The world of sports is ever-evolving, with innovative concepts and technologies reshaping the way fans interact with their favorite games. One such innovation is Fan-Controlled Football (FCF), cofounded by Grant Cohen, a league that has defied convention and captured the imagination of sports enthusiasts worldwide.
Fan Controlled Football has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Animoca Brands, 6th Man Ventures, Jump Crypto, and Delphi Digital.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Fan Controlled Football (FCF) empowers superfans to have a real say in the games they love, revolutionizing the sports industry.
- Upbringing and early experiences in the Bay Area laid the foundation for a love of football and entrepreneurial spirit.
- FCF’s concept came from a conversation in a New York bar in 2007, ultimately leading to a groundbreaking concept in interactive sports entertainment.
- FCF faced challenges but demonstrated adaptability and innovative spirit, securing strategic partnerships and significant funding rounds.
- The power of superfans is central to FCF’s success, with dedicated fans driving engagement and revenue.
- FCF’s vision extends beyond football, aiming to create an interactive platform for various sports, providing a year-round fan experience.
- Cohesive co-founders and a shared vision have been crucial in FCF’s journey, enabling the company to revolutionize fan engagement in sports.
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About Grant Cohen:
Grant Cohen has a diverse range of work experience. Grant co-founded and served as the Chief Growth Officer of Fan Controlled Sports + Entertainment, where they allowed fans to make decisions for a minor league football team.
Grant was also the Global Head of Endemic Media at Roku, where they oversaw the marketing and distribution efforts for streaming app publishers.
As the GM of The Collective & FreeAppAnalytics at Kochava, Grant utilized data to deliver mobile audiences at a large scale. Grant was a co-owner of the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, the first pro team run by fans.
Additionally, Grant worked as a Consultant at OpenX and held various leadership roles at PlayHaven, ChirpAds, Gradient X, and Velti. Grant also co-founded Swagsy Inc, an angel-funded eCommerce start-up.
Grant Cohen attended TASIS England in an unspecified timeframe before enrolling in the University of Miami in 1999. At the University of Miami, they pursued a degree in Advertising/Media Management and successfully completed their Bachelor of Science (BSC) in 2003.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a really amazing founder. You know we’re gonna be talking about the rocket ship that he’s in. We’re gonna be talking about building scaling financing. And all of that good stuff that we like to hear so without farther ado let’s welcome our guest today Grant Cohen welcome to the show. So originally from the bay area give us a walk through memory lane. How is life growing up.
Grant Cohen: Thank you Very happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
Grant Cohen: Ah, life was great. Ah I know it’s ah California gets dragged a lot these days and some some of it rightfully so but certainly when I grew up. It was a good time to be in the bay as we’ll talk about I’m I know. Run a football league and it was a great time to be a football fan the bay area when I was there the niners won five super bowls I think in my first thirteen years of life which was pretty awesome Joe Montana Jerry Rice for Kings of the city and and now I own a football league with Joe Montana it’s pretty crazy. All life works out.
Alejandro Cremades: Now in your case you know, growing up. You went to boarding school in England so how would you say that boarding school shaped who you are because I mean obviously is the unknown uncertainty making new friends. All of that stuff.
Grant Cohen: I did.
Grant Cohen: Yeah, um I was kind of a pain in the butt I always got good grades and always pretty smart but I was a pain in the butt and I think by the end of high school. My parents are just sort of like you know that it’s time. It’s time for him to move on so they sent me to boarding school about as far away as they can send me from San Francisco where at least I could still speak the language. Ah, so I went a boarding school just outside of London and um I do think it was it was interesting I think I think it well first of all I met my I met so my eventual wife and baby Mama there. So I guess that that worked out pretty well but beyond that I think I think it definitely was useful. You know I have three kids of my own now and and it’s interesting.
Grant Cohen: Kids I think they they mature at different levels in different times right? and some kids are younger and are are far ahead. Some are they aware and I actually spoke to a kid earlier today I call him my kid who was 21 years old he’s a college student and he is a delegate in West Virginia meaning he’s actually like it’s like their version of the house of representatives kids 21 years old he’s been elected to the house in West Virginia that’s why I think about what myself was like at 21 that seems crazy the idea that there’s like different sort of maturity levels and I think for me I was probably at an age where it was time I didn’t need to be at home much more and I think when I got to college I think I got there probably much more well prepared. Because I already lived on my own for a couple of years now al’ll be it was inside of a boarding school but like I was used to not having my mom make me lunch and you know there was clean my room and like there was a shit you were like had to kind of do on your own and then also like the nightlife and going out thing I you know wouldn end up going to college in Miami which is quite a big party school and ah, a good time. But I’d already lived on my own in a place where you could go to bars when you were a teenager so it was kind of was it wasn’t that crazy to me I saw a lot of kids show up fresh from the year and by the end of the first semester they were a mess and for me it was like I don’t know like I’ve already been doing this like this is normal. You know.
