CaptainU Builds the Mint.com for Student Athletes

One sure path to making money on the Internet is to find a business that people can get emotional about — that is, enough to type in their credit card number.

CaptainU, a start-up that serves the families of young athletes, may have found the most emotional business of all.

The San Francisco-based company has positioned itself between student athletes and the college teams that might recruit them, in much the same way that financial Web app Mint.com placed itself in between people building their financial goals and the banks and credit card companies seeking new clients.

But don’t call CaptainU a recruiting service — that might run it afoul of the NCAA.

CaptainU users sign up and then build a profile that includes the student athlete’s statistics, team affiliations, training camp attendances and GPA.

The site also provides templates for tracking statistics, displaying highlight videos and all the other ephemera college coaches might look for when recruiting.

But, according to co-founder Mike Farb, CaptainU’s real service — like Mint’s — is about helping users make decisions with more information.

Once they decide they want to play at the college level, “students really need a road map for what they should to do, to develop athletically and academically,” Farb said. “Today, most families just rely on high school coaches and other parents.”

What CaptainU provides, after analyzing all the data added to a profile, is a realistic set of goals and prescriptions for achievement.

Want to play lacrosse at Duke? CaptainU can tell you what GPA you should shoot for, whether or not you are on the right traveling lacrosse team, and which coach you should get in touch with.

Farb, like other founders wary of nailing down claims of early traction, wouldn’t share user numbers in detail. But he acknowledged that CaptainU currently had “hundreds of thousands of users.”

Users can sign up for a free “rookie” profile, or trade up for an expanded services profile, which runs between $20 and $40 per mont — pricey, but not when compared to something like a bag full of top-tier hockey equipment.

Farb said that he didn’t think the financial future for his bootstrapped company, which is looking to raise an A round of funding, was in paid user accounts.

“We can now connect families with videographers in every state, so that they can get highlight footage taken,” he said. “We want to provide the same connections for private coaches, camps, and anyone else who provides services for athletes families.”

The plan for CaptainU is to become a platform for all of these partners to connect and transact business with the start-up’s growing user base. CaptainU takes a small cut of each deal, and charges admission for trainers, camps and other service providers to be listed on the site.

This “platform play” isn’t new, but Farb said that growing the sales and marketing staff, which CaptainU organizes by sport, is the next step.

“After all, how many former college athletes do you know that end up in sales?,” he asked and then answered. “All of them.”

Here is the video of an interview I did with Farb:


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik