Q&A with Kevin April, CEO, FanChain
ICO Alert: For those who are not familiar with FanChain, can you explain what it is, and what the team aims to accomplish?
FanChain: We designed FanChain with the aim of it becoming the ubiquitous token for the global sports industry, which according to KPMG generates in excess of $500 billion USD a year. The driving economic force behind sports, of course, are the fans.
If you think about it, fans are the most valuable asset that a team or league has. They generate billions of dollars in revenue. They buy tickets, drive viewership, and fill arenas. On a human level, fans look to other fans for authentic reactions, commentary and social interaction (both online and IRL). Yet to date, this relationship has been one-sided, and fans are rarely rewarded for the value they create. As the Internet has developed, we have seen consumer-generated content take center-stage. Sports bloggers, tweeters, journalists, and live-streamers are part of this consumer-generated content revolution, and FanChain intends to provide a mechanism of returning value to those that create it.
FanChain isn’t just a token — it’s an entirely decentralized ecosystem. At the heart of the FanChain ecosystem is a concept called a “Mint.” A Mint can be any sports publisher, league, team or sports media company — or any sports-related entity, including an individual — that is issued or acquires FanChain tokens to distribute and reward fans. Mints interact with the FanChain ecosystem using a special DApp or API. They can’t create new FanChain tokens, but they can change the team-stamps on tokens that are in their possession (more on this below). Our live-streaming app, SportsCastr, is the first Mint, but the ecosystem is set-up so that other content-rewarding platforms can join in on the action. Mints that do the best job in rewarding the best content-producers are able to attract the most readers/viewers to their platform.
FanChain tokens (“FANZ”) can be used by fans to unlock premium content or subscriptions from the best content-producers in the ecosystem. First-class content producers will be able to command a higher entrance fee, or require a high FANZ supply in a viewers wallet, in order to access their content. Sports teams can offer merchandise at free or discounted rates for those who have earned FANZ tokens, as as reward for their teams content producers. Additionally, since the ecosystem is decentralized, rewards can be innovated by any Mint or sports entity that benefits from consumers generating value for them.
ICO Alert: How does the FanChain token function within the platform and why is it needed?
FanChain: We recognized that fans are typically fans of teams — not leagues or sports — so we had to start from the drawing board to create a token that could essentially be embedded with team-affinity. We came up with a unique token (“FANZ”) that can be “stamped” with team-metadata that is visible when used within the FanChain network, but which is also completely fungible within the broader cryptocurrency landscape. In other words, FANZ is ERC20 compliant but also has ERC721-style characteristics (in the form of “Team stamps”) when used within the ecosystem. We call this a fungible/non-fungible hybrid token.
In practical terms, if you go live on SportsCastr and call a Manchester United game, you will receive tokens that are categorized as Manchester United tokens. Call a Los Angeles Lakers game and receive tokens that associates them with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Fans have religiously strong affinities for their favorite teams. When a fan gets their favorite team’s tokens, they become a stakeholder, and they have a vested interest in promoting that team so that they may continue to get more and better team-specific rewards. They might blog on one Mint and live-stream on another to fatten their FanWallet — where their FanChain tokens are stored — and then use those tokens with vendors who have integrated FanPay (our payment gateway) to pay for merchandise, tickets, or access. If they buy a Manchester United jersey with FanChain tokens stamped with Manchester United metadata, the vendor may choose to offer them a special discount or other perks. The possibilities are endless, and it creates an interesting feedback loop that finally aligns the interests of teams, rights-holders and their fans.
ICO Alert: Why do you believe your suite of services may replace live apps like Twitch and Twitter when it comes to live streaming?
FanChain: If you think about it, the sportscaster that calls the game for you really is one of the only customizable pieces of the live sports experience. Sure, there may be different camera angles, and you can choose HOW you want to watch the game (e.g. TV versus Online)… but in terms of truly personalizing the experience, nothing tops being able to choose your own sportscaster. Combine this with market trends, and it’s clear that personalization of the fan viewing experience is the future. After all, why shouldn’t the viewer be able to choose their commentator, now that technology makes it possible? How I talk about the game is fundamentally different than how someone across the globe (who is half-my-age) talks about the game. It’s clear that fans are hungry for this, evidenced by the fact that when a major game is live on TV (in the U.S., at least), more than half of all the tweets on Twitter become about that game.
SportsCastr, of course, is designed from the ground-up for this very specific use-case, so we do it better than other platforms who try to do it as an afterthought. Take Twitch, for example.