Alejandro Cremades: Now in your case media and advertisement what what caught your attention. You know to explore really studying that. Okay.
Grant Cohen: Yeah, it’s interesting. So I went to college thinking that I’m a huge sports fan I thought that I’m I’m a huge sports fan but I’m a half Jewish half norwegian not very well coordinated fairly slender. Not very I’m I’m okay on the height but don’t know that’s all and so i. I knew that professional sports wasn’t a path for me but I wanted to be involved in it and so I went to college thinking that I would actually my original major was broadcast journalism and thought that I would be a sports announcer and actually an amazing professor my sophomore year of college the end of my fresh year started of the sophomore year professor Walter Mcdowell and he had. He had come to Miami from Southern Illinois to create a new program which was called media management which was based on the business side of of advertising and I had a class with him and I just thought he was awesome and I thought that what they were doing was awesome and I’ve always been kind of say more mathematically minded if you will um and. So it really ah it really was interesting to me and I also felt like I’d I’d learned already in my first year though like it turns out unless you’re like 1 of like the 3 or 4 people who make it big. There is most people in broadcast journalism. It’s not a particularly great career. Um ah path and so he convinced me to switch and I was actually part of the. Me and like a few other kids were the very first to ever graduate from university mimy with a media manager degree. We were the first class to ever do it and I’m under the impression. It’s actually a decent program there now which is pretty cool.
Alejandro Cremades: So what ended up bringing you to L a.
Grant Cohen: Ah, process elimination. Um, we my wife and I had been she she started a college and bu she ended up going transferring to Miami we graduated from Miami at the same time and we weren’t married yet. But my girlfriend at the time and we ah we just sort of. We’ve been in my 12 years we loved it. But it wasn’t really a place to like be an adult night. It’s changed a lot particular the last few years like there’s like startups and tech and business there where back then that wasn’t really a thing. Um, and so most people from Miami went to New York after school. We’d spent ah a summer there um interning I inter at sports illustrated and we’d spent a summer living in. Up that way and for senior a year and it was fine. We liked it but it wasn’t it never really felt like the place that we wanted to live sort of warm weather beach kind of people so it was really like all we’re not going to Mode Miami not to live in New York what’s the next city. All right Let’s go to l la and you know if you told me that back then that I was gonna. Moved to California and live in l a and then I was in a work in tech I probably would have said I’ll live in a for a few years college after college and then I’ll you know, move back up to the bay area and we’ve had a bunch opportunities over the years to move up to the bay and a couple other places and once you live in l la for a while. It’s not the kind of city you fall in love at first a site with but. Long. Do you live here the more it sort of sucks in the lifestyle the weather the you know yeah you know I now I got a wife and kids in a house and a cabin up the mountains and like I now you’re not going anywhere now. You’re stuck here. So um, but it’s pretty good life. There’s worse places to be.
Alejandro Cremades: So Then so talking about the good life there of now moving to L a you know you got it to the mobile apps and Search Apps. You started with an ad agency then eventually you went into the operating roles and that led you to launching. Your own company eventually which was say sure. Bad. So What led you to that decision of hey I want to start something on my own now. Okay.
Grant Cohen: Um I think I’d always been very entrepreneurial in spirit I was both my parents are entrepreneurs. My father has started and sold and made money and lost money off of more businesses than I can count. Um, he was like his his story is amazing of of the things he’s done. Everything from me started with like a you know pretzel stand when he was in college and at cal on the streets of San Francisco all the way through to a wide myriad of crazy businesses. Um, and so I think I’ve probably just always had that that gene in me and grew up around it. Even my mother started and owned her own retail stores for most of my life. Um. So I think it was probably just in me and then like said my first job I worked in an agency. We had a client that was an early stage company that was in the was building a mobile app on blackberries and palm pilots. That’s how long ago this is despite my youthful appearance I actually am an old man and and then they recruited me I went and worked there for the company. And ah the brand and I was doing marketing but then it kind of quickly turned into Biz Dev and um we we were at one point like the number 1 app in the world albeit back when it was green screenen blackberries and there was like thousands of users not millions. So um, but it got me into it really early on and then I said I ended up being in the ad tech space and. Was lucky I worked I was a very early stage employee at a couple of companies I guess 3 companies that all had you know, decent exits in terms of acquisition are going public. Um, and so I think that was kind of yeah my learning curve and I call it early to mid 20 s so an opportunity came where.
