Illinois grad co-founds app to capture sport fans’ experiences

Mississippi State football spent four weeks as the No. 1 ranked team in the country in 2014.

During the Bulldogs’ meteoric rise to the top of the college football world, the entire country got to see the effect a team could have on its surrounding community. Mississippi State is located in Starkville, Mississippi, an area that hasn’t seen success in football on the level of some of its SEC neighbors for quite some time.

But in 2014, Starkville was brimming with pride for the Bulldogs, and the notorious Mississippi State cowbells echoed louder than ever. The sense of community was never more apparent than when ESPN’s College Gameday visited Starkville in October, showcasing a college town that was drowning in school colors, maroon and white.

It was that same sense of community and passion that inspired Starkville natives Michael Pan and Kash Razzaghi to create Fancred, a sports-only social media network that allows fans to conveniently access their favorite sports content online or on their phones. Pan and Razzaghi grew up together as Mississippi State sports fans and they’re now attempting to channel the unique atmosphere and sense of camaraderie that sport provides into an all-inclusive online app.

Fancred lets its users choose which sports communities they want to join, giving them the option to pick their favorite teams. Then, content related to those teams is categorized and centralized in the form of a Twitter-like feed on a user’s profile. Sports-centric photos, highlights, gifs and articles can be shared on a user’s timeline, giving fans an interactive sports experience on one cohesive platform.

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Hence the name, users increase their “fancred” by having an influence within their online athletic community. Cred can be accumulated through comments, up or down-votes, posts and essentially any type of activity within the app.

Since the dawn of social media, sports fans have flocked to sites like Twitter and Facebook to share their sports-related opinions, pictures and experiences. Pan and Razzaghi saw an opportunity through this emerging medium.  

“We believe that the next wave of sports communication will be through social media,” Razzaghi said. “We were inspired by millions and millions of people using social media, as well as sports being as popular as it is. We believe that it deserves its own forum and its own network, and that’s what we’re trying to build.”

While building the Fancred brand is now a full-time job for Pan and Razzaghi, the seeds that would eventually lead to an all-sports social network continued to be planted during and after college. Pan attended the University of Illinois and graduated in 2001 with a degree in electrical engineering. During his time in Champaign-Urbana, Pan noticed a passion for college sports similar to his hometown of Starkville.

“When sports teams are going well, Illinois is a hard place to (beat),” Pan said. “When times are good, there’s nothing better than being in Champaign.”

Razzaghi stayed home and attended MSU, but moved to Boston soon after finishing college. While working in the tech industry in Boston, the city’s love of sports struck a familiar chord with Razzaghi. Although the focus in Beantown is generally with the city’s wildly successful professional teams, rather than college, the level of region-wide obsession was similar.

Pan and Razzaghi remained friends, and both expressed a desire to recreate the feeling of community they left behind in Starkville. The concept of Fancred was born in 2012, and the app was eventually launched in 2013.

Fancred is now headquartered in Boston and is a growing business in its second year of existence. The company has a staff of 11 full-time employees, as well as 160 student interns who act as ambassadors to promote the company on college campuses across the country.  

Its growth started as a grassroots effort at the college level. The app was spread by word-of-mouth between students within campus communities. Razzaghi noted that collegiate athletics are a big part of the university experience for many students, and Fancred’s main target audience remains college students.  

Razzaghi and Pan wouldn’t disclose any specific figures as far when it comes to Fancred’s active user numbers, but Razzaghi said Fancred has over 10 times as many users in its second year as it did in its first. 

The Fancred experience is offered in a desktop website format, but apps are king in the age of the smartphone. The app is now available on both iPhone and Android, and a smooth user-interface and sleek design has helped facilitate the word-of-mouth growth that Pan and Razzaghi are hoping to achieve.

But Pan and Razzaghi believe that the Fancred app is currently only scratching the surface of its potential in the digital media era of sports. While the communal-sports niche has resulted in growth, the ultimate goal for Fancred is much higher.

“The vision for Fancred is to be the personalized sports app for each fan on the planet,” Razzaghi said.

Alex can be reached at [email protected] and Twitter @aroux94.