Q&A: Engagement platform a big plus for fans

This week we chat to Rod Harys, founder of tech start-up FAN+. Rod, former CEO of the Sydney Kings basketball team, has been burning the midnight oil to create the platform that provides sports fans the chance to engage with their favourite stars, many of whom donate their fee to one of Fan Plus’s many nominated charity partners.

ISB: Where did the idea for FAN+ come from?

RH: Having worked in adverting and marketing, then moving into sporting administration, the idea came from my background in these areas and seeing a gap in the market: there was no marketplace for lovers of sports and entertainment to purchase an experience with an athlete or personality. So, I started thinking of ways to create a platform that could offer this in a fun, and unique, way.

ISB: How did you go about raising the funds to launch the venture?

RH: FAN+ was very lucky to be selected as one of three out of 500 global applicants to be part of the Qantas AVRO accelerator program last year. We received some start-up capital as part of the program as well as the opportunity to work with Qantas Group business units to develop, incubate and scale our business. Off the back of this program we actually had a product (not just an idea) that was in market, enabling us to chat to investors and reach out to our existing networks to pitch FAN+ and secure investment. We raised over $500k in just nine weeks.

In terms of our investors we have been supported by range of business identities which has really helped the brand’s credibility and reputation. Our investors have also been incredibly supportive.

ISB: Coming from a sporting rather than a tech background, how did you manage to create such a sophisticated platform?

RH: Prior to sports I worked in marketing and advertising, so I applied the skills I gained from these industries along with my experience of working in sports and came up with a platform that was marketable, user friendly and had the capabilities to scale and grow. As a

small working team, we are constantly looking at the digital landscape to seeing what other people are doing. With so many starts and incredible digital platforms out there this exercise has been critical to the FAN+ build. It has really helped in terms of how the platform operates, how it looks and, most importantly, the user experience.

ISB: I understand FAN+ generates a fair bit of money for charities – how is this achieved?

RH: Both my co-founder Aaron Warburton and I have a passion for charities and community organisations, so we wanted to ensure we supported causes through selling an experience. A percentage of each sale supports a FAN+ charity of choice or supports the athletes or sporting club’s charity of choice. The goal is that FAN+ becomes a platform that raises money for charities and supports community organisations across Australia.

ISB: What are your plans for the business’s development and growth in the next couple of years?

RH: We are currently overhauling the website, and the new platform will enhance the user experience, offer greater functionality and really give the user a sense of a virtual experience as soon as they log onto the FAN+ website. The investment into the platform will allow expansion into new markets such as the USA, UK and Europe very rapidly. We will also look to grow our team in Australia and work closely with our investors on ways to scale the business.

ISB: And, finally, what is the #1 lesson you’ve learnt on your journey you’d share with others who aspire to start their own business?

RH: Stay focused, believe in yourself and, if you are passionate about something, follow that passion and give it a go. Work with good people and listen to your mentors. It is always important to recognise and appreciate that there was a land before time and these learnings can often be incredibly important.

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