Symon Perriman plans to integrate Visa Checkout in FanWide, a digital platform for sports fan clubs.
Growing up, Symon Perriman moved around a lot and like many sports fans, he was often living away from his favorite teams’ hometown. As Symon moved for college and work brought him to new cities, he used sports as way to connect to the city and develop new friendships. It was through hosting and attending his local alumni game watch parties where he began to meet friends with similar interests.
For nearly a decade, he put these watch parties on but kept experiencing the same frustrations around unprepared venues or lack of communication channels to socialize the games to true fans. And that is how FanWide was born.
We are excited to introduce you to Symon who will be working with the Visa Developer Platform to enhance the FanWide platform and bring more services to its users. We caught up with Symon as he gets ready to integrate Visa Checkout.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Symon Perriman, a 33 year-old tech entrepreneur living in Seattle. I was born in England and my family immigrated to the United States when I was nine. I grew up in New Jersey, then went to college at Duke, where I earned degrees in Computer Science, Economics, and Digital Media. I was recruited out of college by Microsoft, which brought me to Seattle where I have been living since, and where I met my wife. I spent eight years at Microsoft, splitting my time as an engineer building their cloud platform, and as a technical evangelist, promoting their cloud and datacenter solutions.
Working for an established company was a great way to launch my career, but I have always been an entrepreneur at heart, and so I ran my own consulting company on the side and built around a hundred mobile apps and websites for clients. In 2015 I joined a Microsoft partner, 5nine Software, as their VP of Business Development and Marketing, then launched FanWide in 2016 and have been running it fulltime since. Throughout my life I’ve lived in over a dozen cities and traveled to over fifty countries, so I’ve always used sports to connect with people and find a community wherever I visited, which is what inspired me to create FanWide.
What is FanWide?
FanWide is a free digital platform for fan clubs which helps displaced sports fans find a local game watch party at a sports bar for any team in any city, using the world's largest fan club database. Millions of out-of-market fans can use FanWide to find the closest community event for their favorite team and check in for rewards, wherever they are living or traveling. Sports bars use FanWide to find new customers and promote their events – over half a million in the past year!
Fan clubs and alumni associations use FanWide's digital platform to expand their network, organize events, communicate with local fans, collect and report attendance data, enter contests, collect donations, and activate food or drink discounts from the event host or team sponsors.
Sports teams and leagues, as well as athletes and influencers, can use FanWide's Sports Data Platform to grow their audience, analyze fan engagement, and develop new fan clubs, and all of FanWide’s services can be integrated within the team’s website or app.
FanWide also offers sponsors a new targeted marketing channel through its digital platform, and on-site activations during thousands of in-person events which function like a "virtual stadium", allowing sponsors to engage any team’s most loyal fans in any city. FanWide's network allows teams and brands to offer merchandise, game tickets, and other digital or physical goods to these fan clubs.
Long-term FanWide wants to provide the world's leading platform to automatically connect hosts and fans of any interest group, including esports, gaming, TV shows, politics, trivia and more.
What inspired the idea for FanWide?
I have always found that sports are a great way to connect people, as they transcend language, gender, nationality, and ethnicity. My father was in the military, so my family was constantly moving around, and I found that sports were a great way to make new friends. When we immigrated to the United States, my family continued to use sports as a way to meet others and assimilate into the local community. I moved across the country for college, then again for my first job, and always used sports to develop new friendships. As a work transplant, it was tough to find friends with the same interests until I began attending and promoting basketball game watch parties for our local alumni club. However, organizing them was usually inefficient, and although we would bring dozens or hundreds of fans to every event, the bars were often understaffed and unprepared, even though we were generating thousands of dollars in new sales for them. Over the next decade, I was traveling half of the time and hated trying to find my game on the TV in the hotel, wishing I could safely explore the city and socialize. I realized that sports fans in every city needed an easy way to get together to watch their team play, and that venues would pay a service to help them fill their seats.
What is the proudest moment so far for FanWide?
There is not a single moment that stands out, but rather a collective experience, which is when we help people form meaningful relationships. During the events which FanWide has promoted, sports fans have reconnected with old classmates, formed business partnerships, made new friends, and even developed romantic relationships! This was even more common during the World Cup when we were helping immigrants rediscover their roots, and we even received some international press from this. It is rewarding to see how FanWide can genuinely make an impact in people’s lives.
What about challenges for FanWide? How were you able to work around them?
Our biggest challenge has been establishing ourselves within the sports industry, as our leadership team are primarily engineers. It seems that a majority of influencers and leaders in the sports industry are former college and pro athletes, so it was much harder to find the right connections and build trust, compared to traditional businesses. Additionally, working with the sports teams themselves was challenging, as they are (mostly) billion-dollar brands with non-conventional economics due to their high demand. Some organizations even expected FanWide to pay them to use our technology and services!
We worked around these challenges by developing our relationships with sports influencers over time, which came through meeting them at conferences and from personal introductions through our extended network. We developed an advisory board with sports industry veterans in broadcasting, sponsorships, advertising, and hospitality, and compensated them with equity in our company. We have recently added former Seattle Seahawks Pro-Bowler and Super Bowl Champion Cliff Avril as a brand ambassador, advisor, and investor. More importantly, we have established relationships with several professional teams by showing them how we can develop fan clubs throughout the country with free trials. Now that we are starting to establish ourselves in the sports industry and build credibility, we are beginning to see a snowball effect as we become a brand name for fan clubs throughout the country.
How do you envision Visa Developer expanding FanWide capabilities or services?
Part of FanWide’s core mission is to develop and support communities, and we have an extensive network of passionate sports fans that want to contribute to their alumni association, favorite teams’ charitable foundations, or athletes’ philanthropical initiatives. One of our product’s top feature requests was to enable charitable donations to these groups directly through FanWide’s platform. We have looked at various payment systems and were excited to discover that Visa Checkout (part of the Visa Developer Platform) offers a free payment gateway, which maximizes the money which gets donated to the charity. Soon sports fans will be able to support their favorite team and a great cause through FanWide!
Any tips for developers who are curious about integrating payments in to their app?
It is important to make sure that the payment system meets the needs of not just the developers, but also the business and design teams. First, we did a business assessment, and Visa Checkout was the best payment gateway because of its free transactions, so we could maximize the money which went to charity. Additionally, it provided a secure platform from a trusted organization, while supporting multiple payment types.
Next, we reviewed the code, and our development team liked this solution because it was clean, flexible, and easily fit into our website and mobile apps. Seamless integration is critical whenever you are adding a new technology into an existing product to avoid regressions and provide a consistent end user experience.
Finally, our design team evaluated the UI and UX guidelines to ensure that it fit into FanWide’s existing product and user workflows. This also passed the test as the Visa Checkout interface was well structured and documented so that the donation process would be streamlined, and FanWide could continue to provide our users with a great experience.
Stay tuned for more blogs from Visa Devleoper Influential Programmer, @SymonPerriman. He'll be documenting his journey using Visa Developer and integrating Visa Checkout into FanWide's platform. You'll get some expert dev tips to help you get started with Visa APIs.