SXSW Startups: FanFood Feeds Fans

The Forrest Four-Cast: February 9, 2018

50 startups are finalists for the 2018 SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event. Half will demo their talents on Saturday, March 10, and the remaining 25 will show their stuff on Sunday, March 11. Winners in 10 categories will be honored at the Accelerator Award Ceremony at 7 pm on Sunday, March 11, at the Hilton Austin. The SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event takes place within the Startup & Tech Sectors track of programming.

A finalist in the Entertainment and Content Technology category, FanFood is a mobile ordering platform that provides consumers at live events with the technology to receive concessions via delivery or express line pickup. FanFood enhances the consumer experience, while assisting venue owners in generating higher sales. They will travel from their home base in Chicago to pitch at 3:30 pm Sunday, March 11, at the Hilton Austin, Salon AB. Also connect with FanFood at the SXSW Accelerator Demo Day on March 12.

Alexa Lemmo, Director of Operations & Partnerships, and CEO Carson Goodale answered questions about FanFood for this interview.

Given the nature of your startup, what’s your favorite sports team?
The Chicago Cubs!

Compared to other startups in this space, what is your competitive advantage?
FanFood is a full end-to-end solution provider. We are the ONLY company focused on helping our partners succeed with a mobile concession feature at a reasonable price. Logistics, training, support, marketing and deployment are all very important steps in the process to implement a successful mobile experience for fans.

What are FanFood’s overall goals for 2018?
With funding, in 2018 FanFood is looking to hire industry specific Sales & Marketing Executives, onboard 20+ new venues, and reach $1M in sales.

How long has the FanFood team been together?
FanFood began as a college project amongst three business students at the University of Iowa in 2014. The beta product launched in 2016, and FanFood started generating revenue in Q2 of 2017. Today, the team is represented by six full-time employees.

Carson, what inspired you to start FanFood?
The “ah-ha” moment for FanFood began while at a bar watching football with my friends. I remember complaining to them about waiting in a long line to get a drink. “Wouldn’t it be great to order a drink off my phone and a server deliver it to me rather than wait in this line,” I thought. Growing up, some of my fondest memories are shared with my dad at sports events, especially the ones captured celebrating a big moment. Those moments, as I’m sure you have experienced, will be cherished for the rest of my life. No live event is truly complete without concessions and because my dad paid for the tickets, the expectation was that I would be the one to wait in the long concessions lines with his money. It seemed justified and I was in no place to argue. But because of that, I have experienced missed moments of fans roaring in the background — a sentiment I’m sure many fans can empathize with.

What drove your team to apply for SXSW Accelerator?
FanFood went live on May 9, 2017 at the Austin360 Amphitheater. Since then, we’ve serviced every concert there. In late October, we operated at our largest event to date, the Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas, generating over $40,000 in sales. We applied for the SXSW Accelerator to gain exposure and to expand our services in the Austin market and beyond.

What sessions are you most excited about attending at SXSW 2018?
FanFood is most excited to attend “Beyond Sports: Digital Disruption and Fans” in addition to “Embracing Technology to Super Serve Fans.

Who is your team looking to meet and network with at SXSW 2018?
Investors, stadium owners, stadium stakeholders, anyone who has a vested interest in enhancing the fan experience at any live event.

FanFood is currently based in Chicago. How would you characterize the startup ecosystem in the Windy City?
Over the last 10 years, Chicago has become a hub for tech startups, particularly in the foodservice space. The city is saturated with resources, i.e. incubator and accelerator spaces, in addition to the expansion of WeWork in six locations housing hundreds of startups.

What technology does your team think is most overrated?
VR. It’s still in its infancy stages with bulky headsets and bizarre cardboard boxes that you Velcro your phone onto. However, we look forward to its evolution and expect to see VR contact lenses someday.

How about underrated?
Digital social media marketing and campaigning. Its reach is incredibly powerful and cost effective. Hard to believe companies are still relying on ad agencies.

You can invite any three living people from anywhere in the world to dinner. Who do you invite and why?
Actually, we have four! First would be Theo Epstein from the Cubs. We want to know all of his secrets. Who else has broken two curses in a lifetime? Next is Elon Musk, because he’s trying to solve some of the world’s largest problems.. Also J.K. Rowling. She overcame adversity in many ways being a female. She stayed persistent after multiple rejections to become one of the world’s best-selling authors. Our final guest is Richard Branson. He is currently involved in new and exciting projects, maintains work-life balance and stays true to his values. He never loses sight of what’s important in life.

What do you know now that you wish you had known before you began the startup journey with FanFood?
Don’t get over excited, don’t get too discouraged. Do your due diligence.

Look for interviews with other SXSW Accelerator finalists in this space between now and March. Startups already profiled as part of this series include 70MillionJobs, Bluefield, Cambridge Cancer Genomics, Commutifi, DashTag, Goalsetter, HealthTensor, Instreamatic, Leaf, Nix, Pawame, PolyPort, Sceenic, Switchboard, and UPGRADED.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.