Ottawa fantasy sports tech company gets start with pitchfest win

Andrew Rutherford
Andrew Rutherford, co-founder of FanShare Sports. Photo by Craig Lord.

After winning an industry pitchfest, an Ottawa startup is looking to take a chunk out of the fantasy sports market with its time-saving player-ranking platform.

FanShare Sports, co-founded by brothers Andrew and Devon Rutherford, provides an online platform that aggregates buzz and speculation around athletes’ impending performances in fantasy sports leagues such as those on Yahoo or DraftKings.

The key decision in daily fantasy sports leagues is whether to start or sit a player (a quarterback like Tom Brady in the NFL or a right-fielder in the MLB like Jose Bautista) based on their anticipated performance. The problem is, depending on the article you read or the podcast you listen to, fantasy sports experts could say very different things, and the time it takes to listen to the lion’s share of opinions on a player can verge on unreasonable.

FanShare does the reading, listening and watching for you to create an aggregate start-sit rating on a player. A positive mention in a piece is a start vote, and a negative is a sit. The result is a green-and-red bar that will tell you who the majority of players are likely to bench or put in the game.

Fantasy sports represents a large, adjacent market to the mainstream sports industry. According to the FSTA, 57.4 million people in the United States and Canada play some form of fantasy sports. Though daily fantasy sports players – the market Andrew says fits best with FanShare’s solution – does not represent the majority of this figure, daily players are the most likely to pay for insights like these. FSTA says daily fantasy sports players paid an average of $318 in league fees and for materials associated with the hobby in 2016, compared to $178 from traditional players.

Andrew says the advent of fantasy sports has been a boon for the sports themselves, specifically referencing the PGA as a beneficent of attention from those eager to turn watching the sport into a game.

“It’s a significant driver of growth,” he says.

The idea has landed the startup in Invest Ottawa’s incubator and earned the company the Fantasy Sports Trade Association’s elevator pitch award at the industry conference in Nashville this past month.

Andrew, who launched the company with his brother after calling it a career as a forensic accountant, says there’s a “big appetite” for the solution FanShare offers. In its original iteration, FanShare was a social platform for fantasy sports players to post and discuss about players. The pivot came when the brothers discovered that a recap they did at the end of each week highlighting the “most discussed” players was their most popular content, and that “buzz” was the info users really wanted.

“We’re confident in our data and the value is represents,” he says.

There are a few different ways that information can be used, Andrew says. You could look at who has the support of the crowd and take a safer bet, or you could bet on a player who has slipped under the radar and steal some points if your hunch was right.

In other words, FanShare can show its users where the openings are for the quickest path to the endzone.

Currently, the platform offers tools for the NFL and Professional Golf Association, with plans to add more sports in the future. The company has seen rapid growth in its user base since launching back in April 2016. In September, the company had just 250 users, but today stands at well over 2,000, with a large spike after the conference win.

The other driver of growth has been in the form of endorsements from trusted fantasy sports personalities, which Andrew says have come about organically.

“The response from the daily fantasy sports community has been very positive.”
As far as monetization goes, Andrew says the FanShare is building out a number of premium tools to upgrade users to a paid-package. While he and his brother are currently taking on content aggregation themselves, he’s looking at options to automate the sentiment analysis process and in order to scale the solution in the future.