Nevada County is not lacking in the technological realm, and one such example of this is the engagement platform Fanmood, created by local Ryan Cassano. The app/site began as a way for sports fans to root for their favorite team, the idea being that they could interact with one another in real time. Imagine a bunch of digital cheering sections, the objective being to see which group would be “loudest” in the digital sense. It has since grown to include ratings of restaurants, movies, television, and more.
With an extensive background in web design and information systems, Cassano surprised himself by turning Fanmood into an actual business, all while maintaining his long held position as an Information Systems Administrator for Dignity Health. Cassano is dedicated to his role, but ever curious he decided to explore what Fanmood had the potential to become as a passion project.
“Around 2013 I started getting interested in product development, less so starting a business,” said Cassano. “Fanmood was more of a backburner idea that materialized over time and in seemingly unlinked ways.
“In 2019, with other ideas sputtering, I finally decided to commit to finding out if Fanmood had legs. I put together some proof of concept apps and started experimenting. I observed and charted people’s reactions as they watched sporting events, created scales, etc.”
After much testing he tested the app at a local Brewfest and rated the different varieties he was sampling. This came in handy when—a few weeks later—he was able to look back at his own ratings and find his favorites in the beer aisle. He started thinking: what if everyone could do that?
In subsequent vacations he rated different hotels, restaurants, and tourism experiences. He ended up receiving customer service inquiries from many of the places he rated which reminded him that companies will always be interested in what they are doing right (or wrong).
Cassano explained: “For business, what if we could replace the ‘how did we do?’ world and turn it into a fresher ‘how is it going?’ world? What if it could be accomplished in a more passive, less-intrusive way?
“For people, how can we be of service in times of high and low? How can we reward them for their time invested into their online personas?”
By 2020 he had a small yet impressive team assembled and they were able to partner with the Nevada City Film Festival, allowing attendees the chance to share their opinions on the films that were screened. Then COVID hit and everyone—the Film Festival included—had to adapt. Luckily festival goers (who watched from the comfort of their own homes) utilized the service, and when Cassano was handed a check for his service it hit home that he was going to have to do what he initially had never planned: start an actual business.
This somewhat terrified him, as he had no experience in launching or starting a business. He began looking for resources.
“I reached out to the Nevada County Economic Council to see what they may have to offer local businesses, which connected me to Gil Mathew,” Cassano said. “He has since been extremely helpful in guiding business steps and recommendations.’
Last year Fanmood began serving Sierra Theaters and will remain in collaboration with this year’s Nevada City Film Festival. They are also in talks with a number of local businesses with the “objectives [being] to listen and learn, because real world business problems are what help shape products and strategies.”
Fanmood is still in its development stage but is well on its way to growing both its network and revenue in the next year. Through the process Cassano said he gained wisdom in all things business and felt comfortable sharing what he has learned.
Added Cassano: “One thing to impart on new entrepreneurs is to connect with people who have done it before. Ideally, a mentor. They can be instrumental in helping navigate tricky sections, such as timing for business formation, order of operations and protecting yourself.
“Remember that your vision is just a vision until it’s applied to the real world. Ideas need to be tested and fitted to reality in order to succeed, so remain open to new thinking and pivot opportunities.
“Starting a business is a lot of hard and often unsexy work. Despite such challenges, there’s no denying that bringing ideas to life is a huge rush and worth it. I don’t exactly know where Fanmood will go, but I’ve certainly enjoyed where it’s taken us thus far and I feel good about the future.”
Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer based in her hometown of Nevada City. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.