As any successful entrepreneur will allude to, the fate of a new company relies on a strong idea, a gap in the market, people who believe in it and a bit of luck. While they haven’t quite made the infamous 5, or even 3 year mark, Paranoid Fan has all the pieces to get there.
Co-founder Hunter Swensson says the idea was born out of a trip by founder Agustin Gonzalez to the 2014 World Cup. “When he arrived he wanted to know where the USA fans were hanging out, hosting meetups, watch parties, etc., and when he attended USA games he searched aimlessly for venue essentials like parking, food, or even his group of friends after getting separated in a crowd of people.” Hunter was an Account Executive for ESPN at the time and Gonzalez was his client. “He pitched me this idea of a "Waze for live experiences”, where a user could pull up a map and see where points of interest were in relation to their location.”
Reflecting on his time as a University of Arkansas student searching for tailgates, and more recent days looking for a simple parking spot at Cowboys’ stadium, Hunter connected with the idea and ultimately left ESPN. The duo began building the initial framework for what would become Paranoid Fan. While they have the benefit of being one of the first in this category, there is the challenge of educating users on what the product actually is. Swensson said, “Fortunately, most people recall a time when they could have used Paranoid Fan and afterwards the concept of social mapping and live experiences resonates with them.”
In early 2015, they were selected as a finalist in the "Future Stadium/1st & Future" pitch competition providing the opportunity to pitch all 32 NFL owners, and Commissioner Goodell, at Super Bowl 50. According to Swensson, “It was an unforgettable experience and led to our first partnerships with the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars.” This past summer, the small team including CTO Adeel Asim worked to build the app, finalize partnerships and add a new team member in Ashley Espinoza. After a whirlwind few months, they all packed up and moved to New York to participate in an accelerator program with Techstars and AB InBev.
While conversations are still early with AB InBev, Swensson and the team are hoping to integrate into consumer strategy. While there isn’t a specific strategy yet, there are ways for brands to easily integrate into the platform, be it through a sponsored location on a map or a special offer through the platform.
Paranoid Fan, however, isn’t just a sports platform. This past year, the team brought the technology to Lollapalooza and learned how valuable it could be in providing real time entrance and exit information, helping fans find the shortest line to get inside. According to Swensson, “Often times the best technologies are taken beyond their designed purpose, and that's what we saw here. Fans were crowdsourcing live video from the entrance/exit gates to provide festival goers with a live look-in at how long the wait would be at each entrance.” With as much success as they experienced at Lollapalooza, he sees the platform continuing to expand in the live event space into festivals, conferences and even amusement parks.
While we spoke about looking forward and what was next for Paranoid Fan, I also asked Swensson to get a bit retrospective on what he has learned being involved in a start-up from the ground level. His response?
Persistence. We were denied 4 times into various accelerator programs—as a finalist, no less! Getting that close and not making it all the way can be crushing, but good entrepreneurs revel in their losses and use it as a catalyst to push harder and improve their product. They turn their failure into fuel. In the sport of life, the clock never strikes zero. As long as you wake up the next day, there's still time on the clock; there's still an opportunity to win and achieve success. In entrepreneurship, the journey ends when you quit. Don't. Ever. Quit.