Chad Hurley is hunting for what comes after fantasy sports. He envisions a new way for fans to play by watching live and cheering for the athletes they love. Beyond a few scraps of info the YouTube co-founder would share and his new startup’s job listings revealed, we don’t know what Hurley’s game will feel like. But the company is called GreenPark Sports, and it’s launching in spring 2020.
“There is an absence of compelling, inclusive ways for large masses of sports fans to compete together,” Hurley tells me. “The idea of a ‘sports fan’ has evolved -0 it is now more a social behavior than ever before. We’re looking at a much bigger, inclusive way for all fans of sports and esports teams to play.”
Hurley already has an all-star team. One of GreenPark’s co-founders, Nick Swinmurn, helped start Zappos, while another, Ken Martin, created marketing agency BLITZ. Together they’ve raised an $8.5 million seed round led by SignalFire and joined by Sapphire Sport and Founders Fund. “With this team’s impeccable track record and vision for the future of fandom, this was an investment we had to make,” said Chris Farmer, founder and CEO of SignalFire.
It all comes down to allegiance — something Hurley, Swinmurn and Martin truly understand. Everyone is seeking ways to belong and emblems to represent them. In an age when many of our most prized possessions, from photographs to record collections, have been digitized, we lack tangible objects that center our individuality. Culture increasingly centers around landmark events, with what we’ve done mattering more than what we own.
GreenPark could seize upon this moment by helping us align our identities with a team. This instantly unlocks a like-minded community, a recurrent activity and a unified aesthetic. And when reality gets heavy, people can lose themselves by hitching their spirits to the scoreboard.
Rather than just tabulating results after the match like in fantasy sports, GreenPark wants to be entwined with the spectacle as it happens. “We’re going to be working with a mix of ways to visualize the live game — from unique gamecast-like data to highlight clips. The social viewing experience can be much more than just the straight live video,” Hurley explains.
He came up with GreenPark after selling assets of his video editing app Mixbit to BlueJeans a year ago. Hurley already had an interactive relationship with sports… though one that’s reserved for the rich: he’s part owner of the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Football Club. Meanwhile, Swinmurn co-founded the Burlingame Dragons Football Club affiliated with San Jose’s team, and is on the board of Denmark’s FC Helsingør.
Those experiences taught them the satisfaction that comes from a deeper sense of ownership or allegiance with a team. GreenPark will give an opportunity for anyone to turn fandom into its own sport. “We shared a love of sports and set out to look into opportunities around legalized sports betting in the U.S.,” Hurley tells me. But quickly they found “it was obvious the regulated space wouldn’t allow us to innovate as quickly as we wanted,” and they saw more opportunity amidst a younger mainstream audience.
“We’re not ready to disclose publicly the exact detailed gameplay yet,” Hurley says. But here’s what we could cobble together from around the web.
GreenPark Sports lets you “Destroy the other teams’ fans” to “climb the leaderboards,” its site says cryptically. According to job listings, it will pipe in live game data, starting with the NBA and expanding to other leagues, and offer cartoon characters with facial expressions and full-body gestures to let users live out the highs and lows of matches. Don’t expect trivia questions or player stat memorization. It almost sounds like a massively multiplayer online fan arena.
As with blockbuster games Fortnite or League of Legends, GreenPark is free-to-play. But a mention of virtual clothing hints at monetization, where you could spruce up avatars with digital team apparel. Hurley tells me, “We are in the perfect storm of the thirst for innovation at the traditional league level, the next level of maturing for esports, investment in sports betting and overall dire need to better understand today’s largest populace of sports fans — millennial / Gen Z.” The closed beta launches in the spring.
There’s a massive hole to fill in the wake of the Draft Kings / FanDuel marketing surge a few years ago. Most apps in the space just carry scores or analysis, rather than community. “What’s amazing about being a fan of a team or player is the common bond you have with other fans,” Hurley explains, “where even if you don’t know the other fans of your team — you are all in it to win it — together.”
Publications like The Athletic have proven there are plenty of fans willing to pay to feel closer to their favorite teams. The most direct competitor for GreenPark might be Strafe, which lets you track and predict the winners of esports matches.
People already spend tons of time on building fictional worlds like Minecraft, and money outfitting their Fortnite avatar with the coolest clothes. If GreenPark can create a space for sports fans’ self-expression, it could create the online destination for legions of IRL enthusiasts that see who they root for as core to who they are.