On SportsCastr, viewers can easily toggle between commentators without leaving the game action, and can jump in and share their own reactions without having to download any extra software. Users simply swipe through different sportscasters within a single stream, as if they were channel-surfing. There’s also intelligent filters, so viewers can discover sportscasters by language, location, gender, and more. This allows fans to custom-tailor their viewing experience in a very intuitive way. And because you never leave the “master stream,” all activity is aggregated in one-place, just as you would expect if you were watching a game on TV. Twitch, of course, isn’t set up to do this. In order for fans to go-live on Twitch, broadcasters have to download third-party software (such as OBS), and viewers have to exit the broadcast in order to access any alternative commentary streams. It’s a sub-par experience for live sports… and social giants like Twitter and Facebook — who themselves are trying to hack-in live sports — are even worse.
Another large differentiator that makes us bullish about the platform’s adoption is our ability to integrate into existing OTT platforms. We can integrate into existing systems in two ways:
- Through our upcoming SDK and;
- Through linking with an existing OTT platform’s authentication system
With our SDK, existing OTT platforms can enhance their live sports feeds with SportsCastr’s technology right from within their platforms. A purely hypothetical example of this would be if Amazon Prime Video combined our technology with their NFL Thursday Night Football games, allowing their subscribers to choose from a selection of sportscasters. Our SDK will make this feat (technically) possible.
In the second way, subscribers of an OTT subscription service will be able to simply “link” their SportsCastr account with their OTT account, in the same way that you can link your HBO GO subscription with your AppleTV account. After their account is linked, they would be able to view their subscription’s premium content directly within SportsCastr, complete with all the enhancements that come with our platform.
Combine all of this with deep, native integration of FanChain and you can see how we really have something special. You’ll be able to use FanChain to send digital gifts and virtual tips, unlock subscriptions and access premium content (even on platforms using the SDK). It’s going to be really powerful.
ICO Alert: How many betting platforms are currently engaged with FanChain at the moment?
FanChain: Our Mint dApp will be launched in Q1 2019, and we are currently accepting applications for betting platforms and services that want to utilize FanChain and join our ecosystem. We may also build this functionality directly into SportsCastr, but we’re very much still in the planning stages and we’re looking into all options.
ICO Alert: Your team is planning to be blockchain agnostic, looking at more than just Ethereum. Please share any determining factors for features you’ll be looking for when integrating with other blockchains in the future.
FanChain: Ultimately, we decided to build FanChain on Ethereum because it could do everything we needed it to, and because of its wide industry support and global community. Ethereum’s extremely flexible and that’s demonstrated with the unique fungible/non-fungible token and Mint dApp that we were able to build with it. However, gas prices are an added complication, especially when you factor in that FanChain may very well be many people’s first exposure to crypto, so we want to keep the mechanics as simple as possible. The other factor, of course, is the threat of network congestion.
We greatly minimize both of these concerns by using an off-chain ledger-system within our ecosystem. If we ever did switch blockchains (or developed our own), it would need to offer a significant improvement over what we’re currently able to do (including our fungible/non-fungible abilities and Mints infrastructure). One area that we’re interested in exploring more is the true decentralization of our Mints, and other blockchains and/or consensus mechanisms may be attractive in this regard.
ICO Alert: What does your current user base look like?
FanChain: For the past 18 months, we have been developing our technology and working on large-scale commercial partnerships, as opposed to targeting end-users. Version “1.0” of the platform will be released in tandem with the close of the ICO, at which point we’ll begin our full-scale marketing and user-growth plans. Our focus to date has been to test the platform and the technology in the wild and to gather real-world feedback. For example, we did a pilot with USA Today Sports Media Group to cover the McGregor vs Mayweather fight to test a load of over 50,000 concurrent live viewers, and recently streamed an eSports tournament to test our event-streaming technology. We also sponsor the nation’s longest consecutive running broadcasting camp — the Carrino & Capstraw broadcasting camp — that allows us to receive invaluable feedback from the next generation of sportscasters.
ICO Alert: How do you plan on attacking user adoption?
FanChain: Because there’s nothing more global or mainstream than sports, we have an opportunity to introduce cryptocurrency to a massive audience. This is an advantage most crypto projects do not have, and we intend to maximize this opportunity. We plan to harness the built-in audiences of partners (e.g. existing OTT platforms), lean heavily on influencer marketing (such as high-profile athletes), and secure distribution deals that will get SportsCastr and FanChain in front of millions. The latter can be achieved by embedding SportsCastr’s live video player into existing publishing partners, like what we did with USA Today Sports Media Group during the McGregor vs Mayweather fight. As FanChain really is the heart of SportsCastr… and because SportsCastr can easily be plugged into mainstream sports (through integration with existing OTT platforms, embedding/distribution deals and our upcoming SDK), SportsCastr can act as an effective, easy-to-use onboard ramp to introduce the global sports world to cryptocurrency.
