On Jan. 22, I was intensely focused on my Twitter feed, constantly refreshing it for updates about nasty weather in the area. What I was greeted with, instead, was the distinct impression that you Giants and 49ers fans were somewhere chanting in unison, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t … stop tweeting.”
And rightfully so. It was a great game, and it understandably got you fans fired up. Meanwhile, Chris McCoy – the founder of new sports-themed startup YourSports.com – was taking note of the high emotion and flood of engagement. And he was putting one more checkmark beside an example of why he thinks he’s hit on the right formula for a new social network he’s rounding up investors for and preparing to launch.
McCoy describes the venture as “Facebook meets the sports section” and says it will ensure “there’s no such thing as an away game” anymore.
It’s raised $1.7 million from angel investors and is wrapping up its angel round before pursuing its Series A financing. It’s opening its private beta on February 1. You can sign up to be one of the first users here. The site will launch to the public in March.
YourSports has been in R&D mode for several years peeling back the onion on the sports industry. One thing that’s clear – when you think about it, sports fans really are the ultimate social network. The fandom stretches from sports bars to coach potatoes watching TV to fans scouring sports message boards and the parents who shuttle kids to little league practice.
All of them have different chunks of sports news they consume, and all of them do it in different ways. Quite often no thanks to the local media, since a lot of metro daily papers aren’t covering local sports like anymore to the degree that smaller, community papers are.
It’s a fragmented space, with the big dollars concentrated on the professional side, the social interaction happening in its own corners and the major news coverage shrinking.
The way baseball players have a baseball card that’s sort of the mini-Bible for that player, YourSports will give every user their own “sports card.” Think of it a little like your Facebook timeline that you’re now populating with “likes” of your friends’ updates, photos, your job details and brand pages you’ve decided to follow.
YourSports’ functionality also includes the ability for fans to cover a sports game play-by-play. You’ll be able to follow sports news, check in to games, say you’ve coached here, played there, and on and on.
Facebook and Twitter, of course, organize news, photos and the like around the people and things you’re most interested in. YourSports – the visual display of which won’t at all look foreign to Facebook users – does the same thing, but for sports news and information.
McCoy has been thinking about this for a while and is adamant that Facebook and Twitter aren’t the best channel for distributing sports news and information. A lot is being shared on those channels – just not as well as it could be.
While at the University of Washington, McCoy started two earlier ventures: PitchSmarter, an online baseball info and product company, and I Love Baseball Foundation, an organization that helps solve the education problem among young ballplayers in the Dominican Republic.
With YourSports, McCoy quite simply wants to change the flow of sports information to change the flow of dollars. And he thinks shifting the emphasis from a satellite signal to the social realm can do that.
“When watching a game on TV, ESPN and the 25-plus regional sports networks don’t know where you’re at, who you’re with, or how you feel about both teams,” McCoy said. “If they did, it could definitely change the ads you see. It could potentially see the games you watch.
“Stanford Football has a semi-digital list of their season ticket holders,” he continued. “But what if they knew who their die-hard fans were that were in their stadium? What if high school sports teams knew this? What if they could sell directly to them? It could change how tickets are sold.”
The same goes for local news coverage and the possibility of a place where fans can post content for their own local games to a sports-only hungry audience.
To do all of that and more, YourSports has built what it’s calling the “Henry Ford” system. It’s the product flow they designed to rapidly churn out new features for the YourSports platform, and with its product factory now in place, McCoy said YourSports can iterate new features in under a week.
“The magical part of Henry Ford is we’re doing it in 2 different timezones,” McCoy said. “So during the day, products are being designed, user stories are being written, and final reviews are happening. At night, products are being engineered, tested, and deployed. So we have an almost 24-hour product development cycle.”
The company aims to eventually index enough social data to extend itself as a platform for third-party developers to build sports-specific games, apps and content experiences on top of.