Grant Cohen: The ability to start my own business and thought you know I think I think I know what I’m doing now I think it’s time so raise my first round led by science and Hurst ventures started the company chirp ads had a really great growth trajectory the first year and so a deal came through our kind of Corp dev team to be able to acquire another mobile gaming company. Um. And a kind of combination equity debt round and we did and it was a hot mess like lesson learned that like it’s great to have your company be acquired, acquiring other companies. Not not for me. We’ve done it a few times since then but it typically is ah the value is it’s hard to justify. Um, and so we ended up. Ah. Taking that combined entity ran it for a year or so at that point time I actually was like I still lived in l a but I basically lived in San Francisco I was I flew up every week multiple days a week I would spend up there I’d fly home and I was just kind of burn out and we ended up selling that business and thankfully it worked out timing was that like literally the day that we were selling that business to a larger social gaming company was the day that my. Eventual cofounders of fan controlled sports and I all got connected so serendipitously. It’s time to move on.
Alejandro Cremades: And we’ll talk and we’ll talk about that in in just a letter I Just want to ask you here like what kind of disability did that give you into the full cycle of a business.
Grant Cohen: Oh a lot I mean I think ah when I started there. My background had been very much in like business development sales and marketing I didn’t like I I was smart enough that I always understood kind of how the product side of technology worked. But I’d never really embraced the understanding of like how important that was from ah like the strategic value of a business and what you were building was how good or bad. Your product set was and and an ad tech. It’s a huge part of it. Um, so gave me good exposure to that and then massively good exposure into like the overall p and l management right. Hiring of people cross-functionally not just sales and marketing people but cross-functionally how do you hire a good cto even if you’re not an engineer right? How do you find good people in that role. How do you have a great financial person. A Vp of finance or Cfo or whatever to help you manage those things. How do you do forecasting and revenue planning and cost planning and budgeting all those bits that like. Been an early stage employee in other people’s companies. So I knew they existed and I’d contributed to but I’d never really had to lead before and I think that was really a great opportunity to kind of cut my teeth a little bit on the operations of of you know, running a business if you will.
Alejandro Cremades: Now in this case, you know like when finally the transaction happened you receive um, request from Linkedin so what happened there.
Grant Cohen: Yeah, well so the the original idea for fake entrolled sports the very beginning of it had actually been many years earlier and it was me and some buddies from from Miami we were actually in I was in New York visiting we were at a bar and we were watching a baseball game and. We had this idea we had got into the conversation about well could fans do better than the coach and we all thought that certainly of course we could and it’s just one of those ideas I couldn’t get out of my head and so for this is like 2007 to Thousand and eight time. Um. For a little while we we like set up a blog and a web page and we were kind of like all right? We’re going to try and do this. We’re going to try and get like a bunch of fans behind us and some sponsors and raise some money and buy like a minor league baseball team that was our idea and um, we started working on it and it was always like you know, kind of a side passion project hobby and we puttzed around with it for a little while and then eventually. Um, we actually came close to buying a minor league baseball team in Texas the market went to crap in you know September of 2008 became pretty clear and we were going to buy a team that came with a bunch of land debt and it was like you know the map did not make any sense at that point in time of the real estate market. So we all kind of pulled out of it. Got busy. Lives wi kids the jobs I just mentioned sort of in the ad tech space. Um, and it was kind of just on the backburn I’d forgotten about it and then lo and behold I got a Dm one day from some guy on Linkedin who said hey I read this article about you from you know years ago about this idea you had I own part of an arena football team I’d never been to an arena football game at that point in my life.
Grant Cohen: And um, said I think it sounds really cool I’d love to meet up I’d love to get I love to talk shop. He happened to be we happen to live it. He happened to also live in LA. we were kind of similar age demographic. We didn’t know each other but both had been in tech and like just you know, kind of we’re in similar circles. Um, and so we literally I was actually getting a haircut at the time that I got the Dm and I replied back I was just having my phone in my hand. So yeah I’m happy to talk call me in a little bit and literally called me as soon as I walked out of the ah floyds on Melrose Barbers shop and ah we immediately chatted and I saw I’m going downtown I’m getting business I’m ah um, I’ll talk to you when I get back and just going in a few days. He’s like no I want to meet you downtown right now he drove straight downtown. We literally met at a salad place and it’s a hot day. We had a bottle of water set outside and instantly I loved him thought the idea that they wanted to do on the football side was great I’m actually a much bigger football fan than I am baseball fan so resonated with me really quickly and I said look I got this other business that I’m going to be out of pretty quickly here. Let’s do it like I’m in screw. It. Let’s go get a football team and that was the the impetus to jump to jumping off and it’s been ah, an awesome got what 6 years since then now at least ah that we’ve ah we’ve working together and so far so good.
