For sports fans, it’s not about wins and losses, but how you experience that game that counts. Brian Dombrowski learned this shooting videos for youth and high school sports events in the Bay Area. He was filming original content for coaches, but they weren’t the only ones interested in his footage.
“Everyone wanted a piece of my video,” he recalls, and by everyone he means teams, schools, opposing coaches, referees and especially sports parents who would run up to him and say, “‘Give me that moment of my kid.’”
Dombrowski knew how to edit video. As a radio, television and film student at San Jose State, he shot narrative features, documentaries and short films. But this was a different beast — a full-time operation that required sifting through hours of raw footage to identify very specific moments people wanted. It was all too much, so Dombrowski crawled out from under that dogpile of demand to create a mobile video platform called Fantag.
Picture this: You’re watching a live sporting event and when you see an exciting play, you tap a button on your smartphone. The technology synchronizes mobile phones with live video feeds, so that within seconds, you can rewatch, share or download clips that show the play from every angle capturing the action.
Slated for release next month, Fantag has raised $1.5 million so far in seed funding. Many core members and investors are based in the Capital Region, a lot of them parents who have or had children in sports, Dombrowski says. With dual offices in Sacramento and Palo Alto, the startup has attracted investors primarily from the sports ecosystem, who see the growth potential of a tool like this one, from Little Leagues to professional franchises.
In 2014, when the Sacramento Republic FC defeated the LA Galaxy II to advance to the USL championship, Warren Smith, president of the local soccer franchise, noticed how many fans were recording video and posting the experience online. He sees Fantag as a bridge between the organization and its supporters.
“We’re a content provider,” Smith says. “During a match, through social media, we’re typing out messages — wide right by [midfielder] Danny Barrera — but with Fantag, we can distribute video immediately, which helps us create additional content to get out to fans.”
Dombrowski reached out to MaxPreps/CBS Interactive about setting up Fantag at high school sports venues. This is an untapped market because compared to pro sports, high schools have limited technology, but huge audience potential.
“We’d love to be able to deliver instant replay back into hands of high school sports fans,” says Andy Beal, president of MaxPreps/CBS Interactive. “We don’t have that in high school venues. No video scoreboards, no replay.”
This fall, MaxPreps will run a test with Fantag in Northern California to see if users are interested. The test will determine if fans watching the high school games will actually shoot videos and tag them. By doing so, MaxPreps would be able to take those tagged videos and insert them into game streams and enhance the viewing experience, Beal says.
One of the hurdles for Dombrowski is staying ahead of customer demand, but not missing the mark of what the people actually want.
“Launch fever is a term I’ve heard,” he says. “You can be hesitant to launch something because you want it to be perfect. But at certain stages, very early on, the point wasn’t for perfection, but to have something that would help drive the direction. It’s an important lesson to learn early on so when you get ready for a product release, you’ve had the experience to know how to properly vet your work.”
The vetting in this case included testing early iterations, a web-based demo for beta users to try out. This also meant building what he calls a “team of all-stars.” At first, he admits he thought he could keep the staff small. Currently, there are fewer than 10 people on the Fantag team, but Dombrowski plans to add more to the roster in the coming months as the startup gains traction.
“We’re doing something I truly believe is really special,” he says. “To properly execute, you really need a great team to make that happen.”
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