Combating sports is a rapidly evolving niche with millions of fans worldwide. Today we meet Kosta Jordanov, who saw it as an opportunity. Combining his two life-long passions for combat sports and technology, he launched FITE – a premium direct-to-consumer digital live streaming network and service.
Here’s the inspiring story of the company and its founder. Let’s dive right in.
From an introverted engineer to a successful entrepreneur
Kosta followed in his father’s footsteps and became an engineer. From playing with rudimentary computers in his early childhood to exploring AI algorithms in his free time, engineering and programming have always been a key part of his life.
Later, Kosta went into entrepreneurship and founded two successful startups – selling the first one (Arexus) back in 2000 to the biggest European internet consultancy at the time and listing the second one (Bianor) on the BSE.
“I became an entrepreneur by accident, basically in order to continue a project with Nick Rashev, a friend and a colleague I was working with at IBM at the time,” recalls Kosta.
“I had to learn on the job, and basically transform myself over the years from an introverted engineer to a person whose primary job is to sell a vision to partners, users, investors, and colleagues.”
The new fight: FITE
Although Kosta already had a few successful businesses under his belt, he didn’t stop there.
“In my experience, one needs to challenge himself to learn and grow, which often means getting outside of his comfort zone.”
Since he only had experience with service businesses, Kosta wanted to learn how to build and market a consumer product.
“Prior to launching FITE we built and patented a technology that enables the delivery of live video streams directly from the cloud to connected TV screens.”
That’s how FITE was born – as a specific application of this technology, connecting Kosta’s two lifelong passions – technology and combat sports (he has practiced Karate for 8 years, and now practices Jiu-Jitsu).
“We picked combat sports because of the proliferation of the pay-per-view business model. This allowed us to secure premium content rights on a revenue share basis and to monetize viewers effectively. In addition, the relative fragmentation of the market allowed for a strong independent distributor like us to emerge,” as he explains.
Standing out from the competition
Sports streaming is a very lucrative and therefore very competitive market. FITE differentiates with its focus on a few selected sports, the quality of the streaming experience (no interruptions, no buffering, minimal latency), rich multi-programmer content offering, community interaction features (live chats, votes, user-generated content), advanced content discovery (including machine-learning-based recommendations), and the ability to deliver to any screen.
“Our biggest success to date is reaching 1.7M daily active users and 200,000 live paid simultaneous streams,” shares Kosta.
He recalls the first big event they streamed - Canelo vs GGG in 2017. It was the second-largest pay-per-view event of the year (second only to Mayweather vs. McGregor) and the stakes were very high.
“FITE’s small and dedicated team outperformed the largest US media companies, some of which were also streaming the event, both in terms of the number of viewers, as well as the quality of the experience.”
With the event taking place at US prime time, the Bulgarian arm of Kosta’s team spent the whole Saturday night at the office.
“At 8 am Bulgarian time the final bell rang, and we realized how exhausted we are from the 24 hours no-sleep marathon and the operational stress… It actually felt like we were the ones stepping out of the ring after 12 rounds. But we were also incredibly proud of what we had just done.”
Part of a larger tech ecosystem
Kosta had no hesitation about joining Campus X.
“Knowing the people behind Campus X, and some of the founders of the other companies on-site, it was a no-brainer.”
Also, the proximity to like-minded professionals and industry experts creates constant opportunities for exchange of ideas with people, facing similar challenges.
“For example, we work very closely with VertoDigital. Among other things, their ideas are behind some of the search automation projects we realized that allowed us to scale our campaigns from 2-3 events per week to 30 events per week.”
What’s next for FITE?
“More live events, more users, additional sports, product evolution, continued learning and growth,” says Kosta, adding that each day pushes the team to learn new things and this is by far their greatest motivator.