went out and interviewed folks in my circle. I remember doing one around, like, the health insurance space, because when I was leaving BCG, like, that was going to be something I had to think about, and I would go out and actually talk to people to understand what was going on before I made any decision around it, I wanted to understand, for any idea, “Hey, is this a Greg problem? Or, is this a people problem?”
Greg, this has been incredible. Thanks for taking the time.
Absolutely Dez, been a pleasure to be featured in All Things Venture.