Fabric, a platform to help organizers augment sports experiences, announced Thursday that it has raised $4 million, including a $1.9 million seed round. The company recently rolled out some of its tech at NBA Summer League, and it will also be used during next week’s NBA exhibition games between the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks in Abu Dhabi.
Perhaps counterintuitively, Fabric’s founders believe that while cell phones create a constant distraction for fans in seats and at home, they could also connect people in-person. Fabric CEO Saul Garlick laid out some potential use cases in an interview.
Rather than looking down to read a feed of reactions to a big play, Fabric-powered apps can encourage fans to hold their phones up and interact with content tied to the location from where it was posted (e.g. someone sitting a few sections over). The platform also has the ability to measure user locations, offering a reward for fans who stop by the team store, for instance, or drawing them to an area where they can compete with and against their peers in simple games.
Other implementations include polls, trivia, scavenger hunts, wayfinding information, video highlights, etc.—various pieces of content that can be restricted in both space and time. In the company’s lingo, Fabric builds digital assets—known as “fabs”—and “spaces” on top of physical areas, with eyes on augmenting experiences inside venues but also in the other places where fans congregate and live.
“We needed to find a way to leverage technology to bring people back together in real life,” Garlick said in a statement. “Our team strives to tackle big problems, and we couldn’t believe that for all the innovation over the past two decades, there is still no digital medium to create shared in-person experiences—that instead we live life alone, even when together.”
Fabric was founded in 2018, but more recently identified sports as the best industry for its tools. “We chose sports because sports chose us,” Garlick said. “The response was overwhelming.” This year, the company has powered activations at 85 games through five pro team and league relationships. Sapir Venture Partners are among Fabric’s most recent investors.
While many sports organizations initially fought the incursion of cell phones into the live experience, most are now finding ways to integrate and monetize mobile tech into their gameday offerings. Other startups such as Quintar and ARound have focused on using the phone’s camera as a way to give fans more visual information and interactivity from their vantage points. Fabric’s applications include AR elements (such as digital scratch cards that reveal rewards for fans who find them) but the company is more focused on the location element, or as Fabric calls it, the “geospatial web platform.”
“Fabric is building the geospatial web technology that enables real-time, location-specific, interactive social experiences,” founder Sarah Kass said in a statement, “to incorporate our shared time and place within our digital worlds.”