Klaus-Martin Meyer: Fausto, you are a Co-Founder of Tifosy a crowdfunding platform for pro sports. Would you please introduce yourself and your company to our readers?
Fausto Zanetton: I’m Fausto Zanetton, the Founder and CEO of Tifosy. I am Italian, but grew up in Belgium and completed my economic university studies there. Before starting Tifosy, I spent 15 years in the financial industry (PwC, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley) focusing on the media/sports/technology sector, both in London and the US. I advised my global client base on capital raises, mergers and acquisitions, refinancings, etc
Given I spent increasingly more time on sports and saw how clubs were building massive digital followings through social media, I thought crowdfunding could offer clubs a new way of raising capital and fans a new opportunity for investing into a new asset class whilst supporting a club they believed in. This is where the idea of Tifosy (“fans” in Italian) originated and hence, I went on a mission (jointly with my co-founder Gianluca Vialli) to create the first and fully-authorised sports focused crowdfunding platform.
Klaus-Martin Meyer: You decided to offer reward bases, lending based (mini bonds) and equity crowdfundings. Why was this the right decision?
Fausto Zanetton: We have worked on ca. 15-20 rewards-based crowdfunding campaigns, ranging from EUR 10k to EUR 350k for small to very large clubs. These campaigns were a great way to establish ourselves and much better understand the fan DNA, i.e. what drives a fan to support a specific club (project). However, we soon realised that fans wanted to actually invest in their clubs (through equity or debt) and as a result, we sought authorisation from the FCA (UK financial regulator) to enable us to issue equity and debt. This process took a very long time, but now that we have it, we can fund much larger projects. We are now working on a number of multi-million campaigns that we are launching in coming months.
Klaus-Martin Meyer: You managed to win national and international pitches (italian and dutch) right from the start. How do you want to generate a deal flow in order to justify your own ambitious valuation? Which milestones do you want to past until the end of 2018?
Fausto Zanetton: We are very well connected in the industry through a team that has built strong relationships over many years and truly understands the sports sector in great detail. It is through these relationships, the strong case studies we now have and the professionalism that we display with every club we work with, that we generate our deal flow. In terms of milestones, we need to keep bringing exciting investment opportunities to our Tifosy community and start creating a real retail sports asset class. This supports the valuation of Tifosy, which in my humble opinion can only go in one direction.
Klaus-Martin Meyer: What do you think why will an average football club choose to akquire the funds for a six or seven figures mini bond on your platform instead of opting for Crowdcube?
Fausto Zanetton: I believe Crowdcube is a fantastic platform and a real pioneer in the industry. We have a lot to thank them for. However, over time, as sectors mature, they become more vertically focused. Sports clubs and their fans require their own platform. An average football club with a strong brand will probably prefer to list their offering on a platform next to another sports club instead of listing it next to a restaurant or maker of a new yoghurt drink. Also, the average sports fan/investor wants to browse other investments in the sports industry on a platform specifically tailored to their needs. In addition, we work proactively with clubs and guide them throughout the whole crowdfunding process (from origination to execution including marketing, documentation, analytics) which is quite different from other platforms which have a much more do-it-yourself approach. Sector expertise is crucial and Tifosy has people with decades of combined experience in this sector. This helps to gain trust, tailor offerings to the fans/investors and execute successful campaigns.
Klaus-Martin Meyer: And the last question: How relevant is the personal network of a „god of football“ like Gianluca Vialli for your business? Is crowdfunding for pro sports a peoples business or just another fintech?
Fausto Zanetton: Personal relationships are extremely important in sports. And trust drives everything. I got to know Gianluca many years ago and became friends through working on Tifosy. He has a impeccably clean reputation and people respect him everywhere he goes. This is crucial in order to win over the confidence of the key decision makers of the clubs. We have learned that a pure platform approach does not work in this industry. There is still an “analog“ element to it, which plays into our vertical focus.