Brad Evans, the onetime Seattle Sounders FC star, said he never experienced any nerves in his years playing professional soccer. He went to bed at a normal time, slept well and woke without any worries. In front of 100,000 fans, he had a singular, calm focus.
In his first foray into running a tech startup, Evans is experiencing a range of new emotions.
“I’ve never had a problem sleeping until this past year and I think I know why,” Evans said. “Playing soccer for 12 years was great, I was just used to it. Now I’m in a space where I’m out of my element in everything that we’re doing. I’m learning completely on the fly. It’s been crazy to be honest.”
The tech and business aspects of launching his own company may be foreign, but Evans is working with producers and a product that he knows well — sports stars and their memorabilia. The startup is called Contrib, and the digital fundraising platform is another way to connect athletes and other influencers with their fans while raising money for charity.
While the auctioning of signed jerseys and other equipment is certainly not new, Evans wants to seize on the immediate hype around a particular game and social media to make a meaningful impact.
Traditionally, Evans would donate a jersey or some other item to a gala or other event being thrown by a charity he supports. The audience with access to that item would be limited to the in-person event. Through Contrib, and promotion on various social networks, Evans envisions a much broader audience, and more charitable bang for the memorabilia bucks.
Here’s how it might work, using the former Sounder as an example:
- Evans scores two goals in a match against Portland.
- In the locker room, he takes a video that says something like, “Brad Evans here and I just scored two goals in this jersey. For seven days it will be on auction and proceeds will go to Seattle Children’s Hospital.”
- The athlete uploads to Contrib and clicks “share on all platforms.”
- The video is also sent to the athlete’s social channels and fans who click the link are sent to Contrib where they can bid.
- After seven days the winner’s payment is processed. Contrib takes 15% and the remaining 85% is sent to the charity that the athlete has chosen.
“What I like about this is it’s really powered by the athlete and they get control over where those funds are going,” Evans said. “Hopefully you get the full circle social experience where the winner can post on social media, the athlete can engage with that person. That’s where I think it all comes together.”
That experience is a little reminiscent of Cameo, the video-sharing platform that has attracted athletes, musicians, actors and more in a bid to monetize selfies for fans. Seattle sports legends such as Detlef Schrempf, Edgar Martinez and Steve Largent are using Cameo to offer up birthday wishes and much more.
Contrib soft-launched with an auction for a Sounders Jimi Hendrix scarf signed by Evans which sold for $400 last week after attracting 33 bids. Proceeds will benefit the RAVE Foundation, the charitable arm of the Sounders, to help build mini soccer pitches throughout the Seattle area.
— brad evans (@brad_evans3) May 29, 2021
Evans is initially turning to his friends and people he knows to help get Contrib rolling, so soccer gear will be popular in the early going. A Jordan Morris jersey is expected to hit the site this week, and signed goalie gloves from Stefan Frei or cleats from Cristian Roldan could follow. Evans wants to have a solid platform running when he reaches out to other stars, such as Sue Bird or Megan Rapinoe.
And he sees Contrib auctions going beyond sports memorabilia, with inclusion of such things as a popular band’s set list after a concert or experiential items such as dinner with someone like Seattle hip-hop star Macklemore or a round of golf with Evans and Morris.
“My brain goes a million different places,” Evans said.
Contrib got some initial backing from David Cantu and Rick Cantu, the co-founders of Redapt, the Seattle-area technology solutions provider. Jared Wray, co-founder and CTO at software and logistics platform Palmetto, is providing technical expertise to help Evans iron out any of Contrib’s kinks.
In the first couple months, Evans figures it’ll be a slow crawl to walk and then run as he onboards more personalities and generates buzz for what he’s building. He’s excited about his commitment to helping non-profits.
“Ultimately I wanted to get money to the people that needed it most. That was the main goal,” Evans said. “And as athletes, there’s no better way to do that than with memorabilia.”