Blinkfire, the sports tech startup founded by Feedburner and Google alum Steve Olechowski, just raised $1 million. The investors include FG Angels (Foundry Group’s AngelList syndicate), Maiden Lane Ventures and Plug & Play Ventures.
With the funding, Olechowski said his first priority is building up the right team behind Blinkfire, which provides social media ROI for professional sports organizations.
“Our mission is to be in the middle of every digital transaction that happens between the brands and publishers (teams, leagues, players in our case),” Olechowski said. “We think we can use computer vision to tie together online and offline campaigns in a way that fills out all 360 degrees of the circle in the way these publishers sell to their sponsors. So we're going to do that.”
Olechowski said he realized the space Blinkfire needed to fill after he left his job working on the Doubleclick products at Google. Sports franchises are becoming digital media companies, he said, by producing an insane amount of content themselves. When sports franchises share content on social media, fans skip over sports media companies to go directly to the sports teams. There, Olechowski saw opportunity in tracking sponsorships and social media analytics for them.
Over the past three years, Blinkfire has expanded its reach and its own team globally, not to mention it has opened itself up to new investors in creative ways. (Olechowski called the AngelList Syndicate process a “wild ride.”) Today, the company has gained big-name university teams and professional teams like Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants as clients to help the teams track and engage on all social channels - but all this hasn’t happened without a global network.
“The way the Chicago startup tech scene gets stronger is by having entrepreneurs spend time out of Chicago as well,” Olechowski, a mentor and advisor to many Chicago tech companies, said. “You need to get out there and participate on the coasts in events and networking. I talk to a lot of small companies that think they can sit at their desk here in Chicago and deals will just come to them. I think for some businesses that's possible, but for others, you need to get out of your comfort zone and talk to customers and partners. You have to get out there and make something happen.”