Sports Fantasies Are on Tap at Startup

Former ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler, pictured at far left, and fan Jonathan Leiterman, who used startup Fandeavor.
Source: Fandeavor
Former ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler, pictured at far left, and fan Jonathan Leiterman, who used startup Fandeavor.

Have you ever wanted to be in the tunnel as your favorite sports team runs onto the field — the crowd roaring and rising to its feet?

That's the idea behind startup, a portal that offers unique game-day experiences for sports fans. While you can buy game tickets on the website, Fandeavor's business strategy is focused on an a-la-carte selection of sports experiences to complement games.

Experiences range from $179 for a pre-game arena tour for two to $500 to play a full-court pickup game with your buddies for one hour at Arizona State University's Well Fargo arena. To help bask in your ASU-ness, you'll also have access to the arena locker room and get an autographed basketball from coach Herb Sendek — OMG!

Startup co-founder Tom Ellingson tested the business model before launching in August last year. The initial response was overwhelmingly positive. "Grown men and women were giddy," Ellingson said.

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Viva Startup Las Vegas!

Fandeavor's small-business journey is part of a larger push to revitalize Las Vegas, where the 10-person company is based.

Fandeavor's seed funding round last year was led by Tony Hsieh, chief executive of, which in 2009 announced it would be sold to

Well known for fostering a company culture based on high customer service, Hsieh is now also leading Downtown Project — a multimillion-dollar push to revive Las Vegas. That effort includes $50 million in private funding for tech startups through the VegasTech Fund.

Small-Business Variety Beyond Bars

"Downtown Las Vegas already has numerous bars, and our neighborhood needs a diverse array of businesses to contribute to the vibrancy and vitality of the community," according to the Downtown Project's website. The project is accepting small-business ideas for review online.

The idea is to expand beyond Zappos' company-campus bubble and invest and interact with the community they work and live in. A few years ago, the Vegas startup scene was nascent. Small tech employers have since relocated to downtown Las Vegas.

"It's really happening here and it's pretty exciting to be a part of it," Hsieh told CNBC in December.

Ellingson and fellow Fandeavor co-founder Dean Curtis both worked at Zappos, where they merged their sports passion with work experience in sports marketing and corporate hospitality.

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Recession-Proof Sports?

Business is faring well despite a stagnant economy, Ellingson said.

"We're seeing that despite the shaky economy, fans are willing to pay for experiential items that they can share with friends and family," Ellingson said. "There's more of an emphasis from our customers on creating memories than purchasing physical items."

Fandeavor's offerings now span select partnerships with NASCAR, college basketball and baseball teams, and the National Football League's San Diego Chargers. The company is focused on broadening its partnerships with other sports franchises — and even considering options to sell unique experiences beyond sports. (My vote is for fashion!)

And it turns out, women come to the site and buy experiences for the men in their lives. "We've had a lot of customer traffic from women," Ellingson said. "They tend to be the planners."

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Written by CNBC's Heesun Wee; Follow her on Twitter @heesunwee