'I don't think fantasy sports have been innovated very much in the past 15 years.'
LIVING OUT A FANTASY: A team of young entrepreneurs at Fanium could revolutionize the way fantasy-sports players digest
information. Above, Fanium CEO Grant Gurtin, standing, speaks with Erik Larson at the tech startup's Providence office.
In one of two offices overlooking North Main Street in Providence, a team of five software developers, each glued to his open Macbook Pro, is working toward the release of the Fanium’s first mobile app, which aggregates Twitter feeds to provide real-time commentary during live sports games.
The company behind the highly anticipated app is more than a little unusual. Fanium’s core staff is comprised of one freshly minted Brown University graduate, five Brown undergraduates and one 2012 Rhode Island School of Design graduate. Despite their limited business experience, the team has garnered $450,000 in investment capital in the year-and-a-half of the company’s existence.
The seed for Fanium was planted during Brown professor Danny Warshay’s Entrepreneurship and New Ventures course in the fall semester of the 2010-2011 school year, when Fanium founder and CEO Grant Gurtin, a sophomore at the time who is scheduled to graduate in the fall of 2013, developed an idea for a virtual sports memorabilia and betting site for a class project.
Gurtin assembled a team the following spring to build the site that included Seth Nolan, now vice president of operations and human resources; Brown graduate Marcus Gartner, chief technology officer; Eli Bosworth, lead software engineer; and RISD grad Sam Andrus, now creative director. Andrus and Nolan had collaborated with Gurtin in the past on an event-planning website, and together with Gartner and Bosworth they became Gurtin’s co-founders.
Soon after developing the memorabilia- and betting-site idea, however, the team abandoned it when Gurtin was inspired by research presented by ESPN that claimed 55 percent of all Twitter users say they use the micro-blogging site for sports-related purposes.
He decided to embark on a new project, one that leveraged Twitter to provide real-time sports updates. He sent cold emails to some 50 investors that he identified mainly through an Internet search by their “experience investing or advising other companies that leveraged Twitter’s API,” he said.
When Howard Lindzon, co-founder and CEO of StockTwits, a curator of financial Tweets and other information for investors, responded, Gartner put together a trial website and Gurtin jumped on a plane to San Diego (his hometown) to demo the product, a site that would collect Twitter feeds into a customizable collection through which a sports fan could follow his team in more detail than ever before possible.