January 10, 2012
Facebook owns social. LinkedIn owns professional. How about recreational?
“The bet we’ve made is that people have 3 big persona’s in their life: social, professional, and recreational,” says Gabe Lozano, LockerDome Co-Founder and CEO. “We want to cover recreational – an area that we believe people are more passionate about than any of the others.”
Certainly a lofty goal, but in looking at the market that LockerDome is going after, dreaming big is the only logical route.
LockerDome is the social network for your sports world, plain and simple. “Our number one focus is to become the de facto identity layer for a person’s sports persona.”
There’s little debate of the potential in a market like the sports community could fetch. The question comes down to building the right product and getting people to care. “In many markets to create a standard you need to figure out how to get the best of the best to care. For us this meant that early on we wanted to get profiles from kids that were going to play Division 1 sports in college and/or get drafted,” says Lozano. “We had absolutely no luck until we tweaked the implementation.”
“The first major evolution was creating the concept of Networks, where we allow athletic programs, professional athletes, and other brands organize their content in a meaningful, hyperlocal way, while giving them the benefit of being connected within the LockerDome community,” Lozano said.
At this point, LockerDome was still looking for it’s first paying customer. They sought partnership with a high-profile baseball program based out of St. Louis, the St. Louis Gamers – “Their athletes fit the mold of the athletes we wanted profiles from,” Lozano continued. “They balked at several partnership opportunities until I called the head of their program and asked them about putting up a private labeled version of software that would have only their own content, their own athletes, etc., but would still connect back into the global LockerDome community.” Through customization, LockerDome earned its first paying customer. Lozano knew he was onto something.
LockerDome further revised its model to not only go after the athlete, but to target the fan as well. “The second major evolution was extending the use case to beyond a person being part of just a single network. Three weeks ago we officially launched our Universal Profile, which allows any individual to create an account for free and join Networks that are associated with or a fan of _____. At the same time that [we] launched the Universal Profile, we began piloting with celebrity athletes and brands to launch networks around their brands, sort of a Facebook fan pages on steroids (bad sports reference). We’re seeing very positive reception in this area as well.”
Learning Lessons and Advice
In asking Lozano what lessons he’d learned along the way, he had no hesitations in pointing out that “not all mentors are created equal.” He went onto say, “Entrepreneurs need to avoid the retired, mid-level corporate guy or insurance guy that wants to give back. While this person is probably well-intentioned, they will do more harm than good. How can you possibly get meaningful, tangible advice from someone that has never built a product and never raised a dime?”
One mentor that did make a meaningful impact to Lozano’s business was Brian Matthews, the founder of CDM Fantasy Sports. “Brian ended up becoming our lead investor and a fantastic mentor. While he’s not officially on our operations team, I often refer to him as my co-CEO.”
Another piece of advice the LockerDome CEO wanted to pass forward to aspiring entrepreneurs was the importance of focusing on building a product instead of a business model:
“Early on I did the million page business plan, executive overview, polished deck, 5 year financial modeling, etc. It helped me raise a whopping $0….Why the hell would someone entrust a 20 something year-old with no product, in the middle of the country, with hundreds of thousands of their hard-earned dollars. It was only when we began to focus on building a product that people began to slowly care.”
Now, with three years of platform evolution and learning lessons under their belt, athletes and fans do care about LockerDome. “Within the last few months, [we’ve been] gaining serious momentum.”
And as anyone who knows sports can attest, momentum is a force to be reckoned with.
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