FootTheBall Aims to be the Facebook for Football Die-Hards
Sports and startups seem such disparate concepts. But with fantasy football in the US estimated at $70Bn we should expect to see more forays into sports by startups.
The kind of football this startup focuses on is different to American football but with all impassioned Messi and Ronaldo fans out there, it isn’t that hard to imagine a network like Facebook especially for them.
We speak to Sumon K Chakrabarti, Founder and CEO of FootTheBall.com.
Tell us about how you went from journalist to entrepreneur
It was the Copa America 2015 Final. Penalty Shootout. ‘Underdog’ Chile beats a ‘Messi’ Argentina to lift the trophy for the first time since the tournament began a century ago. At that time I was heading the digital team at Focus News.
On our website, we were focusing more on football rather than cricket because we couldn’t have done anything different to what other platforms were doing. On the day of the Copa America final, our live blog was the fifth-highest ranked page in the entire Asia Pacific region. And that was my moment of epiphany. I soon ended my twenty year journalism career and took the plunge into the world of start-ups.
In September 2015, I founded the new-media start-up Buffalos Soldiers Media and Strategists – the parent company of FootTheBall.com. We all had our day jobs back then and were about to put in our papers. Three months later, our lean mean team of five people began bootstrapping full-time for the start-up. The other founders along with me are Ankit Aggarwal and Arijit Banarji.
Is there a big market for what you’re doing?
FIFA has called India the “sleeping giant of Football.” In 2017, India will be hosting the Under-17 FIFA World Cup. The Indian sports ministry has termed this an opportunity that could bring about a “transformation in Indian football for generations to come.” FIFA’s Director of Marketing Division, Thierry Weil has said that the commercial power is now shifting to Asia, and India and China are the key powerhouses. According to industry experts, football in India caters to a market worth Rs 1,500 crore. Statistics suggest that in the next five years the sports industry in India will be on par with the entertainment industry.
How does FootTheBall (FTB) work?
With a special focus on the emerging leagues of China and India, we are building the first exclusive ‘social network’ for global football fans in partnership with a Silicon Valley startup. Inside the FTB app, you can also ask anyone to be your webcam if they are watching the game from the stadium or the local pub. In the next couple of months, we will be running a pilot with Chelsea and Liverpool fans based in Delhi-NCR.
How do you plan to be different to any other social network or page dedicated to football?
We keep our content unique, that’s how we plan to be different. Over the past two months, more than 10,000 fans have visited our site FootTheBall.com.
How will FTB monetize?
Our cricket-crazy-country has 170 million football fans but there is not one platform that caters to them. Most of the Indian fans of the beautiful game keep in touch with their groups on WhatsApp. We are creating the 1st social network for fans, clubs and brands to bring them all under one platform, through a tech partnership with a Silicon valley startup. We will collaborate with brands and clubs to directly target their fan bases on FootTheBall platform.
Any funding to report on?
Trying to lock seed fund from this week (last week of August). Bootstrapped so far.
Future plans for FootTheBall
The way forward for us is to launch FTB China. In our platform, we will create more gamification and open the space for user-generated content. Our core tech team is working on intelligent user data to bring a ‘different homepage for different people’ on our website and app.
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