Alejandro Cremades: So what happened next after that combat that conversation at the sal bar.
Grant Cohen: Well so so after that conversation we said all right? We want to get that they’d owned a team him and his been wound up being our other co-founder. So so Rob and Patrick owned part. They owned a minority share of an arena football league an Afl team in Las Vegas um and they own that team. Ah, with a a rock star some guys from motley crew who they’d put in some money into and then those guys had spent basically all their money on drugs and hookers and all the things you can get into trouble with in Vegas and um and so their team was a mess. But they really liked the sport and they really liked owning the team and they had a great relationship with the league and the league knew it wasn’t their fault that the team was a mess so we ended up going back to league and saying hey next season can we just forget about that team. Can we get a new team that we’re going to make a fan control team. They said? yeah it sounds pretty cool. At that time the afl is a league. It had been around for a while and it added kind of its heyday in the early two thousand s but it was the cost structure of it wasn’t working out very well teams are losing a lot of money so a couple of teams not left and went to a smaller arena league called the ifl that was more sustainable. A cost structure was smarter better more kind of operationally it made more sense and so we. And up going to the iffl and saying hey we heard these teams are coming over how about we bring our model there and they said great. We love it. So the plan had been to to what the plan was and ah I guess as we ended up kind of executing it in a backwards way to start with a single team in the ifl was the indoor football league and to make it run by the fans and.
Grant Cohen: Assuming that went well we were going to expand and try and become the full interactive football league. So ah to do that we had to raise a bit of capital kind of friends and family round. Um Sir Rob had been ah had had a mobile hardware startup that they’d had a decent exit on ah few years prior so we had kind of a good network built in. Of local folks that we could call on to help you know between our own money and some friends and family have enough seed capital get the first team off the ground we spent a ton of time trying to network ourselves through the um ah the football world because we weren’t we’re all. Tech guys. We were not football guys and we needed to you know, kind of build relationships in that space. Um, and at one point we ah we had a meeting with a guy named Tony Perish who had played in the Nfl and Playfa played for the niners played the Chicago bears. It was like a pro bowler for a little bit in the early 2000 and we had lunch then we told him idea we said. But. Like Madden for real life. It’s the fans are going to call the plays and he’s like that’s an awful idea that is terrible. No player will ever want to play for you? No players ever going to play in a league with the fans call the plays. But I got this buddy in Chicago that I played with in the bears and he’s been telling me the same stupid idea for years. You should talk to him. So sure enough connected us there ended up being our fourth co-founder who was a former Chicago bear had sort of the Nfl experience understanding football chops and so the 4 of us all came together and we bought the rights to a new team and then we let the fans start getting involved. The first thing we did is we did ah, we let the fans vote on.
Grant Cohen: The league had given us a few cities that were options for them to play in and it came down to like we kind of went d to the cities and looked at different stadium deals and it came down to Oklahoma City versus Salt Lake so the very first fans vote our fans ever did was where should we play and they ended up voting on Salt Lake city ended up being a much closer vote than we thought. Ah, but we they end up choose a Salt Lake then we did ah an indie gogo campaign which I think was like the first time that like I really felt like oh man this is a thing that this is going to work. Um, we did this indiegogo campaign and we’t have any fans this point right? like we’d like done this poll on Twitter where should we play and we’d gotten like a couple of local blogs and I know there’s probably I don’t. I wish I knew the number of top my head but there was probably a thousand votes like it was not enough to be um, this wasn’t a business right? This was like a fun social poll. Um, and we went we went and set up an Indiegogo campaign and the idea buying the campaign was not to fund the whole team like we wasn’t going to be that much money and we were going to cover that cost it was we want to raise $50000 to build an app that will let the fans control our team like hey we already got a team. But if you fans can help us crowdfund $50000 we’ll do it and this was not this is this wasn’t an equity crowdfund. This was pre-e equityity day. This was just like kickstarter style right? Original indiegogo you get a t-shirt you get some tickets blah blah and it worked. We sold out. We think we did $98000 in two weeks so like double our money and we’re like oh shit fans bought all sorts and we like that like gave us that the freedom of strike start having fun with it because now we got a little bit of a fan base. We got a couple thousand fans who’ve come in and actually put money in and actually care and um so we even did stuff like there’s somewhere out there. This still exists. No one’s ever cashing in.
