I left my full-time job in April of this year to start Pickmoto with Ben and James. I was finally going to apply my years of reading and absorption to try my hand at building a profitable business. The last five months have been awesome, mostly consisting of designing, building, testing, and iterating the product that you’ve hopefully downloaded onto your iPhone for NFL season. I’ve learned so much since I left, but through it all, there is one thing that is becoming more and more prominent to me: Silicon Valley is not interested in sports startups.
Now, I want to quickly clarify that sports startups do exist. BeRecruited, Sidelines, and OnSports are just a few of the various sports startups that exist in the area. Culturally, however, sports are not taken seriously in Silicon Valley. At any given meetup, conference, or talk I attend, 9 out of 10 people are self-proclaimed “not sports fans”. When we started asking other sports startups in the area about who we should potentially talk to down the line if we seek investment, they almost universally said that we’d be better off looking outside of Silicon Valley for investors, as the money here does not follow sports-related startups. One person jokingly said that we should pivot to focus on triathlons and marathons, because that’s the only sport that most investors respect.
In general I’m fine with people who aren’t sports fans, or don’t want to invest in sports startups, but there is always one thing that bothers me about this fact: sports is a massive market to just ignore. There is a ton of money in sports. Most of the money and content is controlled by a few key players, who have become complacent, making the atmosphere ripe for disruption. There are lots of opportunities to evolve and experiment with existing business models in sports, or make improvements to existing profitable sports-related business models. From fantasy gaming, online content aggregation and distribution, real-time scoring, fan engagement (particularly in the stadiums), ticket sales, merchandise production and distribution… the list goes on. There are arbitrage opportunities here to take advantage of, and for some reason, the Silicon Valley community is not interested.
Shall we talk about market size? A vast majority of this country are self-described sports fans. Being “not a sports fan” is downright sacrilegious in parts of Texas and Boston. If we broach the subject of international sports consumers, I think it becomes clear how big the market actually is. The sports business encompasses hundreds of millions (billions?) of actively engaged and passionate consumers, who spend countless hours consuming news, watching games, discussing games, and refining their fantasy leagues. They are willing to pay a premium for a variety of services, if people would provide them more to pay for, or improve the existing services they’re already paying for.
As for us at Pickmoto, we see an opportunity to make real headway into a market that most of our peers are ignoring. Our plan is to take the lessons of building successful businesses in Silicon Valley, and try to apply those lessons to the sports/tech market. With our first app, we wanted to introduce a new way for fans to predict the most pressing, important question of any game: who is going to win. We tried to create a game for sports fans that is as fun and competitive as games such as DrawSomething and Words With Friends. Were we successful? Well, it’s only been a week, so that questioned is unanswered, but we’ve been seeing massive interest from our users thus far.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Why doesn’t Silicon Valley take more of an active interest in the sports market?
Posted by Ryan Gerard