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Quick Pitch: Fancloud aggregates the Twitter feeds of more than 2,000 sportswriters from around the country -- sorting them by sport and game, and enabling fans to join the conversation too.
Genius Idea: An online meeting place for sportswriters, fans on the couch, and fans at the game.
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Sports fans attending games over the next few months shouldn't be surprised to see a gaudily painted, QR Code-emblazoned, eight-passenger Chevy van among the usual assortment of tailgate vehicles found in pre-game parking lots around America. Inside the van, they will find a flatscreen TV, mobile satellite dish and -- of course -- a hefty cooler.
Fans will also likely find Terence Gelke, Bryan Shaw and Ben Bjurstrom inside the party-on-wheels. The three amigos are taking their tailgating machine on a 43-city, 14,000-mile, 100-plus-game tour. The purpose is to promote Fancloud.com, their social startup for sports fans.
Fancloud serves a sort of virtual sports bar -- except if that bar was also inhabited by top sportswriters and virtual incarnations of people actually watching games in person.
The site aggregates more than 10,000 tweets each day from beat reporters covering a variety of teams around the country. The tweets are then organized and streamed on different Fancloud channels according to sport or specific event. Then, fans can login via Twitter to start conversations with one another or the reporters.
The Fancloud idea was born in January 2010, when Gelke, Shaw and Bjurstrom attended an NBA game wearing specially made Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks jerseys. Anthony, then with the Denver Nuggets, was the center of many trade rumors at the time. The three friends' whimsical jerseys gained them attention from TV cameras, Twitter users and print reporters alike.
"Everyone was talking about it, but in separate areas," Gelke said in an interview. "At that point we realized that we needed a portal to connect fans at the game with the fans at home, and with the sportswriters who cover the game."
The Southern California-based company raised $200,000 in Series A funding and plans to open up a new round of investments soon. Since its launch less than two weeks ago, Gelke said that Fancloud has attracted more than 3,000 visitors, who have a 50% return rate and stay on-site for an average of between four and five minutes each.
As part of their roadtrip, the site's founders are giving away more than 100 free game tickets per week through a partnership with ASC Tickets. They're also meeting with executives from professional sports teams in different leagues to explore partnership opportunities. They say that multiple teams have a "strong interest" in installing Fancloud widgets on their own sites.
Fancloud is currently monetized in part through another ASC partnership that allows fans to buy game tickets from different events' chatter channels. Genke promises no on-site advertisements for the site's first year, though he said it might eventually host "a small amount" of clickable ads and offer a premium subscription membership.
Fancloud has Android and iPhone applications planned for release within the next couple weeks, and a Facebook application will be released next week. To expose the service even more, the site's sportswriter feed will be made available to bar owners who want to combine the online and on-stool conversations by streaming content to a pub TV. Eventually, Fancloud's founders hope to make their site a significant part of the fan experience, with profile pages that allow people to post photos from games and record events attended and chats joined.
"We think the site will be big for fantasy sports fans who want to get information on Twitter before it becomes a big story, and also good for more passive users who just want to get premium information from sportswriters," Genke said. "Then, it's also great for heavier users who really want to interact with other fans as well."
What do you think? Will Fancloud be a success? Let us know in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.