April 29, 2022

179: Drop It Like It's Hot | BigFan | Eugene O’Brien and Kurt Pittman

179: Drop It Like It's Hot | BigFan | Eugene O’Brien and Kurt Pittman

Eugene O’Brien and Kurt Pittman from Ireland-based BigFan join Eoin Fitzgerald and Pete Townsend on the show this week. BigFan is reinventing sports collectibles through officially licensed NFTs that provide access to Metaverse-driven fan experiences

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Eugene and Kurt from BigFan are the second of ten founding teams forming the Launchpool Web3 Techstars Accelerator Class of 2022 that we’ve got on the show over the next few months.

In this episode, we talk to Eugene and Kurt about how their paths converged into BigFan last year, why it makes so much sense for them to be working on BigFan together, the ‘art of the possible’ with building for the metaverse, and the challenges in front of them to tackle right now.

This episode of MoneyNeverSleeps is sponsored by Philip Lee, one of Ireland’s fastest-growing corporate law firms and expert advisors at the heart of the Dublin and London start-up, fintech and crypto communities.


Eugene O’Brien on the genesis of BigFan:

“In 2017, I was keeping a close eye on Socios (fan tokens) and what they were doing. I then started getting into NFTs on Opensea with CryptoKitties. That led me down the path of metaverses and building out developments in the different metaverses when they weren't as popular as they are now.

“All the ingredients were there and with all the different areas within the crypto space that I was involved in, the seeds for BigFan were sown. The opportunity that we had in front of us was to enhance the relationship between fans and rightsholders (teams, clubs, organizations, leagues, etc.).”  

Kurt Pittman on connecting with Eugene O’Brien and his entry point into BigFan as a co-founder:

“I moved over to Dublin in late 2019 a few months before lockdown.  As we went into lockdown, a mutual friend introduced us, and this was a point in time where Eugene had this vision for what BigFan might become.  Eugene knew the technology and the community around the technology intimately, but the challenge was to create a commercial proposition that we would be able to take to my former colleagues and peers. 

“This was at a time before NBA Top Shots had hit the headlines and before Mark Zuckerberg decided to use the word Meta and turn everyone's attention towards the metaverse. We wanted to help rightsholders understand what the potential of this technology might be at that early stage and see if we could get some people to go through that journey with us and that's led us to where we are now.”

Eugene O’Brien on the early days of pitching BigFan to teams and leagues:

“So, imagine me with no experience with rightsholders commercially.  I had a fairly significant deck with 40 or so slides I was using to try to get the concept across clearly, and it was an uphill battle.  We had no comparatives as I was approaching rightsholders before NBA Top Shots and Sorare with a new technology.  It was a huge endeavor explaining why it would be beneficial for teams to take on this concept.”

Kurt Pittman on how Eugene’s crash course on NFTs helped:

“Eugene brought me on this journey of a deep dive and crash course on NFTs to understand how the community works and what the technology looks like.  I had a sense of it but didn't understand all of the detail, so he seriously threw me to the wolves, and it helped me to understand how NFTs and the community work.

“We had some serious lessons along the way, but without that crash course, we certainly wouldn't be where we are now in being able to pitch BigFan with conviction to a commercial director sitting on the other side of the table and believing that we knew what we were talking about.”

Kurt Pittman on the NFT bubble and the source of their conviction:

“We’re very mindful that there's the NFT bubble that people are talking about, particularly in sports with the interest that’s in it.  One of the things that we talk about when we're engaging with potential partners is this: how do we help them make the most of this opportunity now but also be able to land on the other side.

“How do they integrate web3 technology into their commercial model and their business operation in a way that means that they can adapt once all of the initial excitement tapers off?”

Eugene O’Brien on BigFan’s long-term approach:

“We develop a strategy with the rightsholder that means we need to meet milestones and performance targets before we go on to the next stage, as opposed to coming out of the gates with a wild campaign.  With my experience in this market, what I’ve seen is that the wild campaigns might last a week or two, but then usually fall flat on their face.

“We are managing the rightsholders' expectations as much as we can. That this isn't a ‘promote one collection and create huge revenues’ approach.  This is a staged approach that needs to be developed over time. Going into the future, we do believe that every rightsholder is going to have a comprehensive web3 strategy.”

Eugene O’Brien on NFTs as an access key to metaverse-driven fan experiences:

“Our digital collectibles double up as access to unlock experiences within these metaverse worlds. As an example, for one of the rightsholders we have onboard, we have developed a replica of their stadium within one of the metaverses where they’ll be live-streaming games and holding post-match interviews.

“Bringing it further, you'd be able to buy merch, more sporting collectibles, and attend events and promotions within those metaverse worlds.  Another way to look at it is that the sports club organization will have their own digital location within the metaverse where their fans can meet up, hang out and participate in these events.”

Kurt Pittman on bringing the metaverse to the real world for fans:

“We've got this global connection with fans, that's being driven by social media in a push and pull, read and write kind of experience. Just imagine, before you sit down and watch Man United play on TV live, you can jump into a club within the metaverse and meet up with other Man United fans from around the globe and have a chat with them, and it’s run by the club.

“They're able to run a live feed of a pre-match interview that's exclusive for that group of people that have got together in that space before they then step out and watch the match on TV.

“It changes the game quite a lot, and shows that this technology can go a hell of a lot further than what people are doing at the moment.”


Connect with Eugene O’Brien and Kurt Pittmanand learn more about BigFan

Episode title inspired by ‘Drop it Like it’s Hot’ by Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell

Reference to Jasmine Maietta from Round21 on Web3 Breakdownspodcast

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Kurt PittmanProfile Photo

Kurt Pittman

Co-founder and CCO

Eugene O'BrienProfile Photo

Eugene O'Brien

Co-founder and CEO, BigFan