Purple Mafia Profiles: Fanatic Co-Founder, Babak Poushanchi

Mondays are not usually reserved for Purple Mafia Profiles, but this one has been in the works for quite some time.  With the recent redesign of LTP, including the fancy interactive map for the Northwestern Bar Network on the right sidebar, one diehard Wildcat fan, Babak Poushanchi, has created a new company, Fanatic.  For any users of the LTP NU Bar Network, you’re going to love this. Fanatic is a location based app that enables you to find where your sports teams fans’ are watching games with authentic power rankings, if you will, that provide authenticity as to the happening place to be as a fan of your team.  There are quite a few states with no representation on our Bar Network map and with the fully loaded features of the Fanatic app, that can soon be a thing of the past.

Fanatic was created by Babak Poushanchi,  a 1998 Northwestern graduate, along with two other founders including fellow Wildcat alum, Jon Keselica.  Babak has another school that is now very familiar to Wildcat fans, as he graduated from Glenbrook North High School, the very same high school as new basketball head coach, Chris Collins attended.

Babak was completely spoiled by his Northwestern Wildcat football fandom as his first two years in school he saw the ‘Cats go 15-1 in Big Ten play and win back-to-back Big Ten Championships.  The good news for us is he represents a significant number of post 1995 Wildcat fans who have tasted the finer football life and have much higher expectations for the program than many of the old guard.

Thanks to his app, we’re expecting the LTP NU Bar Network venues to look more like this (see Gator Bowl at Blondies):

Let’s go help a fellow Wildcat diehard build a business, shall we?

LTP: What was the ah-ha moment for creating this app?

BP: It came from a selfish purpose. As a person who grew up outside of Chicago and lived in New York, I’d want to go out to watch Bulls games with other fans. People would resort to Googling “NYC bars Chicago Bulls” or go to Facebook and ask the question “does anyone know where Bulls fans go in NYC to watch games?” or you’d go to a forum or a blog like yourself and they’d ask them and the person would say “yeah, I keep a list” or “you should go here and check it out”.  So, we said let’s make a tool for this very purpose that shows you on a map what places are showing what games and how many fans by affiliation are there.  So, we wanted to put you in the optimal spot of watching the game where there’d be say, 15 other Bulls fans to watch the game.

That was the original vision. We’ve added a points and rankings system on top of that keeps track of your fandom. Take you for example. You watch some games in person at Ryan Field, you may go to some road games or others you might watch at home or at a bar in Chicago. We’ve built a tiered point system where we give you credit, essentially, for each activity of your fandom. If you watch at home it might be 50 points, if you’re at a bar it’s a 100 points, at the stadium 300 points and if you go to a road game it is 1000 points. If you’re the organizer of the event, the points really start adding up. If you make a plan, and the app gives you the planning capability just like Evite, where you select an event and a place, and the ap sends out invites to everyone involved that you’re adding to the invite list. You can add them through Facebook, your contacts, people that are on the ap and those people take action you add points.  What we’re really going after is fandom in its current sense. You care, you follow your teams and you’re sharing on social media, those are the people that deserve to be rewarded. We’re trying to establish relationships with the brands and the teams to monetize all of these hours the fans are putting in.

LTP: Walk me through the reward system. What do you get from a points perspective?

BP: Much like how Foursquare started, at this point it is  digital gamification. We’re not at the point where you have 8,000 Northwestern points and Northwestern gives you a free hoodie. That’s the ultimate goal of the app.

Currently, what you see is a rankings for your area. So, we have a Northwestern Wildcats ranking for New York. You’re earning points and developing rankings for each of the teams and right now it is a competition among friends and fans with each team and knowing what your friends and fans are doing and being able to connect with them. Ultimately, we’ll be wrapping the rewards system in to being actual tangible rewards.

LTP: How do you make money?

BP: Let me break it up in to who should care about the ap and who gets what out of the app. So there are the sports fans  and we believe we’re adding value by bringing them together with fans in their local area and we think that translates in to a better sports watching experience.  We’re enabling this planning function for individuals who organize groups or local alumni leaders to be able to make these plans that track who is going to be there, what the turnout is going to be, adding  individuals, and helping to manage the overall expectations of the venue where the event is going to be.

The second constituency is event or group organizers. We’ve started conversations with a lot of group organizers. We’ve talked to the folks who organize the New York Clubs for Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan at this point and all of these guys are very interested because the system they have in place may be a Facebook page or an email list and they send out the location and someone has to manage this process. What we’re trying to do is automate this entire process.

