A group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs recently announced that next year, San Francisco will have a new professional soccer team: The San Francisco Deltas. Leading the way as the face of the operation is Colombian-born entrepreneur Brian Andrés Helmick.
Thirty-nine-year-old Helmick is a long-time San Francisco resident, having lived there for the past 13 years. He graduated from Stanford Graduate School of Business and went on to found Algentis – a human resources platform for startups – which he later sold in 2014. In search of a new and exciting endeavor, he became enamored with soccer culture.
“I’m a startup guy, a technology guy,” he told The Guardian’s Jack William. “We’re in a city where multibillion dollar companies started in a college dorm room or a garage. And what I like about the NASL [North American Soccer League, the U.S.’s “second division”] model compared to the other model [MLS] is that you spend according to where you are in your phase of development. We can focus more funds on getting the fanbase going and putting the team together – rather than spending it on a franchise space.”
Getting the fanbase going is exactly what he’s done; through dozens of meetings, Helmick has garnered up some very real enthusiasm. Not to mention the fact that he’s secured the backing of investors who have helped the likes of Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter.
“There are no billboards of the Deltas in San Francisco,” he said. “There are no TV commercials. It’s been time spent at the pub, at the pickup games, at adult recreation and competitive games, at soccer nonprofits, at youth soccer – just being out there and talking to people.”
There are three pillars to which he and his colleagues adhere: transparency, community, and innovation. First off, there’s transparency in relation to money matters and, in particular, Delta’s decision to accept a five-year permit to play at Kezar Stadium (home to the San Francisco 49ers from 1946 to 1970), which forces them to pay $460,000 in renovations among other expenses. In terms of community-related matters, Helmick has stringent criteria with respect to who he involves in the club (they have to be nice and respectable and sports lovers!). Helmick hopes to innovate using artificial intelligence to enhance the experience of both players on the pitch and fans in the stands.
“We are in the early adopter capital of the world, so if there’s ever going to be a place where you can try new things [in soccer] it’s going to be in San Francisco,” he explained. Smart ticketing and a move towards seating based on interests and backgrounds? These are fresh and creative ideas that have us eagerly awaiting Delta’s next big move.
“We have the beauty of starting with clean slate. We have to build it, so we can do whatever we want.” So far, so good. It feels like they’re doing it right, in these earliest stages at least.