When TechCrunch announced in June that a new social network for football fans was being launched in beta, football aficionados flocked to the site to see what all of the fuss was about. A couple of months later, EPL Talk has followed up the co-founder of Footbo.com to see how the site has evolved since then and to find out what’s ahead in the future.
We were also pleasantly surprised to learn that the co-founder of the company is the brother of famed journalist and author. Read the interview to learn more.
The Gaffer: Footbo seemed to come out of nowhere. When was it founded and how did you come up with the idea?
Mani Honigstein: We have been working on it since the second half of 2007 and the site went live during EURO 2008. The idea came because we were all using Facebook and other social networks, but there was no real social network for all of the football lovers out there. We felt that social networks are a great tool enabling people to connect and share with each other, and that there was definitely a need for a social network focusing on football.
TG: What’s your relation to Rafael Honigstein?
MH: Well, first of all he is my brother! Secondly, he became a real football expert over the last few years and knows many interesting people in the industry who are able to advise us.
TG: Why do you believe there’s room for another social networking site centered around football?
MH: Social networks are a phenomenon that are here to stay. It is the logical evolution of communication over the web. Football is maybe the most passionate past-time in the world and a lot of today’s football-based activities happen on the web. We felt that generic social networks cannot answer to all the needs of a football fan, and our early success shows that we might be right. Also, we don’t look upon ourselves as purely a social network, but more a social network with a lot of content and media.
TG: What are the key differentiators between your site and your competitors such as Ole Ole and Footballers FC?
MH: Well, I think that they are both great sites! The mere existence of these sites show that there is a real need for what we do. However, there are still some subtle differences between us and those sites. I believe that we have some great features that take it to the next level, but we wish them all the best of luck; I am convinced that we will all succeed in one way or another.
TG: Where is Footbo based and how many employees do you currently have?
MH: Our headquarters are in London and we are around 10 people. Most of the employees are just thankful that they can deal with football all day long! We have some Germans, English and South Americans in our company and are constantly making fun of each others’ football. The Euro tournament was not an easy time for our English fellow.
TG: How do you plan on spending the $1 million funding from the venture capitalist firm, Pitango?
MH: We intend to develop Footbo into a very large community in a short space of time. For that, we need to launch more languages and constantly develop new and relevant features.
TG: What features can we expect to see from Footbo in the future?
MH: We are trying to listen carefully to our users and to specify the features and applications towards their needs, after all, this site is a user generated content site. After the summer we will have some very nice surprises for our users. Also, we want to improve our media section and add forums to the site. On another front, I am very excited that we have our first professional footballer blogging on our site. Alexandre Song of Arsenal and Cameroon is sharing his Olympic experiences with us, and I think that’s what football fans will love – because hearing directly from the player takes it to a whole new level. Hopefully, he will be joined by others.
TG: What’s the most interesting fact about you that your site visitors would be surprised to read?
MH: Hmmm. I grew up in Munich, Germany, so I am a huge Bayern fan, but you can see that on my Footbo profile. I don’t know if people would be surprised to read this, but I do still play football – I am not a great player I have to admit, but I am trying hard. I wonder if it would be so hard for footbo’s visitors to believe that at the end of the day, I am just like them – a really passionate football fan who can’t wait for the new season.