By Michael Andrzejewski
Over the last several years, offenses at all levels of football have put the pedal to the metal when it comes to pace of play. Coaches have introduced fans to the “Hurry Up” and “No Huddle.” Former Ole Miss head coach, Hugh Freeze coined the term, “Basketball on grass.” Defenses have done their best to limit these video-game like scoring machines. Everybody from high school to the NFL seems to run a version of the spread offense now.
Talk to any of these transformational offensive gurus, and they will tell you one important secret to the fastball offense—a short memory. They teach their guys, “If you drop a pass, forget it. Move on. The next play is coming right now.”
The CEO of the Fan Controlled Football League, Sohrob Farudi, learned the same lesson as a kid. He didn’t learn it on the football field – tipping the scales at 120 pounds in the ninth grade, it was evident that Sohrob wouldn’t be cashing many NFL game checks. Instead, he learned that lesson around the dinner table. His father, a psychologist and his mother, a teacher, instilled an indelible lesson early on – everyone fails. The key was putting that failure behind you and getting ready for what’s next.
“The next play is coming right now.”
It was a lesson that would help ensure that taking the occasional L in the business world didn’t derail his path to success.
Sohrob was born in Texas, but the Farudi clan—Dad, Mom, Sohrob, and his two younger brothers, Cyrus and Rahmeen moved early and often making stops in Colorado and West Virginia. Yet, no matter where the U-Haul took them, the oldest Farudi boy carried a certain blue star in his heart and cheered on America’s Team. The Cowboys remained a constant, as did his deep bond with his siblings. The Farudi boys learned to love, trust and depend on each other, and those values kept them close as they teamed up to start and grow multiple businesses.
Attending college at the University of Maryland, Sohrob cheered on the Terrapins when he wasn’t knee-deep in finance textbooks. Following a master’s degree in information systems, Sohrob’s first foray into the workforce saw him settling into a cubicle at Accenture. But like a true Texan, he longed for something bigger.
Less than a year later Farudi made a sharp cut that would have done Julian Edelman proud, leaving Accenture to join a Washington, D.C. tech startup called iFinance. He arrived as the dot-com boom was getting in gear, setting up what he refers to as “a pretty good run.”
Of course, we all remember how that game ended. The tech market collapsed like it had been buried beneath a 300-pound nose tackle and panic ensued as companies – including iFinance – swiftly realized that their burn rate was going to burn them out. The experience provided Sohrob with a chance to put the Next Play mantra to good use. It also taught him an important fiscal lesson – what a company shouldn’t do once they raise a bunch of money.
The next play took Sohrob to Los Angeles in 2005 to found FlipSwap, where he would partner with a brilliant developer named Andrew Berman and his brothers. The initial idea was to take the genius of eBay’s model into retail, allowing people to take their used technology into Best Buy and walk out with a store gift card. The original model underwent some twists and turns, but it was wildly successful. In 2007, a future FCFL co-founder, Patrick Dees lined up in the slot. The two ran route combos by taking the business model to mobile phones and ultimately expanding to Europe.
Having run up the score with FlipSwap, the team decided it was time to move on. Cell phones gave way to a real-time website analytics service called SeeVolution. Sohrob would serve as CEO for a few years and then open a digital marketing agency dubbed Actbold. Digital marketing led to a big swing at the licensing opportunities of medical marijuana. While that project was seemingly unrelated to football, it would open the door for Sohrob to purchase a minority stake in the Las Vegas Outlaws of the Arena Football League.
Making the jump from fan to owner, Sohrob fell in love with the operational side of the game and learned the ins and outs of professional football at the league level. Smart networking led him to Andy Dolich, a four-decade front office veteran of three major sports leagues who had served as the Chief Operations Officer for the San Francisco 49ers. When Sohrob presented Dolich with an idea he had been kicking around for years, the veteran football man’s eyes lit up.
The concept was fan-controlled sports.
Sohrob and Patrick swiftly teamed up with the FCFL’s other co-founders, Ray Austin and Grant Cohen. Now ready to run four wide, they bought the rights to an expansion franchise in the Indoor Football League. The guys ran the Screaming Eagles for a year and for the first time ever, let fans call offensive plays in a real football game. Having made the jump from fan to owner himself, Sohrob was now putting the power to run a franchise into the hands of millions of everyday people around the world.
The original goal had been to transform the IFL into the Interactive Football League with all fan-run franchises. However, they envisioned a digital future for the sport that the IFL wasn’t ready to fully support. The team put the fear of failure aside and decided to take an even bigger swing, founding the Fan Access Network (FAN) and the FCFL. The goal is reformatting sports to put the fans first and, in Farudi’s words, “providing a product and service that everyone wants and no one has ever had.”
In some ways the heart of the FCFL can be found in the freshman, 120-pound wide receiver. The team is scrappy and hungry. What’s not there yet in size is made up for in passion. When you speak to Sohrob, that’s what you hear, and you know that even though he knows how to deal with losses, he’s had more than quite a few big wins already in his career.
A battle-scarred weekend warrior who has torn his ACL four times, Farudi still loves to play sports. He’s not scared of tearing it again because he knows that if he does, he’ll get back up, dust himself off, and keep moving forward. The Fan Access Network is no different. It’s his biggest swing yet – realigning the professional sports universe so that fans call the shots. He’s dedicated to building a game-changing company and doing it as a fan, for the fans.