The backers of a new mobile baseball game are getting an assist from a guy who knows a thing or two about hitting a home run: retiring Sox slugger David Ortiz.
The chief executive of FanZcall says Ortiz has agreed to be a shareholder in the Waltham-based startup, which has already raised about $1.6 million from local investors, and will be its most prominent ambassador.
“He’s the absolute perfect guy for us,” says Anton Khinchuk, FanZcall’s founder. “He has an equity stake because he wanted to be part of this.”
FanZcall allows players to guess how an at-bat will play out in real time during a Major League Baseball game, with the correct guesses of more unlikely outcomes, such as home runs, scoring more points. Khinchuk came up with the idea last year, when he took his three sons to Fenway Park and noticed that they spent an inordinate amount of time on their phones instead of paying attention to the game. He plans to create versions for other sports, such as football. He left his IT job at Keurig Green Mountain earlier this year and then pursued this venture full time.
The game is free to play, although Khinchuk is hoping to make money by selling ads that will appear on the app. One option will allow advertisers to offer prizes to people that accumulate a certain number of points, although Khinchuk has no plans to provide cash rewards. The goal, he says, is not to create another sports gambling app. “We don’t want to taint it with gambling,” he says. “We’re really doing it for the joy of the game.”
The game is already a hit at Mechanica, the Newburyport marketing agency. The firm is working with FanZcall as a client and has taken a stake in the startup. Mechanica’s Micah Donahue says rivalries are already starting to form in his office: “You have people taunting each other, playing FanZcall on the side.”