Hoping to attract stock market refugees benched by the downturn, web site OneSeason lets users buy and sell virtual shares in their favorite athletes — from SHAQ (at $15.69 a share) to AROD ($5.08). The concept, which combines fantasy sports with virtual goods sales, just earned the San Francisco company $3.5 million in first-round funding led by Charles River Ventures.
After joining the site, users pay real dollars for what the company calls Synthetic Ownsership Interests (SOIs) in athletes from other members. Trading takes place all day, with athlete values fluctuating based on their popularity and performance in real-life games (a ticker showing gains and losses streams nonstop at the top of the page). Drawing on football, basketball, baseball and hockey rosters, the service also provides an avalanche of data on each team and player (complete with SMS updates), a clear bid to appeal to compulsive sports stat and market watchers. Social networking is the other major pillar of the site, allowing fans to discuss deals, match-ups and news — something fantasy devotees have been doing for years before Facebook and MySpace.
OneSeason’s revenue model is pretty straightforward. SOIs are worth anywhere between $0.50 and $20, and members can add to their accounts via PayPal or Google Checkout (redeeming gains through mailed checks). The company skims one percent off the top of every trade and is actively earning interest on the pool of money it holds. So far, it says it’s traded a million SOIs, and it predicts that a userbase of 3 million could make for $50 to $100 million in annual business.
OneSeason faces one major rival in ProTrade, a site that does pretty much the same thing. Its interface is a little less slick, but it expands the scope to golf, NASCAR, and NCAA basketball and football. There is also Yoonew, a fake future exchange for championship sports events. Users buy seats connected with a particular team that they predict will go all the way, and if the team happens to make it to the Super Bowl or World Series, they actually get to go. This is clearly a bit more reality-based than the others, which sadly don’t award player contracts to majority shareholders.
Before this recent investment round, OneSeason raised $250,000 in seed funding from private investor Phil Drayer.