If you’re traveling for business and land in San  Francisco this fall, you should be able to fire up the app and you’ll know where to go in the Bay Area. You shouldn’t have to look up a list serve or a Facebook page or the local alumni association. A location based application should do all of that for you. That’s the appeal to all the event organizers. They want to know who is showing up to our events and what is their level of fan engagement and that’s what the points are for. Someone who is heading up the University of Alabama New York Alumni Association can look at the data and say “these are the top 20% of my fans and these are the bottom 20%” and they can determine who they want to focus on for future events or fundraising events.  We’re really enabling event organizers for large or small organizations to really measure fan engagement.

The third constituent are the venues. What do they get out of it? Whether it’s a local Buffalo Wild Wings or Kendall’s in Chicago or Blondie’s in New York (for Northwestern), what is important to them is that affiliation.  The ability for them to put that stake, that flag in the ground is say this bar is the #1 Michigan Wolverines bar in Chicago or this is where Ohio State fans go in New York City.  That’s very important to them because it drives a lot of business. The ap not only drives your points as a fan, but every time there is a check-in, 10% of those points go to the venue. Venues all along the way are accruing points and developing rankings.  If you pull up Blondie’s in the app, you’ll see that Blondies is the #1 Northwestern location New York, you’ll see it is the #1 Pittsburgh Steelers venue in New York and that ability to verify this is the affiliation of this establishment is very appealing to the venues. For that, they are very willing to promote the app.

Ultimately, the sports fan data we’re collecting through the app, with check-ins and venues and groups is where we are going to be able to monetize this with the teams and brands.

LTP: Give us a sense in terms of users when you started to where you are now and where you’ll be in the future?

BP: Sure, we really started January 1 of this year, and we are now over 3,000 users. We’ve gone from adding a few users  per day to 30-to-50 users per day. We’re in conversations with some large organizations about creating partnerships for distribution which is likely the next leg of growth.


LTP: I think this is a great idea.  One of the elements of our site for which I get a ton of emails during the season is the Northwestern Bar Network. Granted, it’s a bit archaic to your point, but in terms of usage, I know it is used frequently which shows there is likely a need in the marketplace.

BP: There is no centralized system for all of this. We’ve seen establishments advertise on Facebook or Twitter that “this is the place to see Marquette (or whomever) games”, but sports fans really only want to go where they know that is actually the case. There is a reason that a venue has that ranking because it has developed over time.

LTP: OK. Babak. How can we as ‘Cats fans help?

BP: We’re still a very young start-up and so the product is still very young. We’re constantly iterating the product and trying to modify and improve it so we’re always looking for feedback and suggestions on how to make it better.  We take pride in the fact the guys working on this are all super fans, but we certainly have not thought of everything. We welcome the feedback, which you get to us via our website which is fanatic.co or our Facebook page You can also check out our YouTube page. We’ve been downloaded in more than 20 countries so far and we list the top ten cities for some of these teams like Real Madrid based on where fans are showing up, so to see cities in Africa or Japan making that list confirms our thought that sports is very global with very little language barrier.

LTP: Well, consider the word officially spread in Wildcat Country.  We’re excited to help and wish you nothing but the best.  This also is a good reminder to check out my old school NU Bar Network (see map on right) and update the info, or perhaps we should just have Babak and team overhaul it for us and integrate the app on our site.

LTP Purple Pledge

Also, we’re still on the hunt for NEW season ticket holders. I racked-up several single game ticket folks this weekend at a friends’ happy hour as all I had to do was talk about the Michigan and Ohio State game.  Amazingly, I was the only NU grad in the room, yet everyone in the 20-person party committed to going as a group.  Let’s get closer to our 200 NEW season ticket goal by simply calling 800-Go-Purple and ask for Mike Zoller.  Then, email us at laketheposts@gmail.com and we’ll give you a shout out.

  • Smolmania

    LTP, I think it’s “Zoller” without the “e”.

  • Dchent

    Four Square is Foursquare

  • Schmack

    I’m a ’98 grad too, and my freshman year was 3-7-1. I recall thinkinh that Lundy’s backup seemed better than Lundy.

    • UVA Cat

      Me too. I remember my first NU game was that tie vs Stanford. Almost forgot that there was a time when ties were allowed.

  • missing drose

    super cool app! downloading it now :)