Despatches from the sports start-up front-line....



My background:

I did my Bachelors in Computer Applications and have a Masters in Computer

Management and a Masters in Software Systems. I am also an expert in Blockchain and

digital/cryptocurrency from Oxford University. In my 21 years of experience in technology

businesses, I have worked with Hewlett Packard, British Telecom, Lloyds Bank, HSBC Bank, Bank of America, RBS/Natwest and have worked in various countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Africa, US, India, and finally settled in the UK. I also have two technology patents in the US Patent office, that are owned by HP.


I come from a small tribal village of central India called Jhabua. Growing up playing football on rough gravel filled grounds, I had never seen, or felt the need for, green pitches, that was the kind of passion I had for football. Since schools there were only up to 8th grade, I went to a boarding school for further education that fuelled my passion for football and I represented the school at the state level multiple times.


My first-ever live TV broadcast experience was the 1986 World Cup final between Argentina

and West Germany. That was magic for me as a young boy and made me passionate about

football ever since.


What drove you to start this business?

Being passionate about football and having 21 years of technology background, I thought why not marry them both? I found that there is a need for a dedicated platform for fans. There are football fans all over the world, be it Africa or South America and emerging popularity in India, China and the US. Nearly 4 billion people follow football, which is like 46% of the world’s population. I wanted to give something to the fans which they can consider their own, to create a one-stop-shop for anything to do with football for fans; to simplify the day-to-day life of a fan. Whether you want to buy tickets for the game, get the news or check live scores, you come to the Football Fan app. With tons of apps and platforms all scattered around the internet it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. With the Football Fan app, we bring everything to one dedicated app for all your football needs.


What is the need for this app?

Younger generations are moving away from traditional social network platforms. They want to connect with like-minded people instead of a generic platform and are decluttering generic platforms from their lives, so there will be a surge of niche social media/networking platforms. We are a platform created by the fans, for the fans, which fans own and drive. Where they are not treated as a commodity, where they can express themselves, share their passion, get vocal and have freedom of speech. Of course, we won’t allow any kind of hatred, racism or religious stuff, which we will curb out with the help of technology.


Milestones

I started working on Football Fan in May 2017, formed the company in April 2019

and pitched the idea to the investors who joined in May 2019. We iteratively built the product

and officially launched it in June 2020. We now have more than 25,000 downloads on Android and iOS collectively with over 3.2 million interactions on the app where users post their content, create stories, banter rooms, exchange messages and collect FanCoin® for their contribution to the app. We started fundraising on Crowdcube, in January 2021 and were overfunded on the fourth day of fundraising with an overwhelming contribution from the fans. We have also received the trademark for FanCoin® and it was important for us because the vision is to launch FanCoin® as ERC20 token in future that can become tradable assets.


Were you taking a risk starting up?

I have always been a risk-taker otherwise it would be impossible to do so many things coming from the kind of background I am from. Money that I earned, time, left a very lucrative job, no salary, working round the clock (18 hours a day, 7 days a week). Missing out on quality time with my kids and seeing my parents. But, no regrets, it’s my passion and ambition that drives me to put in this kind of hard work. Success is the only option because I can envisage the opportunity and future being a technology company.


Challenges

I faced a lot of hurdles, but the biggest is my identity, as an Indian involved in a

football sports tech business in London, because India has always been considered a cricketing nation. Ironically, few people know that India alone has 180 million followers of English football, and I myself have played football as my first game all my life.


Low moments

The lowest moment was on a recent Zoom call where I was presenting the

business to a group of investors. When I was on the team slide of the presentation, one of the investors had his line unmuted, so we all heard him as he was saying to his wife or someone, “some Indians are trying to do something in football”.


It was stressful, I felt very bad. This diverted the whole Q&A session post-presentation towards racism. One of the investors was relentless on it and everyone had to calm him down, investors started giving examples of Leicester City’s success being owned by Thai owners etc. Those were very rough discussions that happened at an investor meeting. People said I should have a team with different skin colours, or I won’t be able to make it big. My team was on that call, and it affected them all.


This made me think what kind of world are we living in? We are in the 21st century, and people still think that only those with a certain skin colour or from a football background can do business in football. They are still stuck in colour, race, background when people are trying to inhabit Mars. I have never talked about all this and I don’t care about it. For me, everyone is the same and that’s what I teach my children. But all this makes me more determined to make it a success.


Highlights

The Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign has been the best moment. We were so

overwhelmed with the response that we had to move from a private to public campaign within

seven days as opposed to what was planned for 30 days. We are overfunded at 268% (as of mid-Feb 2021) and still have 12 days to go. This shows the response we received from fans, who believe and support our vision.


Ambition

The prime ambition is to become a dedicated fan-owned fan-driven one-stop-shop

platform for football fans. The end goal is to launch the company on the public stock exchange (IPO) so all the initial supporters/investors get the most return for their support.


Amit Singh Rathore is Founder & CEO of Football Fan Limited