Grant Cohen: Somebody spent like it was like $300 and bought a get out of jail free card to streak at 1 of our games and it still hasn’t happened but somebody out there owns a card and they’re allowed to come streak at 1 of our games and we’re not allowed to put them in jail but they’re allowed to do it and they can pull it out be like I bought this on indigo go six years ago I still got it and it worked.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing.
Grant Cohen: And and it worked like that was the first time I was like all right I know that like I know that I know this is a cool idea as a sports fan I know this is interesting I know that my you know everyone that we’ve talked to and asked about it aside from Tony Parish thinks it’s cool at least from an end consumer standpoint but I don’t know if it’s really going to stick and that was the first like all right. We got some.
Alejandro Cremades: So then so then in this case, you know I know that there was um, it’s it was a little bumpy now especially when he came to the capital racing side of things ah and eventually lightspeed you know ends up calling you back and and thinks you know like. But a little bit more serious. So What happened there.
Grant Cohen: Yeah, well I mean so so we so we had that we did need to go go. We had our first season which was in Salt Lake um as a team and in the ifl and ah went through a myriad of you know chimney had to build an app and we had to actually. Staff of a team and in the city that none of us ever even lived in or were even anywhere near we had to get a front office maybe to get a venue and coachings and players and all this stuff. Um, and so we cobble it all together fairly inexperienced wise and I look back on it. It must have just been total amateur hour compared to you know now we’ve done a full few full seasons of our own league and I think we’re. Got our legs under us. But back then god we must have been so sloppy but it was so much fun I mean you know we basically had to bretton airbnb and we would all fly out there and we’d just take turns constantly flying back and forth from Salt Lake to la and it was like almost living in a frat house again I mean I was literally going door to door like I go to Jimmy John’s and like. And in Salt Lake and I’d put like a thing up like these are our mini calendars. Can you please put them in your store so fans know we exist and blah blah and we finally had our first game and it sold out like the very first game I we’re sitting there and looking out over the parking lot like an hour for the game and there’s like a line of cars like what what is this? Why are all these cars here and then Don am like oh my god they’re they’re here to see us like. Here to see our game and we sold out had a bunch of fans we end up having a pretty great season. Um, the team did okay our defense sucked and our kicker sucked but the fans did a great job. They called awesome plays. They recruited great players. They recruited our quarterback who ended up being the offense the rookie of the year in the league and ended up going on to be ah Mvp I think later on the another team.
Grant Cohen: Ah, we scored a ton of touchdowns. We scored the most 2.2 conversions most touchdowns. It was great. Um, but there were a bunch of challenges we saw with playing within that league where there was so much more we wanted to do that we thought we could expand and control and the the the cost model of all playing and we we had to travel every week we’d have to travel to Spokane and to um, you know. Sioux falls and all these other cities that just like operationally it wasn’t the most efficient business certainly not for what we wanted to do but we were seeing great scale digitally so most teams in that league then were averaging you know 1 to 2000 views per game we were averaging 100000 and we’re like okay this is a thing right? Like. Or different weren’ at a different level and then people were watching they weren’t just local so solid people this was a digital audience globally that was like I’m interested because of the play I don’t care where the team is I mean just goes the play calling so after that season we went out and thought all right. This can be great. We’re going to go raise around of money and we’re going to go start our own league. And it ended up being a lot harder than we thought it was going to be and we puttzed around for god felt like probably 2 years of we did a right deal with Twitch and almost do one Facebook and I’m getting out of that doing it with Twitch. We set up indiegogo launched this idea of icos with us like there’s like New York Times articles about it and then. We raised five million bucks in like a week and it sat in escrow and then indigogo decideded. They didn’t want to touch crypto and they refunded everyone’s money and we didn’t get any of that capital. There’s just it was like a series of hits and misses. We had another round like deal done sign like not signed but handshakes handshakes done term sheet ready to go.
