Are you a sports fanatic who craves a virtual community around your favorite sports teams? Conversely, are you completely apathetic about sports, and tired of seeing cryptic exclamatory pronouncements from your sports-fan friends on Facebook? One way or another, Fancred—a sports-specific social network that just drummed up $3 million—is in some sense for you.
Founder and CEO Kash Razzaghi was born in Iran, but moved to Mississippi with his family when he was four years old. "The way I integrated myself into the community was through sports," he says. "I found my network of friends who cared about sports, and those people are still my lifelong friends." When Razzaghi left Mississippi, he found that what he missed most weren’t necessarily the games he used to attend locally, but the community that had formed around the games.
While at Brightcove, an online video platform that went public in March 2012, he and several employees began to hatch Fancred. They left Brightcove to go full-time on Fancred that summer, and soon scored an initial $1.5 million in investment (with participation from the owners of the Boston Red Sox), to which the recent $3 million adds.
Razzaghi likens Fancred to a "digital shoebox." It’s a personal metaphor. When Razzaghi was young, he used to collect all sorts of sports memorabilia—programs, tickets, and photos from games he attended—inside a shoebox. Later he’d revisit the shoebox to relive some of those memories. Fancred does the same thing, only online, and in concert with your friends’ virtual shoeboxes, too.
The fact that it’s hardly a new idea—another social network—doesn’t mean it’s not a good one. The rabidity of sports fans is well known, one reason why several specialized services have cropped up to cater to them recently. Razzaghi sees it as part of an inevitable progression that has occurred in all sorts of media. "We’ve always seen vertical sports networks appear in any form of communication in the past 100 years," he says. "You had print, then you had sports print. You had radio, then sports radio. TV, then sports TV." And now: Facebook, then sports Facebook.
Of course, with a specialized network comes specialized features. On Fancred, you can inform the network which teams in particular you follow, tailoring the content you receive; all activity on Fancred is grouped by teams. Fancred will further use its algorithmic magic to figure out which teams you’re most enthusiastic about within your set of preferred teams, and will deliver you more content related to that team. "We can go really deep building a profile for you, for each team you enjoy," says Razzaghi.
Monetization prospects are various, he adds. A central feature of Fancred is what the site calls the Fancred Score, something like an in-network Klout score that grows based on how active you are and how engaging your content is to others. Though the main function of the Fancred Score heretofore has been bragging rights, says Razzaghi, he is working with stadiums to have the score translate into real discounts.
In the meantime, sports fans are finding new and amusing ways to interact with each other on Fancred. One example: When former NFL player Lawyer Milloy decided to join, rank-and-file Fancredders questioned whether it was really Milloy. Milloy responded by posting a picture of himself with his finger up his nose, which somehow served as a form of verification. The event started a chain reaction of other users posting similarly posed pictures.
Razzaghi himself hasn’t posted a nose-picking selfie yet, but admits that interacting with other fans can get almost addictive. "I’m 34," he says, "and I find myself up late in disagreement over sports news with kids in high school."