One of the problems with tokens can be a lack of depth in an ecosystem leaving users with a limited number of options for using their tokens. While SportsCastr is key in our plans for attracting users, we are also developing various branches that will attract, pull-in and retain users, such as FanPay (a payment gateway that allows vendors to easy accept FANZ for payment), FanPrizes, FanExchange, and of course our Mint infrastructure that will continually add new and innovative outlets for FANZ.
ICO Alert: Please highlight the vision for allocating 20% of token distribution for your token sale between community growth (10%) and partner incentive “pools” (10%)? How will these pools function and why are they needed?
FanChain: The ultimate goal of FanChain is for its ecosystem to become as decentralized as possible. Until that happens, we take our role as the ecosystem’s stewards very seriously. These pools are structured to jumpstart FanChain adoption and support the long-term health of the ecosystem. They equip our community and business development teams with powerful ammo that can be used to execute on and accelerate the plans laid out in our whitepaper.
The Community Growth Pool (“CGP”) will reward users of Mints, starting with SportsCastr, for content production and engagement. This means that users will receive FANZ for both producing content and engaging in the SportsCastr community. As other Mints join the ecosystem, we will look into extending the CGP to reward and engage users of those platforms. The idea with the CGP is that early-adopters should be incentivized and encouraged to use SportsCastr (and other Mints) in their formative years. The CGP is largely algorithmic — meaning that tokens will be distributed based on activity at set intervals. A portion of the CGP is also reserved for promotions, contests, leaderboard prizes and other initiatives that support the creation of a large global community.
The Partner Incentive Pool (“PIP”), on the other hand, is focused on enterprise and market adoption and B2B development. The goal of the PIP is to build and sustain token health and incentivize major partners (including teams, leagues and rights-holders) to utilize SportsCastr, become a Mint, offer rewards to FanChain token holders, and to integrate into the FanChain ecosystem.
ICO Alert: What will happen to any unsold tokens?
FanChain: All unsold tokens will get folded into the Community Growth Pools and Partner Incentive Pools to help jumpstart the ecosystem.
ICO Alert: With such a visible set of influencers on your advisory team, we’d love to give you the opportunity to announce any upcoming or existing strategic partnerships. Have you established any partnerships with any prominent sports organizations?
Through the One Team Collective, an athlete-driven accelerator that includes participation from Kleiner Perkins, Sports Innovation Lab and Intel Capital, the NFLPA has become a partner and acquired an equity stake in SportsCastr. This makes SportsCastr an officially licensed NFL Players platform, and we will work with the NFLPA to have current and retired NFL players on our platform calling games, providing commentary, and engaging in the community. Users on the platform will be able to use FanChain to tip players and unlock premium content. To our knowledge, this is the first major sports union to become equity partners in a blockchain-related company.
We are also working on other exciting partnerships that we can’t announce quite yet, but which are in the pipeline. We encourage everyone to follow us on social media and to keep an eye on https://FanChain.com for the latest updates.
ICO Alert: Thanks for sharing that incredible announcement with us! How far along is the project today and when can contributors expect to use the platform?
FanChain: We have been working on our technology and platform for nearly two years, and there’s currently a beta version of the app available on the iTunes App store (and a web based viewing and broadcasting platform). Version 1.0 of the platform will be released In tandem with the close of the ICO. This version of the platform will include FanChain support (including an integrated FANZ wallet), and will include our “first-screen” experience where users will be able watch and broadcast games on the platform, overlaid with commentary.
Since its initial alpha launch last year, the platform itself has underwent a myriad of enhancements to its core platform and technology, including “TV-guide-style” visual navigation, social OTT streaming capability, intelligent search and follow features, augmented reality and gamification.
ICO Alert: What does the roadmap look like for 2018?
FanChain: In addition to FanChain support on SportsCastr, 2018 is a big year for the project. We will be launching FanPrizes.com, where users will be able to use FANZ tokens to purchase sports merchandise, memorabilia, and other special perks. We also plan to release FanExchange — where users can trade FANZ tokens of one team for FANZ tokens of another team (similar to trading baseball cards), and much more. For a full 2018 roadmap, we encourage everyone to visit FanChain.com.
ICO Alert: As a non-FanChain question, we like to ask for unique predictions for the ICO and cryptocurrency space in the future. Where do you see both in the next 3–5 years?
FanChain: In terms of ICOs, the future is clear: they will only be feasible for large brands, multi-nationals or established companies with deep pockets. The days when a group of smart engineers or a small team can launch a successful token offering are numbered. The resources required to succeed will continue to raise the barrier-to-entry significantly. This is similar to what we saw in the early days of microcomputers, video games and internet startups. This is both good and bad for the world of crypto. On the positive side, the caliber of projects introduced will increase. On the negative side, it will be more difficult for truly innovative ideas to break-through. Unfortunately, there is no other course that crypto can progress if we want adoption. With global brands will come mainstream usage. A beautiful thing is never perfect.
Source: ICO Alert