Grant Cohen: And another spring league had started called the af and they totally flopped and ran into money and went out of business and our investors got cold freaks. They didn’t want to you know, go to their lps hey remember that league that just collapsed that everyone talked about we’re going to go find a new one and so just all these things like we couldn’t control file a place and then the pandemic hit and. Honestly I think we all felt like that was like kind of the death blow right? Like we just we tried. We’ve been trying for 2 years We couldn’t raise the money it was over and the last venture fund that had turned us down right? like literally the day that like everyone got sent home for the pandemic was like our was like the ah the partner call day. Um ah was lightspeed. And a couple months later you know we’d gotten some of the ppp ppp loans we’d are barely paying the bills. Keep our small staff still on and we told everyone like look I think this is going to be. We’re going to be done soon and you know good luck try and find other jobs and obviously brutal time but we’re we’re out of money and lights be called and said hey look. We don’t think we can fund your full round but could you do a smaller one and do this on a smaller scale in a bubble and what it really happened was the Nba had announced. They were going to play in their bubble they did in Orlando and we’ve been out for 2 years selling this idea of like no no trust us we got league in a box the whole league in 1 place. It’s way more scalable and you focus on the digital fans and the. Viewers and interactivity. Don’t worry about fans and seats and that just was just it was a really foreign idea and then all of a sudden. The Nba is doing it and it was like oh actually this actually makes sense in fact in the state that the world was in then it made way more sense than a live event that you’re trying to sell tickets and hot dogs and beer.
Grant Cohen: And they came back and said can you do it and of course oh yeah, yeah, sure sure we’ll figure it out like we’ll try it and so we we launched our first season we closed our our seed round in the height of the pandemic in the summer of 2020 and we launched our first season in the spring at 2021
Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing. So I guess hey for the people that are listening to get it How much capital have you guys raised to date.
Grant Cohen: So that was a I’m not going to count this for the screaming Eagles. We did a cut million dollar friends and family round. We did a $10000000 seed round led by lightspeed correlation talis. We had a strategic investment from Verizon’s venture arm in there as well and and then a handful of kind of you know. Big name angels Dave Finocchio founded bleacher report um ah a host of guys from other sports leagues and big tech companies. Um Alexis Ohanian Serena Williams husband who founded Reddit as an investor. Ah that was a $10000000 seed round and then we played our first season. And I won’t give it away just yet, but the season went pretty awesome and coming out of the back of that we were able to raise now two years ago, a $40000000 series a round which included all of our prior investors coming back in as well as a host of new investors particularly big funds on the web 3 side. As I mentioned we kind of had this initial lean into an ico and then we ended up rolling on Nft project and acquiring a web 3 company last year so Anamoca Delphi Gemini all came in and led the last round so it’s about it’s 50 100000000 and change in venture capital rates so far.
Alejandro Cremades: So what happened on that. So would you say happen on that first season that they you know, open things up for you guys in such a nice way. What happened.
Grant Cohen: Yeah, so I think so the the season we did in Salt Lake um we saw very good engagement metrics and with a little bit of scale but it wasn’t it wasn’t enough scale to be like this is a business right? 100000 viewers is nice few thousand fans of stadium is nice but it just the the size of it wasn’t that big. But it was good enough data that once the market came to us. It was good enough for light speed and correlation say all right? We’ll place a little bit on you guys and see how it goes after our first and we went into our first season we had really clearly defined. Kpi’s them to say look we’re going to spend we. We didn’t raise as much money as we wanted. We want to raise 15 we only raised 10.
Alejandro Cremades: Um.
Grant Cohen: We’re going to spend every dollar we have like there’s no reason for us to end this season with money in the bank. This is very much a seasonal sport. Let’s just shoot every bullet that we have. This is our first season of of fan control football in 2021. Let’s shoot every bullet we have and if we hit these kpis then we’re ready to go for the next season. And we had really clearly defined kpis on on reach sort of viewership acquisition. So who was going to install our our app and then the percentage of those people that were to come back. Reengagement Retention we weren’t really focused on revenue first season we figured if we could build a really great audience. Those things would come and so we did so we we had again. Like honestly at the end of the season we went back through all the numbers move are obviously checking them every week with everyone but we went back at the end. It’s amazing like we had. We put pretty I mean you know when you’re selling your business to raise money you tend to put pretty lofty goals. You’re not, you’re not usually selling what you you’re selling what you’re hoping you can get to not necessarily the low end of it right. And amazingly we hit almost exactly the numbers across the board. Just pretty awesome. So we average you know close to I think with like 6 or 700000 live views per game day. We had a couple 100000 installs we had millions of play calls. We had a very high engagement and retention rate. It’s like I forget this for season numbers I top my head but it was something like 85% of people who. Registered actually voted and then like 78% of people who voted once came back and voted multiple times so it was like it was really sticky and we we got lucky right that time in world. There wasn’t a lot of other sports on we kind of captured like a moment got a lot of buzz. We had some celebrity players who showed up in the middle of the season. The Johnny manzzales and Josh Gordon’s and brought on these slew of celebrity owners which helped amplify our reach.
