The Los Angeles Dodgers are hyper-focused on the franchise’s on-field performance as it seeks to earn a World Series title over the Houston Astros. But off-the-field, the Dodgers are staying busy investing in technology startups, which became an objective for the organization dating back to 2015, when it launched an accelerator with R/GA.
One of the alumni of the Dodgers accelerator is a company called FieldLevel, which is a private social network for sports recruiting that connects coaches and helps college teams find the best athletes for their programs. The FieldLevel executive team has thus far only raised friends-and-family seed capital, but that is all about to change with the Dodgers taking the lead on a round of fundraising that will probably be $2.35 million, $2.1 million of which has been committed to date.
The Dodgers will likely fill the gap to close the round unless FieldLevel finds other investors who are determined to be strong, strategic fits. FieldLevel has roughly two more months to secure the additional funding.
FieldLevel’s goal is to correct a perceived problem that parents and athletes are consistently confused about: How to start the college recruiting process. That process is commonly described as being painful, expensive and full of uncertainly. FieldLevel’s solution is an online platform that makes it easy for high school level coaches to step into their role of supporting their athletes in their college recruitment.
“The relationship between an athlete and their high school level coach is something that is so important in the recruiting process,” explains FieldLevel CEO Brenton Sullivan. “This is being missed by the majority of athletes looking to play at the next level, and a lot of the coaches that could have a huge impact on the athletes they coach. This relationship can translate into an introduction to the right college programs . . . just like applying for a job, you need the best references possible. FieldLevel’s platform is structure in a way where athletes and their coaches can align and coordinate their recruiting efforts, while at the same time allowing coaches to connect with each other so that college coaches can be introduced to and discover the right athletes for their programs.”
Sullivan has first-hand experience of being placed in the wrong situation after suffering through a grueling recruitment process. He was a walk-on at the University of Southern California and, while he admits that it was a fun experience, it was not the right school for him.
“I always wanted to focus on players not getting looks to help them out the with the recruiting process,” says Sullivan. “I thought there were a lot of athletes like me who didn’t know much about recruiting.”
At its core, FieldLevel is about putting three parties on the same platform — high school athletes, their high school coaches and college coaches — with the key ingredient being a facilitation of communication between high school coaches and college coaches to leverage their relationships. The proprietary element of the platform is in the system using an algorithm to suggest best fit college athletic programs to high school athletes based on the athletes’ resumes as well as the specific types of athletes that each school may be seeking.
“This vision, and the massive positive impact we’ve seen already, is the reason why the LA Dodgers, Steve Kaplan, Jason Levien and others wanted to support the company,” says Sullivan. “This investment will go towards building even better tools and will make more coaches and athletes aware of how they can work together to succeed at recruiting.”
It is all strategic sports-related investment in this formative round of funding. Kaplan is a co-owner of the Memphis Grizzlies, Swansea City A.F.C. and a shareholder in esports franchise Immortals. Levien serves as co-owner with Kaplan at Swansea City A.F.C. and is also co-owner of D.C. United.
FieldLevel is one of almost twenty investments for the Dodgers accelerator program at the moment, and each investment is in a sector where the Dodgers organization feels as though it can be strategic and helpful, leveraging its network to accelerate opportunities, according to Dodgers CFO Tucker Kain. Kain is also a firm believer that the current FieldLevel model has the ability to scale to the point where the company is profitable.
FieldLevel uses a “freemium model” that allows athletes to pay a monthly $40 subscription for premium access to the platform, which enables athletes to tap into FieldLevel’s matching algorithm to find the best fit colleges and allows them to get in touch with college coaches after the high school coach releases relevant information. Almost 4,000 athletes are currently subscribed on the month-to-month model and approximately 40,000 players have logged in across ten different sports, according to Sullivan
In the future, Sullivan envisions new revenue sources from providing athletes with recommendations for training facilities and promoting coaches’ camps and events as well as a job placement service within the platform. However, the focus for now is to really zero in on the recruiting component.
With FieldLevel, the Dodgers hope to prove that the organization is capable to win not only on the field, but also with regard to sports-related technology.