The Sports Techie community blog welcomes guest contributions that have some kind of sports technology related material. It is thus my pleasure to introduce a talented writer, keen marketer and all-around good person into sport and tech, to our global readers and followers that has a passion for his sports tech startup and app named, Paranoid Fan.
Hunter Swensson writes as a guest contributor. He is the co-founder of Paranoid Fan – a new mobile app available now in the Apple Store.
Do you like sports? That’s easy, of course you do – that’s why we’re here, right? At the game, the watch party, tailgating or even scanning your timeline — you love sports. The difficulty is in the discovery: “where is all of this happening?”
A year ago, our co-founder Agustin attended the World Cup in Brazil. For die-hard soccer fans like Agustin, the World Cup is more of a religious experience than it is a sporting event. Agustin traveled to Brazil looking to immerse himself in the World Cup experience, but he couldn’t find Team USA watch parties, meetups, or any of the nearby venue essentials. This was the, “Ah-ha!” moment that every entrepreneur remembers well. Determined to drive his idea to action – Agustin took his “Ah-ha!” moment and began working on a mobile app where fans could help other fans pin and share the best kept secrets on game day – where to park, eat, or find the nearest watch party.
At the time, I was living in Dallas, Texas selling advertising and sponsorships for ESPN and The Ticket. I remember where I was, and where I was sitting when Agustin pitched the idea to build an app that identified the points of interest he had trouble finding at the World Cup. It was like taking the bulky kiosk GameDay guide and making it digital, social, and global. I wanted in. When presented with the opportunity, I quit ESPN and The Ticket to build Paranoid Fan with Agustin. Rounding out the trio of founders was Whitney, a sharp and talented friend I worked together with at ESPN.
We beta launched the first version of our social utility earlier this year at SXSW. To make things interesting we invited Drew Magary, Bryan Curtis, and Jonah Keri for a Deadpsin vs. Grantland (RIP) deathmatch at our Launch Party. (no writers were harmed in the process) It was an opportunity to test our concept and put the idea in front of a large audience. The response was overwhelmingly positive and Paranoid Fan was listed as a startup, “that will make your life easier,” on Buzzfeed. In its infancy stage, the idea of combining maps and sports wasn’t something people had used before. But it was quickly gaining momentum as people recognized the same experiences they had faced as a fan.
SXSW proved to be pivotal not only because of the exposure we gained, but because of the people we met. On the final day of SXSW, exhausted and on a whim we decided to attend a panel hosted by FF Venture Capital. Speaking at this panel was Sandy Carter, the GM of IBM. After the panel we met with Sandy and demoed our app. This resonated with her because she also attended the World Cup. Thanks to this chance encounter, we eventually signed with IBM and made the switch to IBM Softlayer, IBM’s cloud hosting service.
While we organized the switch, we partnered with the AT&T Byron Nelson to map out the PGA tournament in Dallas. Anyone who has attended a golf tournament knows there can be a lot of ground to cover. So we mapped out the grounds and helped fans find the nearest hole, restroom, food stand, and more. Happy with the response from our beta launch, we began the transition from Rackspace to Softlayer, which made noticeable improvements to speed and flow in the app.
We used this transition period as an opportunity to improve every facet of the app. We hired a world-class designer and changed the UI to make the app cleaner and more fun to use. This time also allowed us to add features to the app that I’m very excited to share.
Pinning – We’ve changed the way users pin activity icons. We know that when pinning you want to help friends and fans find the fun faster, so we cut the time it takes to pin in half. With a few taps, you can pin, help other fans find the fun, and keep moving.
GPS Directions – When you click on an activity icon you can opt for turn by turn directions to that location. Fans can get directions to their parking spot before they leave for the game, or find the closest watch party with other fans or alumni in your area. Whatever it is, we help you find it and get there faster.
Tickets – We’re excited to introduce a peer to peer platform that allows fans to locate, buy and sell tickets – on site, or online. All tickets are insured and protected by PayPal. So if you’re at a tailgate with an extra ticket just plug your seat info into the app and make some extra cash while draining the game winning shot in beer pong.
Leaderboards – Points are awarded for pinning activity icons and sharing venue information with other fans. Points can be used to earn special badges, emojis, and experiences.
Local Chat – We’ve geo-fenced every NFL stadium so that anyone within 2 miles of the 50 yard line can share pictures from the game. Fans at the game can chat with others attending, or watching from home. Posts are linked to twitter and facebook to keep you locked into your social channels
Meet Me — Have you ever been at a game or concert and called your friend in a futile attempt to meet up? I know I have. Recently I was at the Baylor vs. Texas Tech game and witnessed people walking by saying something along the lines of, “I’m in Lot C next to the sliver truck with the big Tech flag.” I’d look around and see 50 of those. The, “Meet Me,” function allows you to give your friends precise directions to where you’re at. Simply find your friends in your contacts list to share your location— the great thing is that this works even if they don’t have the app!
It’s been 3 weeks since our official launch. With new tech, early adopters are crucial to accomplishing our goal of improving the fan experience . We’re presenting the Sports Techie community with an opportunity to utilize new technology. Our goal is to create an end to end fan experience. In order to do that, we need the help of early adopters. By downloading our app and pinning game day essentials, watch parties, tailgates, meet ups, and sharing the best kept secrets – you’re making the game more fun for the fan who might be taking his son to his first game. Or for 5 alumni reuniting to cheer on their alma matter. It goes without saying – sports are better when they’re shared with friends.
We’re always listening and responding to feedback because we want to do right by the fans who help us map the world of sports. If you have a comment or Hot Sports Opinion you’d like to share – we’re listening on Twitter, @paranoidfan.
Sports Techie, Paranoid Fan just signed up with Rice University this week. I asked Swensson if Paranoid Fan would be at the Georgia versus Florida college football game on Halloween, also known as the world’s largest cocktail party. The answer is not this year but expect PF to be there and all around the country and soon the globe because of their useful niche idea that is a little bit Waze, combined with online ticketing and social media elements.
So next time you are attending a NFL game around the country or are in the grand ol’ state of Texas and want local information about a professional or collegiate sports event, be the Paranoid Fan we all are inside when you cannot find out the answer as to where to park, what sports bar to meet up at or how to find a ticket to a soldout game when traditional means are exhausted by downloading, using and contributing to PF.
It’s a fan experience for all ages.
I hope you enjoyed this guest blog.
See y’all later in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world.
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