Grant Cohen: We didn’t have to spend that much money on marketing so we came out of the back of it and said look now we’re starting to get some scale. It isn’t massive scale but some scale of audience the engagement retention numbers are holding. In fact, they’re even improving from our our time in Salt Lake and we’ve got this pretty clear path to how we can continue to grow that by adding more teams adding more owners and and doing wider distribution. And so that’s I think really the kpis that led us to be able to raise the series a and the series a was also saying okay, now you’re going to start raising more money you got to start making more money so when we went into our second season we expanded went from 4 teams to 8 teams. We brought in a slew of new owners as I mentioned we launched our own Nft project. Um. Ah, but both collect collectibles and utilities. We start allowing for in-app purchases and the interesting thing happened which is we got through our second season and we more than doubled our viewership and we quadrupled our revenue which was great. Ah, and interestingly the revenues really split so our business to start. We kind of. You know there’s there’s traditional traditional sports leagues make almost all their money on the upper part of the funnel media, rights and sponsorship the the mass reach that they can generate is how they make most their money and then they make some money especially sports like baseball have a lot of games on the lower part of fans making live event purchases right. Where it’s merging concessions and ticketing and parking and blah blah. We never really were gonna focus on those those parts instead we thought about it more like we have the upper funnel monetization of a sports league rights and sponsorships and the lower funnel monetization of a video game. So. It’s free to play our game. It’s free for to come in but you.
Grant Cohen: Superfans the dyar fans the ones who really want to boost themselves or buy unique gear or collectible moments make in-out purchases or make digital purchases whether that’s web 3 or web two. We support both? Um and what was really interesting after our our second season it was almost exactly split almost half of our revenue came from the millions of fans. Watch the games every week was like two point one million views per week and then half the money came from just the 5000 craziest most diehard fans who were spending at a really high ar poop per fan and obviously at a super high engagement retention rate so we actually saw both we’re making money at the top of the funnel and at the bottom of the funnel from the diehards. Um. And that led us to be like okay now how do we expand this so that we’re not just single threaded on football and that’s you know where we are now is we’re starting to expand other sports.
Alejandro Cremades: So as we’re talking here about vision because vision is a really big one for investors too. Not to really raise money. Let’s say you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world Grant where the vision is fully realized what does that look like.
Grant Cohen: Then apart. So we’re known as fan controlled football and probably a shirt on’s got a a logo that’s the name of the the league. The actual business has always been called fan entrolled sports. The idea has always been that we believe this works across sports so the same way that you have. Nba 2 k and pj two k and video games that work cross sports the same way that you can flip open your fan duel or your Draft Kings app and you can bet across sports we’ve always assumed. We’ve always believed. That’s where it was headed. We just started with football. So for me I think and this is also the good news and bad news of our business in season viewersship acquisition engagement retention monetization numbers are awesome. Out of season. They kind of suck right? because there isn’t that much like we built this whole thing around a video game imagine if you if you downloaded Madden or paid to buy this game video game Madden and then as soon as the Nfl season ended. You couldn’t play it the games anymore you probably wouldn’t play very much There’s not a lot to do when there aren’t games going on. So that’s been our our challenge. So I think the vision. That we’re really executing on right now and quite literally our first big one of these is next week at Nascar that Nascar season championship in phoenix is fan controlled sports so where the same mechanics that we’ve seen work really well with fan controlled football where we make it interactive the fans have a real voice. They have a say there’s leaderboards they get to climb.
Grant Cohen: They get to win perks and powers for their performance in the game. How do we take that and then utilize implement that across sport and so again, we’re starting with Nascar we’ve got plans to do it in Golf. We’ve already announced some plans around basketball and even some international sports and I think the the vision is a. A year-round fancontroll sports experience. So think of it a little bit like a Draft Kings or Fando right? When not that it’s sports betting. Although we can monetize that way but we’re not going to be a regulated betting shop that’s on our job but partners that um, but think about those apps their biggest moneymakerr the year football right? They make the most money on the Nfl and college football season. The super bowl I’m pretty sure is their number one day of of betting but when the super bowl ends they don’t just say hey cn next september it’s immediately March madness and the masters and and Nba playoffs in the Kentucky derby in the us open and there’s a slew of things for you to continue doing as a fan, you could always be engaging and participating so you asked me about the vision. My end view is every day I wake up, there’s some cool new shit that I get to control this week there’s an ascar race next week. There’s a golf tournament. Oh football seasons two weeks away I got to start setting my draft picks all these things to keep you actively involved and engaged where we’re kind of 24 7 if you will opportunity for fans to be.
