Local Businessman Creates Sports Startup To Turn Casual Fans Into Passionate Ones

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Photo by Briana Brough
What does your company do?

Fanalytical helps college athletic departments turn casual audiences into passionate, engaged fans. Our fan intelligence software provides actionable insights to boost fan engagement, improve marketing impact and grow top-line revenues.

Start date

January 2017

Number of team members


What in your path led you to start this business?

My professional background is pretty varied. I’ve worked in faith-based organizations, led HR technology startups and consulted on leadership and organizational development initiatives. At UNC, I was inspired by Bubba Cunningham, Chris Kielt and David Routh, who fostered in me a curiosity about how the university understands and engages with its constituents. At [the UNC Athletic Department], we explored tools and methods for data analytics and business intelligence, resulting in an initiative to build a data warehouse and become a more data-driven organization. Fanalytical is an outgrowth of the innovations championed here in Chapel Hill.

What is your favorite thing about owning your own business?

I enjoy collaborating with a team to understand a client’s challenges, build solutions and bring a vision to reality. It demands resilience and agility to adapt to different roles based on the context and situation… much like a rowing crew member. Sometimes I lead (coxswain), sometimes I model (sweep seat), sometimes I just put my head down and work hard (general rower). It’s the ability to adapt, be resilient and maintain energy and focus amidst the agile environment that separates entrepreneurs from those who thrive in more structured organizational roles.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to start their own business?

Entrepreneurship is a team sport. While a bold idea might provide the impetus for your new venture, it’s vital to surround yourself with collaborators, mentors, role models and potential customers. Continually nurture relationships with those who inspire, challenge or support you.

Why did you choose to base your company in Chapel Hill?

The town of Chapel Hill is an ideal environment for growing a business because it provides a robust, active network of mentors, advisers and enablers who bring timely expertise and irreplaceable wisdom. [Chapel Hill also provides a certain] quality of life [found in the] unbeatable combination of the university’s arts, cultural, intellectual and athletics (of course!) atmosphere with activism, spirit and inclusiveness. [This] attracts and retains best-in-class talent, [which] startups rise or fall based on. The skills, energy and capabilities of the Triangle workforce sustains [growing] enterprises.


“Startups like Fanalytical are risky: there are so many unknowns in bringing a new idea to life it can be intimidating to take a first step. So, it’s essential to ‘de-risk’ the effort in order to increase the odds of success. Launch Chapel Hill – a local business accelerator – offers a competitive advantage through proven practices and sage advice. I deeply appreciate the Town of Chapel Hill, Orange County and the university for their vision in establishing and funding Launch Chapel Hill. The resources, processes and advisers have been invaluable [to us].”

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Laura Zolman Kirk

Associate Editor Laura Zolman Kirk is a Kentuckian turned Chapel Hillian and totally in love with this special slice of North Carolina.
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