Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Soccer Player-Turned-Physicist Rolls Out Sports App Fannect (And Discovers Think Big!)

Photo via www.thepitch.com.
We’ve all seen them before.  The fans that camp out at their team’s parking lot 36 hours before the big game.  The fans that paint their entire faces--no, their entire bodies--the color of their favorite team.  The fans that could sit at a bar stool for hours and argue that they are the best fan on Earth.  And although they’re dedicated, passionate, knowledgeable and downright obsessed, there is no way to tell who the best fan is.  Until now.

Enter Fannect, a Kansas City-grown sports app that determines which teams have the best sports fans and where those fans rank within their team’s group of fans.  Founded by Hunter Browning and Will Coatney in 2012, Fannect combines social networking with competitive gaming that measures a team’s best fans and which team has the best group of fans. But Fannect isn’t just booming into a sports fan’s ideal social media network...it is also becoming a team researcher’s dream database.     

A Former Athlete’s Idea

Hunter Browning was an athlete not all that long ago.  After playing competitive soccer for a majority of his life, the 19-year old decided to put up the cleats and pursue a degree in physics.  Soccer went out the window and science became his number one focus.  But a few months into his life as a former athlete, Hunter experienced a pang of boredom--he no longer had the competitive drive he once had when playing soccer.

“I had a withdrawal from not competing,” he explains.  “I then realized that many people, not just former athletes, live vicariously through their favorite sports teams.  I wanted to do something with that and get that competitive feeling back in my system.  That’s when I started working on Fannect.” 

More Than a Fan-based App

The direct goal of Fannect is to eliminate the bar stool argument of “who is the best fan”.  Fannect literally quantifies a fan’s knowledge and dedication to a team using a series of games and tests.  But Fannect is not just a fan-based app.  The app is also a strategic tool for researchers who want to learn more about the audience of particular sports teams.

According to Hunter, there is a major gap in the databases of sports.  We know plenty about the “diehard” fans, but not nearly enough about casual sports fans.  How can we gain information about people who simply buy a baseball hat of their favorite team and watch the games from home?  How can we learn more about them, their habits, their demographics?

“People do not know how valuable the database we are creating can be,” explains Hunter.  “Researchers needs and want data on all ticket owners, fans, and casual watchers.  Fannect can help with that.” 

This Isn’t His First Rodeo...

As one of the youngest entrepreneurs operating out of Think Big Coworking (he’s just 19!), Hunter utilizes the KC coworking space as more than just an office.  He makes sure to connect with more established companies and entrepreneurs in the coworking space to gain advice, new ideas and mentorship. 

“At first, we were doing our own thing and running beta,” he explains.  “But then we needed help and guidance.  The mentorship from Tyler, Herb [of Think Big Partners] and the other companies at Think Big Coworking has been one of the best parts.  We’re the youngest company in the space and everyone is so helpful.  It’s really motivating to be surrounded by such great startups.”

But just because Hunter relies heavily on the advice of others doesn’t mean that this is his first rodeo.

As a matter of fact, Hunter has done quite a bit with his knowledge in physics.  As a student of the CAPS program in the Blue Valley School District, Hunter studied a car’s ability to run off of water by breaking hydrogen out of H2O.  After being given a research grant, Hunter began developing out his theory.  As a matter of fact, Fannect is just a side project for Hunter.  He refers to the hydrogen project as “his baby”.

In addition, Hunter is opening a rapid prototyping lab.  The goal of the lab is to prototype and produce new inventions quickly, no matter what stage of development they may be in.  Currently, Hunter is in the fundraising stage for this project. 

Are You Really a #1 Fan?

Ready to see if you’re really a #1 fan?  It’s time to download Fannect.  Fannect is currently in open beta right now.  Not all of the bells and whistles have been added quite yet, but from what Hunter and his team can tell, users of the beta version are enjoying the app.

“Forty-five percent of our active users come back to Fannect every single day,” says Hunter.  “People love it--especially the picture games--even though we are in rough beta right now.  The full app will be roll out a week or two into football season.  We can’t wait.”

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