A tennis scholarship brought Christopher Aumueller from Germany to Nebraska for college. A business idea spawned from the sport’s frustrating lack of attention is keeping him here as the Founder of FanWord, a comprehensive college sports app.
“My sophomore year, we qualified for nationals for the first time in school history,” Aumueller said. “There was not a single story posted about us, and it was a little upsetting.”
Aumueller fully understands why the marketing dollars and attention go to major sports like football, because they typically generate revenue for schools. But that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.
“It’s frustrating when we’re busting our asses, and we have fans,” he said. “It’s kind of hard for us to understand that whole process.”
That frustration led to market research to see what’s out there for publicizing college sports with smaller fan bases. The answer is, not much.
“Yes, you can follow teams through regular social media, or go to college-specific or sports-specific sites,” Aumueller said. “But unless you follow a specific team, there’s nothing that really serves fans the way they’re interested in, through a convenient and aggregated site.”
Through several hundred responses to a survey conducted with the assistance of Sam Nelson at the UNL Center for Entrepreneurship, Aumueller discovered that half cared about at least one non-major college sport, often at more than one school.
“People typically have to go to at least four different platforms to get their college sports fix,” he said. “The convenience factor is really a valuable one.”
Aumueller put his graphic design skills to work and played around with some layouts for an aggregate site, but didn’t necessarily think it would come to life. And he was very protective of the idea.
Will someone steal the idea?
“I was incredibly paranoid about talking with anyone, thinking they would steal the idea,” he said. “I even had friends sign nondisclosure agreements back in the day.”
At Nelson’s urging, Aumueller started talking about the idea in class and got some great feedback.
“Sam told me that nobody’s going to steal my idea,” he said. “I got some really cool feedback and realized I’m not the only one that likes this idea.”
Then Aumueller ran into a stumbling block. He needed a programmer and wasn’t sure where to look.
“If I could turn back time, I would find a technical co-founder from the get-go,” he said. “I’m still looking.”
The initial approach
The initial approach was an aggregated web site, and with an initial round of financing from family members, $25,000 was invested with programmers back in Germany to move the idea forward.
“It was difficult because they’re not familiar with college sports,” Aumueller said. “I wasn’t really happy with it.”
The experience led him to reconsider the web platform and pivot toward a mobile app.
“I went back to the roots and designed mockups of what I wanted the mobile app to look like, and gathered more feedback and input,” he said. “But first I gotta find a developer to build it and funds to finance it.”
“They said come in and let’s talk about it,” he said. “I loved it, love everything about them and their shop.”
Conversations with three potential investors led to three commitments and the funds necessary for a beta version which launched over a month ago with 250 users.
“We got some really good insights into how people are using the app,” Aumueller said. “We’ve used it to conceptualize the full-blown version, which we hope to launch in August 2017 because we don’t want to miss the fall sports season.”
After the launch
Once the app is launched, Aumueller envisions advertising and subscriptions as the initial revenue stream. And he continues to look for a technical co-founder and additional investment.
“If people know a developer interested in joining a college sports startup, or anyone interested in investing, I would love to have a conversation,” he said. “We want to be the most comprehensive college sports app on the market.”
Aumueller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.