Brenton Sullivan wants to help high-school athletes find the right college, and he's taking a page out of online social networking's playbook to do it.
A former walk-on baseball player at USC, Sullivan co-founded FieldLevel nearly a decade ago. Now located in Solana Beach, the company has developed an online social networking platform for young athletes, high school/club coaches and college coaches.
What LinkedIn does for professional and employment networking, FieldLevel aims to do for college athletic recruiting.
"The purpose of the FieldLevel platform is to be a place where coaches can support their athletes in recruiting," said Sullivan, FieldLevel's chief executive. "What it has created is this really tight knit community of coaches, which we feel is the future of recruiting."
Founded in Los Angeles, FieldLevel moved its headquarters to Solana Beach in early 2017 to be closer to its technology development team. The 16-employee company has raised $2.1 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as Memphis Grizzlies co-owner Steve Kaplan and D.C. United co-owner Jason Levien.
FieldLevel refined its platform about three years ago. To date, about 140,000 athletes have used FieldLevel across 10 sports. Some 44,700 high school and club coaches and 10,300 college coaches are on the platform.
"Our platform is creating and strengthening these relationships, which is how real recruitment happens," said Sullivan.
Sam Pepper, an assistant baseball coach at Grossmont College, uses FieldLevel to get Grossmont's athletes on the radar of four-year universities, particularly those on the East Coast.
"I can reach over 1,000 coaches in one e-mail," Pepper said. "Before, we were doing it the old fashioned way — going to showcases, shaking hands, trying to meet people."
FieldLevel's platform hosts player video, academic transcripts and private evaluations from current coaches. If interested, college coaches can direct-message high school level coaches privately for more information.
Baseball is the most popular sport for athletes using FieldLevel. But it also is available for football, basketball, soccer and lacrosse for men, and volleyball, basketball, soccer, softball and lacrosse for women.
FieldLevel uses a "freemium" business model. Athletes and coaches get a standard set of features at no charge, such as setting up a profile and loading transcripts.
For $40 a month, athletes and coaches gain access to more features, such as an algorithm that recommends schools based on an athlete's strengths and criteria certain colleges are seeking.
Robert Griego of San Diego Dove Tail Baseball club began using FieldLevel about two years ago after researching other recruiting technology providers.
"In our line of work there is a lot of lip service — 'Hey, join our program for X amount and we'll get you a scholarship,' and that never comes to fruition," said Griego. "With FieldLevel, these athletes can see we are actively communicating with coaches. It creates transparency."
FieldLevel contends relationships between coaches on its platform lowers the risk of a bad recruiting outcome for both athletes and the college coaches.