Your sports viewing experience usually takes place on a couch, bar, or in the stadium. But going to the game often is a drag with expensive ticket prices, parking, public transport, and crowds that often deter from the experience if you are a real fan. LiveLike is giving you the in between option of watching sports broadcasts enhanced with VR to simulate stadium settings all from your home. With real life features, you can feel as if you are at the game without having to deal with expensive tickets or poor weather. LiveLike is equipped with social capabilities is delivering the best sports viewing experience you can possibly get without actually being at the game.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO Andre Lorenceau and Mitchell Babineaux about this SportsTech startup’s latest round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised a total of $5.01 Million with the help of Former NBA Commissioner and good friend David Stern, Evolution Media (a joint venture of CAA & TPG), Elysian Park Ventures, Courtside Ventures, Dentsu Ventures, and Techstars Ventures.
Tell us about your product or service.
We’re an end-to-end white label solution for sports broadcasters to be able stream their live content out to fans in Virtual Reality (VR). Our technology transports the fans into their own virtual suite to experience the game from the press box of a stadium, from within the stadiums stands, and even in the thick of it on the sidelines. Fully decked out with in-depths statistics and on demand replays; all while being able to experience all of this (and soon to be much more) with your closest friends and family.
What inspired you to start the company?
That’s actually quite a story so I’ll give you the abridged version. Firstly I’m a HUGE UT Austin Football fanatic and alumni and I probably know more about the team than most humans should. After graduating though, I was working for a small VR company called Innerspace VR as the Business Development Officer and had to move to Korea (the southern one). Which means I was very far away from my beloved team. One night while streaming a UT game on a questionable website and Skype-ing with my friends back in Texas at 4am I had that “AH-HA” moment. I wanted to combine everything I was missing out from by being so far away with all of the VR tools and knowledge I had actively at my disposal. A few weeks later, I weighed the pros and cons, built a rough prototype with a little help, showed it to my brother and a few friends and the rest is mostly history.
How is it different?
As opposed to a few other VR broadcasting solutions on the market currently, we allow broadcasters to be able to retain all of their branding, sponsors, and content rights, while still being able to have a totally immersive experience for their fans, without cutting down on quality or features. We also took a high focus on interactivity and the social element from the start, which shows through in every part of our apps.
What market are you targeting and how big is it?
The market at is core is truly quite large. We target sports fans, who frequently consume their content via television, but crave a much more immersive experience with out the high costs of purchasing stadium tickets. We also target the sports fans who may be too far geographically to be able to support their favorite team(s), but don’t want to feel like they’re missing out on any of the action.
What’s your business model?
We think of our selves as a “B2B2C” company. In essence we work primarily with major broadcasters but we’re making an app that appeals to the “every person” end user. We partners with broadcasters (who would otherwise have to spend months building up an internal team to develop something at this caliber) get into a rapidly growing and evolving market early with a high quality product. We make them their own fully branded white-labeled applications, handle all streaming and production needs, and deliver their fans an unparalleled experience. We also have the flexibility to let the broadcasters use their equipment and teams after they have mastered the necessary requirements for shooting in LiveLike format, which is intentionally simple.
Do you think technology like this could have an affect on game attendance?
In the realistic short term, our product is definitely more of a supplementary experience for people consuming the game via television. In the long term we (eventually) want to dethrone the television experience and provide an experience that is as close to being at the actual game as technologically possible. From our personal experience & research though, if given the chance, most fans choose to actually be there live. So we see ourselves as a high quality, happy medium for people who don’t have that option.
What was the funding process like?
Funding took quite a while because the sports space is such a network industry. We really needed alliances with parties that would help us without blocking off other markets. From a good blend of luck and talent, we really found the best partners, but it took a bit longer than your standard round. Being a part of the Techstars class helped as we had the biggest amount raised from all the companies coming out of that particular class.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Being at the very beginning of VR means that people didn’t quite understand our product well, they didn’t see how we were different, and how the DNA of our team kept us very separate from what was being done out there currently. Today we have great traction, but when we started fundraising we had done only 1 live game and people were super unsure about us. We even had a few people laugh at how much we were intending to raise. Lets just say they aren’t laughing now.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
The team is the biggest thing. LiveLike has 5 cofounders that are well spread out skillwise. We kind of have this perfect superstructure at our core to have pioneering design, clean programming, aggressive sales, and flexible production. Which is exactly what our company in our space needs. Our investors are very unambiguous about this, they told us the main reason they invested was for our core team.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
In the next six months we have a few new features we’re excited to push out and to continue to break the record number of people in Virtual Reality through new games with our partners. On top of that, we’re constantly shoring up the core platform to continue to establish ourselves as the golden standard of VR broadcasting technology.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
First time founding is SO much harder. Do a business model that doesn’t require a ton of capital. Try to not shoot for the stars at the very beginning, create a business model that you can easily exit in a couple years, and plan your next big move during that time.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
I see us partnering with a few other big broadcasters, at the same level as Fox Sports, to provide fans with even more options outside of just College Football. As well as pumping out a handful of very exciting features to add to the experience that already exists.
Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after work drink?
I’ll actually answer this one for the entire team. We’re based out of FiDi, so we’re quite fond of The White horse down on Water St. for a quick beer/cocktail, or any Karaoke bar that will let us come in and belt our lungs out. Though honestly we spend more time in the office drinking what ever is on tap at the Charging Bull WeWork we’re currently residing in.