Houstonians are serious about their sports, and for two local entrepreneurs, that enthusiasm has extended into building businesses around a love of athletics.
Jorge Ortiz founded GameDay Films, a sports media company that focuses on recording amateur sports events — everything from football to sailing, Little League to high school tournaments — for archival, training, scouting, and sentimental purposes.
Chris Buckner is behind FanReact, a mobile and web-based tech solution that enables passionate people to cultivate communities through content sharing and discussion — social media that dedicated for sports fans, if you will.
For Ortiz, the opportunity for GameDay Films arrived he realized that the world was becoming flooded with sports footage, but so much of it was unavailable to those who might need it. Not only that, but the videos being shot obviously didn't conform to any sort of standard. From the assistant coaches filming so that teams could review tape later to the parents capturing clips for relatives, quality and content varied wildly.
"I wanted to devise a game plan for how to solve this conundrum," says Ortiz. "The solution was to take the headaches away from all the institutions, coaches, and families who are trying to capture these events, while also professionalizing and standardizing this breakout industry, and giving freelancers another revenue source aside from giants like ESPN."
The Houston-based GameDay Films currently operates in Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, with a database of vetted videographers and editors that's ready to go in all markets. GameDay handles all the logistics and provides the bulk of the equipment, keeping track of which sports and levels a contractor is qualified to film. By the end of the year, GameDay will have shot more than 10,000 games across the state of Texas.
But it's not just a simple film that clients receive. Ortiz and his team are aiming to capture and deliver everything their clients might need in a seamless way, and that includes a landing page where all the footage for a league or team is stored, allowing its users to "create their own little ecosystem," as Ortiz puts it.
Coaches can annotate on the footage and pull highlights, proud parents can send clips of their own child's performance through social media, and users can customize the page with their team's colors while communicating through message boards. While everything is cloud-based, DVDs and other tangible mementos are available. Down the road, you could conceivably have a complete archive of a team's history — years of memorabilia and footage — all in one place.
"I knew this was something we had to grow when parents started calling, in tears because they were able to professionally see their child's first touchdown," says Ortiz. "Every 12 year old gets to feel like Michael Jordan or Brett Favre. I want to incorporate GameDay Films into the DNA of these leagues."
Establishing a community around sports is Chris Buckner's driving force.
Founded in Houston in May 2014, FanReact is aiming to become the ultimate enthusiast community, letting fans connect via computers and smartphones about what they are most passionate. Partnerships with Yahoo Sports Radio, SBNation Radio, Major League Lacrosse, and the University of Houston have led FanReact to become the "official fan experience app" of each.
Buckner, a former Aggie Yell Leader who graduated with a marketing degree, was interviewing with Facebook when he began developing the idea for FanReact.
"Admittedly, I started FanReact because I was tired of seeing pictures of babies, food, selfies and weddings in my social feed," he says. "That's the truth. I didn't know what I was doing then and sometimes 'winging it' just makes sense. What it has turned into is so much more than I had originally planned. While we had validation, it wasn't until a pivot that we really started seeing the interest."
After being acquired a year ago, FanReact pivoted from a sports social media application to a white-label communication and social platform, so that any company, league, team, district, or fan base can cultivate enthusiasm within their own community. In essence: a custom social app tailored to its users.