There will always be sports fans ready to relive and reargue the merits of celebrated professional sports teams like the 1995 Dallas Cowboys.
But how about the Long Beach State women’s water polo team?
A new Web site called Fanbase, backed with US$5 million from venture capitalists, is creating an almanac of every professional and college athlete and team, no matter how obscure.
The company and its investors are betting that sports fans — and the players who hung up their cleats and goggles long ago — will want to review and update Web pages devoted to their thrilling victories and bitter defeats.
“Our long-term goal is to be the definitive source of information on all athletes,” said Nirav Tolia, chief executive of Fanbase and a veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur with a colorful past of his own.
BIG AND SMALL
The site now contains varying amounts of information, like rosters and game scores, on 21,000 teams and 1.73 million athletes. Stars like former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman have pages, of course, with photos, YouTube videos and articles by fans.
Considerably less prominent athletes, like the members of the 1991 University of Pennsylvania women’s lacrosse team, also have pages. In contrast, they are almost devoid of information except for the team roster and game scores, which Fanbase found by digitizing thousands of team media guides over the last year.
The startup hopes that current and former athletes and fans will visit the site and upload commentary and correct inaccuracies, just as enthusiasts provide much of the information in Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database.
Fanbase plans to expand over the next few months to include individual sports like golf, skiing and tennis. After that, it wants to get really obscure, adding pages for high school teams and athletes whose careers are presumably interesting only to the players themselves, and perhaps their schoolmates and parents.
It plans to make money by attracting a large audience and then selling advertising, and by letting users create and sell merchandise like customized team T-shirts.
Tolia, 37, was one of the founders of the dot-com era product review site Epinions, which later changed its name to Shopping.com and was acquired by eBay. Overcoming his past may be one of the startup’s greatest challenges.
Tolia left Epinions in 2004 after misrepresenting his work and educational history on his resume. Several of the Epinions co-founders sued Tolia, his fellow board members and the company’s investors, asserting that they had deprived them of stock. EBay later settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum.
“I absolutely made some mistakes in the past, and I have done my best to learn from those mistakes,” said Tolia, a charismatic entrepreneur who orchestrates his employees in applause when visitors enter their office. “I am very grateful to work with the same investors and many of the same employees.”
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