Grown From A Baseball Hackathon, Fanboard Enhances Sporting Games With AR

Let’s be honest. While we love to cheer for our local baseball team at home games (Go Braves!), sometimes the time in between each exciting home run can get a little slow — and not even hot dogs can keep us entertained. What if you had a way to engage with the stadium and team in a more personal way while you wait for that impressive play? With interactive filters (transforming flying baseballs into comets, for example), playing a Pokemon GO-like game to collect tokens while you wait in a long beer line, or seeing your video content up on the big screen, Fanboard aims to provide an engaging augmented reality experience for fans at sporting events.

CEO Morgan Drake and his technical co-founder Vladimir Cezar connected during last year’s Techstars Atlanta program — both were working for companies within the program. They hit it off and started building their sports-focused startup following demo day. Drake’s background in livestreaming local sports content, and his unwavering passion for baseball, combined with Cezar’s computer science and technical experience led them to identify their product during the last Atlanta Braves Hackathon.

“Sporting events have remained the same for decades, while the world around them has changed dramatically,” says Drake. “Lack of engagement is the reason why 30 percent of fans admitted to switching teams last year and why even during $1 seat night ticket sales are in decline.”

“We are very excited to transport fans into a new era.”

Here, Drake shares more about how AR can connect sports teams and fans on a more personal level, why they chose baseball as their first sport to tackle, and the feedback from their beta with the Gwinnett Braves after winning a $2500 grant from the city of Peachtree Corners.

What’s your pitch?

The sports industry is expected to grow to be a $75 billion market by 2020. Our focus is on the $18 billion portion created by sponsorship revenue. We don’t want to lose focus on our target, but we believe Fanboard can help appease boredom in the long arduous lines at theme parks, provide “edu-tainment” experiences at museums, aquariums and zoos, or enhance the experience at music festivals and concerts. Fans can receive all of these experiences with just one download.

What’s your current funding situation?

Primarily we have been bootstrapping through my own savings and a family round. We have taken a pre-seed investment from a local investor. We are interested in speaking with more investors as we do plan on raising a seed round in the near future as we try to configure the best financial strategy for Fanboard.

How’d you get the idea for it?

The true catalyst was the Atlanta Braves Hackathon at ATV last year. At the time, I was validating a previous idea that wasn’t being received by potential customers and my assumptions flopped. At this hackathon, we had a customer saying we need to solve a list of problems and the pivot started there.

What problem are you solving?

The world is too dynamic for fans to be passive bystanders. CBS reported that collegiate attendance was down six years in a row, which is very worrisome for owners when tickets make up 29 percent of revenue. When teams open a brand-new stadium or do a massive renovation, they will see a spike in attendance — but you can’t build a new facility every year.

There are a number of traditional fan experiences at sporting events that have been unchanged and outdated for decades. These analog experiences have no method of measurement. We don’t really know who is watching the Home Depot Tool Race or yelling at the big screen for the Napa hat shuffle. Where’s the fun in texting an answer? Fanboard allows fans to pick their favorite tool by taking a silly selfie. The content can be filtered by the marketing team who can show the best ones on the big screen. Fans who pick the winning tool can earn a reward if they share their post on a social platform. Now Home Depot knows how many fans took a selfie, how many Home Depot tools got on the display boards, how many were seen on social, how many discounts were received and how many sales were transacted by the reward.

What’s the revenue model?

We like to think of the teams as our partners and the sponsors as our customers. We deliver a free content and game management system for the teams. As fans engage in the available experiences incorporated with companies like Home Depot, Coca-Cola, and Delta the experience is automatically captured and collected in the fan’s story. This content also goes to marketing team’s CMS where they can piece together user-generated content rich with native advertising and distribute to their websites and social platforms.

So how does Fanboard make money? We create a subscription for the participating sponsors based on the expected interactions from fans within the venue and also by the reach we expect their brands to reach on social distribution.

Why are you choosing to concentrate on baseball first? Do you hope to take Fanboard across to other sports?

For me, it’s natural. I grew up loving baseball. I fell in love with other sports, but baseball came first. The Braves Hackathon got us started in baseball and it continues to make the most sense. You have a slower sport with more downtime than any other. The Atlanta Braves have already made tremendous efforts in engaging fans who are there for reasons other than just the game on the field and we want to help them continue attracting those fans.

I do believe Fanboard will take up with other sports, but we will have to address them strategically. College football, for example, only has six home games while the MLB has 80. Our venue isn’t a stadium anymore, it’s a campus. We are already brainstorming some fun ways to incorporate local campuses and we recently met with the CMO of Colorado University for possible implementations near basketball season.

You’re currently working on a beta with the Gwinnett Braves. What’s the feedback so far? What features have you implemented during this time?

It was received very well. Fans from a wide variety of ages were excited to get started. This gave us some incredible insight into the different demographics at the Minor League parks vs the Major League stadiums and how we need to approach them differently.


You recently won a grant to scale your app. How do you hope to leverage the funds?

We won the Peachtree Corners City Council Award in January. This gave us a small grant that has been used for development of the beta but it also gave us free access to the Prototype Prime in Peachtree Corners. This was an incredible boost for Fanboard. We have come a long way since then and we could not have done it without the help of Mayor Mason, the City of Peachtree Corners and Partnership Gwinnett.

How does ATL weave into your story?

Gwinnett County has been an incredible incubator after we were born out of the Hackathon. The professional teams here are nationally recognized as the most innovative sports teams in the country. By implementing new technologies and investing time and resources into events like hackathons, they are putting their money where their mouth is. Of course we have not one, but two brand new stadiums and a $200 million renovation project for Philips Arena. Now that Fanboard is ready to be called up to the bigs, there is no better place to suit up than the best sports city in the country — voted by me.


Featured image via City of Peachtree Corners. Other images provided by Fanboard.