While I’m a firm believer in the notion that you should never meet your heroes, there are others braver than me who, rather than being scared that their hero will be disappointing in person, would be happy to pay through the nose for even 10 seconds of face time.
Aiming to connect fans to their heroes in sports or entertainment is Sydney-based startup Fan+. Cofounded by Rod Harys, Aaron Warburton, and Kirill Litovchenko, Fan+ is looking to create unique experiences that money can buy, with a portion of funds going to a charity partner.
The idea came to Harys, former boss of the National Basketball League’s Sydney Kings, through his experience working in sports, where fans are desperate to connect with their favourite athletes.
Confident in the idea, Harys made the jump to startup life.
“[It’s] a little scary, leaving a secure executive role and moving into the world of startups,” he admitted, “but I feel we have a great platform and the reward of what we are doing outweigh any risk for me.”
The platform allows fans to search through and buy experiences, from playing golf and eating lunch with former Manly Sea Eagles captain Steve Menzies to meeting and travelling to a game with the Central Coast Mariners, and more.
The experiences are, in most cases, valid for 12 months, unless they are specific to a particular date.
Harys believes the startup’s target market is broad: “People of all ages [are] looking for that unique experience with a sporting person, club, or personality that they thought they could never access in the past,” he said.
On the other side of the marketplace, Harys said the pitch to sporting clubs and entertainers is simple.
“We become another sales channel to clubs, by creating a new revenue stream for clubs and personalities. Our pitch is, we are an extension to their sales teams and we are opening up a new marketplace and new eyeballs,” he said.
The startup takes a 30 percent cut of all sales.
Fan+ this year took part in the Qantas AVRO accelerator, an experience Harys said was “hands down…one of the highlights of my career”.
“The learnings, the content sessions, and to work with the various business units at Qantas was such an incredible experience. We even got access to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, who was so engaged with the program and the startups and scaleups,” he said.
“The inspiration and engagement Alan Joyce gave us really gave me the inspiration and belief that anything is possible. Hearing the journey of Qantas, starting as a startup and the challenges they have faced to now being the biggest brand in Australia and making record profits, really gives you the hope and determination for success.”
Fan+ is one of several platforms looking to capture the hardcore fan’s dollar. Also working in this space is PickStar; while more broadly aimed at helping the likes of PR and marketing agencies or brands book athletes for appearances or campaigns, it also offers fans the ability to book stars for appearances or things like a personalised video message.
“We believe we are different as our founders have the experience of working in sports over many years, understand the challenges, have the relationships and have a very successful team of active investors and advisory board,” he said.
With dozens of experiences listed, Harys said the startup’s goal is clear: to become the leading sports and entertainment platform in Australia.
Image: the Fan+ team with Usain Bolt. Source: Supplied.