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Web Startup Offers Fans Unique Experiences

Web Startup Offers Fans Unique Experiences
Image credit: Photography by Chris Hinkle
Bragging rights: A Fandeavor customer enjoys VIP status at a UCLA-ASU football game.

What It Is
Most college basketball fans would salivate over a day that starts with a pickup game on the court at New York's Madison Square Garden and ends with watching Duke play St. John's from a luxury skybox during the 2k Sports Classic.

Fandeavor.com can make that happen. The Las Vegas-based company puts together game-day experiences worth bragging about--package deals that provide exclusive access to the field, court, broadcast booth, locker room, athletes and coaches from a growing number of professional and college sports teams, including the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers.

How It Started
Fandeavor founders Tom Ellingson and Dean Curtis worked as business and web development executives, respectively, for Zappos.com. While there, Ellingson was courted as a sponsor with game-day VIP experiences from a number of sporting events and teams. "The more we found ourselves on the track before a NASCAR race or on the court before a hoops game, the more we thought, These are great experiences for sponsors, but what if there was a way for regular fans who can pay for it to do it, too?" he says.

The pair launched Fandeavor in 2011 while still at Zappos. By June 2012 they had transitioned to the sports site full time, helped by a $525,000 round of funding led by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh and his Vegas Tech Fund.

Why It Took Off
Fandeavor's first offering was two $400 behind-the-scenes immersion "experiences" at the Las Vegas Invitational college basketball tournament; each package included a "chalk-talk" with an assistant coach from UNLV, two seats in a luxury suite and a basketball autographed by the head coaches of all the teams in the tourney. Both packages sold, and word got around that Ellingson and Curtis delivered a first-class experience with exacting customer service, qualities they had learned from their time at Zappos.

The Business Case
Most of Fandeavor's packages run from $200 to $700 for two people. At the extreme end, $4,300 will get you the Dallas Cowboys experience, which includes field access, player introductions, seats for the game and rooms at the team hotel. With each package, Ellingson and Curtis negotiate revenue-sharing arrangements with the associated team or tournament; teams get 50 to 75 percent, and Fandeavor keeps the rest. At any given time, the site lists roughly 40 events from which fans can choose.

What's Next
This year the company plans to add events from Major League Baseball, the NBA and NASCAR. Once the sports world is locked down, Fandeavor aims to bring its VIP model to other events, including music and food festivals--"anything that will give regular fans the kind of exclusive access they can only dream about," Ellingson says. "Creating these once-in-a-lifetime memories and experiences is what we want to do." 

Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor in Healdsburg, Calif. He is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, and has covered startups and entrepreneurship for The New York Times, TIME and CIO. He also covers a variety of other topics, including travel, parenting, education and -- seriously -- gambling. He can be found on his personal website, Whalehead.com.

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This article was originally published in the January 2013 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Fantasy Sports.

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