When die-hard football fans find themselves in a new city, priority No. 1 is locating the place in town where the like-minded go to watch the game, drink beer and cheer. Now those displaced supporters can tap the Fanatic app to connect with others who bleed their team's colors.
"Fanatic gives them a chance to go out and find a great game-day experience, which is always more memorable than watching alone from home," says Babak Poushanchi, the New York-based company's founder and CEO, and a Chicago sports nut.
Poushanchi's idea for Fanatic grew from years of watching his Northwestern University Wildcats amid the raucous atmosphere at Blondies Sports bar in Manhattan. He guessed fans of other teams in a variety of sports would enjoy similar experiences at other bars.
The former hedge-fund manager rounded up developers and convinced a handful of bar owners to test the system in 2012, shelling out "a few hundred thousand dollars" of his own money to get Fanatic off the ground.
The result is one part Foursquare and one part Yelp. Users are rewarded for checking in to venues and for planning and sharing viewing parties for their team. Each venue is ranked based on fan activity, plans and check-ins, and the app lists the top spots for fans of dozens of teams in several sports.
Fanatic launched in January and has amassed more than 10,000 users who have gathered at more than 3,000 bars, restaurants and stadiums to watch some 8,000 games. Poushanchi expects to use the momentum from this year to raise $1 million in financing to hire additional engineers and expand marketing efforts.
Fans rave about the app's social aspects. Bar owners love it for another reason: profit. Mike Garcia owns the Jersey City, N.J., bar Lucky 7 Tavern--Fanatic's No. 1 New York-area venue for Chicago Bears fans. He says that on any given Sunday, Fanatic users account for 20 percent of his 49-seat capacity and can generate $150 to $200 in additional revenue per person.
"It's great money for me," he says, "and all I have to do is show the games."