Alejandro Cremades: So as we’re talking here about the future I want to talk about the past but doing so with a lens of reflection. You know imagine I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time you know, maybe 2014 when you were thinking about venturing out and becoming an entrepreneur you know with your first business back then.
Grant Cohen: And control and really participating.
Alejandro Cremades: But let’s say you had the opportunity of having a sit down with that younger grant and being able to give that younger grant one piece of advice for launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Grant Cohen: Oh man, that’s a good one. Ah you know what? I would tell myself then um, fine. Make sure you have awesome co-founders and that you have a shared vision and that you like each other because you’re gonna spend a whole lot of time together and you’re gonna have to make a lot of decisions together. Um. I I have started some other businesses in my past I’ve I’ve never had anywhere I don’t I didn’t like or had terrible cofounder experiences but I’ve had ones where I’ve started it by myself and I being a solo founder I don’t like like you need someone. There’s highs and lows. Honestly, every day even at the stage of business. We’re now. It’s amazing. How many days I’m here and then here and then I’m back here by the end of the day and you need someone else who’s in in there with you and I don’t think you know you can have great staff and employees but like unless it’s your business and your baby It’s really hard to take to appreciate that and then. Make sure. It’s people that you really like and you get along with you have a shared vision with because you’re going to spend a lot of time with them I spend the last five years I’ve spent as much time with my about as much time my cofounders as I have my own real family. So luckily this group of guys is great. We have gotten along amazingly well. Have been very few times that we haven’t all been in the exact same mindset on on key decisions for the business. We’re almost always in lockstep. We had 1 honestly pop up earlier Today. We had ah a sponsor who all of a sudden didn’t have the budget that we thought ah they’d be able to have for this race and it’s in a week from now we’re like oh no, what are we going to do with it and 1 of my cofounders kind of quickly thinking.
Grant Cohen: Quick quick taking on his feet said. Well what if we they they didn’t have a budget this year but what if we just locked them in now to a multi-year deal and you know buy to get one free and they get the first one free and they pay us in January we’re like wow’s yes, like the other russ like yes, that’s the idea awesome and we’re all like immediately in line with it and so I think. It’s that sort of thing where you can have really great Cofounders. You can trust and lean on um and have good relationships with that would probably be the most important thing I think for starting a business because honestly every business that I’ve ever been a part of you can have great ideas and you can have and you can even build an awesome product and you or you can have a great sales team or whatever but it’s how well the people actually execute. That almost always makes the difference hey you can get unlucky. You can be in a bad market at the wrong time sometimes but most of the time the startups that turn into successful businesses because they had really great people who really executed well and that starts with the founders.
Alejandro Cremades: I Love it So grant for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.
Grant Cohen: Ah, any which way you want, you can hit me up at grant at fannchise f a n c h I dot se find me on Linkedin if you’re going to be in phoenix the race come wave to us and on pit row you know I think for. We we didn’t totally dive in on but I think is an interesting thing for what I think is your network of listeners. Um is that while we have raised a lot of money on a venture capital side and you know imagine valuations and investment sizes and stuff is maybe a little prohibiting to individuals. Um, one of the things that that we’re really focused on in this sort of grander vision is. How do we democratize not only sports engagement but ownership um for the fans you know right now owning ah a major professional sports team is reserved for a very small percentage of people you have to be a multiundre millionaire a billionaire with really great access to be able to get a part of ah of an Nba Mlb Nfl team. We think that. The valuations of our teams the interest the ability for us to be more digitally minded so we can be outside of different. We’re not restricted by geos ah but creates a really neat opportunity so we’re doing it right now on the football side. We have a host of individuals who have come in and become part owners of our teams. We’ll be doing it with Racing. We’ll be doing it with golf in the near future. We haven’t really announced that yet. So keep that between us. Um I think there’s a lot of really cool opportunity for folks to be involved in the business in a meaningful way without having to be a billionaire and it’s a really I can tell you owning.
Grant Cohen: And running your own football team is really effing Awesome. It’s a ton of fun and doing it with the fans is incredible and I’m not even an ascar or car racing guy but it seems I’m pretty excited like it seems like it seemed pretty great. So I’m I’m looking forward to it.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well hey grant thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been on on earth to have you with us.
Grant Cohen: Thank you for having me I appreciate it.
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