I dropped out of university 8 years ago to pursue my first startup, Draftpot, because I felt like there was something massive missing in the U.S. sports gaming industry. I remember first seeing FanDuel & DraftKings marketing when I began college in 2013 and thinking to myself that daily fantasy sports was the best idea ever. They (along with other pioneers like DraftStreet & StarStreet) had introduced an order of magnitude greater level of instant gratification to season long fantasy sports, making my favorite hobby significantly more engaging. I became obsessed. But as I interacted with these products, I kept thinking to myself — how would normal, non fantasy obsessed casual sports fans be able to or desire to interact with these user experiences? Their UIs featured intimidating contest lobbies littered with hundreds of “GPPs” and their UX was predicated on mastering a salary cap game that would become dominated by the top 0.1% of quantitatively savvy DFS players. Draftpot launched the first dedicated no salary cap game format for daily fantasy in 2014 to deliver a product for the casual fan — and while we ultimately were not as successful as we would’ve hoped to have been — we built something different and interesting and the feedback we received from consumers gave me even stronger conviction that the core insight was correct — that the category defining consumer experience in U.S. sports gaming had not existed yet.
While I was building Draftpot, I was introduced to traditional sports betting for the first time, which at the time was not legal in the U.S. outside of Las Vegas but available via offshore books. I remember trying to place a bet on a game and thinking to myself, what the fuck is a -175 moneyline? +5.5 spread? 54.5 O/U? I had to Google how to bet on sports. That seemed insane to me! Something as simple as placing a bet on a sporting event outcome was like interacting with a foreign language. The traditional sportsbook user experience problem was even worse than the daily fantasy sports one!
Sports betting was not yet legal in the U.S. as of 2016 / early 2017 when I wanted to start getting after this problem, so I moved to Eastern Europe to partner with an existing business there to begin testing out a reimagined sports betting UX to consumers, which we would then launch westward throughout Europe and ultimately in the U.S. I quickly realized this endeavor would have a greater chance to succeed as a U.S.-based venture backed business, so I moved back to the U.S. in early 2018 and ultimately re-formed the business as “Simplebet” with Chris Bevilacqua and Scott Marshall. Those crazy guys took a chance on a 22 year old who wanted to disrupt one of the most difficult legacy markets in the world and I will always be grateful to them for that!
We started Simplebet to “simplify” the sports betting user experience as a direct-to-consumer operator, while staying open to the possibility of going to market as a B2B company. To reconsider why sports betting UIs felt like interacting with spreadsheets and why the UX was uninterpretable for a casual sports fan who had never bet on sports before. To build the Robinhood to the betting industry’s E-Trade. To convert the casual fan into a sports bettor and ultimately enhance the public’s consumption of sports.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than smart — six weeks after incorporating SimpleBet Inc., PASPA was struck down by the Supreme Court and the federal ban on sports betting in the U.S. was repealed. As a result, we decided to focus exclusively on designing these simple user experiences for U.S. sports. You can view some of those initial design ideas today on simplebet.io.
It was only after trying to design product around the unique moments that drive U.S. sports consumption — e.g. pitches & at-bats of baseball games and plays & drives of football games — that we realized no company had built the technical infrastructure to enable micro-betting at scale for U.S. sports. And it makes sense why this didn’t exist prior to the U.S. market opening up — soccer drove the global regulated sports betting market, and what moments are there to bet on during a soccer match?
U.S. sports are fundamentally different, featuring a stop and start cadence, plenty of scoring and speculation around players and what they will do next. Given how (1) the composition of U.S. sports lends itself perfectly to micro-betting, and (2) how this new form of betting introduces an order of magnitude greater level of instant gratification to the sports betting user experience — similar in nature to what daily fantasy introduced to season long fantasy sports a decade ago — we started operating with conviction that micro-betting may ultimately be the predominant way people would bet on U.S sports. So we decided to build the technology to enable it ourselves, and despite some fits and starts along the way, we finally figured out the tech.
We decided to go to market as a B2B company that would license the technology to other betting operators, given the resource allocation & focus required solely on the product & technology. Being the leading technology supplier for micro-betting & eventually all forms of in-play sports betting is a wholly separate business —and a good one at that. Simplebet is a valuable business, employing some of the brightest minds in the industry, and really scaling up from revenue & traction standpoints. Super proud of what Simplebet has become and grateful for leaders like Chris Bevilacqua, Mark Nerenberg, Simon Gershey and many others for getting the business to where it is today!
But the user experience problem around sports betting remains — and from my standpoint, represents the biggest limiting factor to the mainstream adoption of not just micro-betting, but sports betting as a category in general. In the 4 years since the federal ban on sports betting was lifted, the experience still hasn’t changed! The core UX is still driven by things like moneylines, point spreads, and over/unders — the same foreign language that most people who have never bet on sports before do not understand. And while companies like DraftKings have pushed the envelope on product innovation by launching micro-betting technology enabled by Simplebet, they are presenting micro-betting as a feature within a supermarket of legacy sports betting products vs as the core experience. If we are to believe that micro-betting will be the predominant way people bet on sports in the U.S., then someone should launch the world’s first micro-betting focused app. This is why we are starting Betr.
Betr is launching the world’s first micro-betting focused app, unbundling the micro-betting UX by making it the core product experience and delivering it in a simple, intuitive UI layer that anyone can understand. Our objective is to become the consumer company, product, and brand synonymous with micro-betting — and ultimately the category defining real money gaming consumer business in the U.S.
Given the convergence of sports betting & sports media, and how the latter is just as antiquated as the former, we are also launching a media company, led by Jake Paul. Jake has quickly become the world’s most disruptive athlete-influencer, single-handedly driving interest in boxing through his 70M followers on social media, where he gained fame as a top 5 global creator and YouTuber. Jake has become one of the world’s most searched public figures on Google and is now one of the world’s highest paid athletes. And he is probably the smartest marketing mind I have ever met. I can’t think of a better partner to build Betr with as we capture not just brand awareness, but brand affinity — and bring Betr to the next generation of sports fans.
We are assembling a world class team to build Betr with us. Alex Ursa is Betr Head of Product, joining us from FanDuel where he helped build their sports betting & casino businesses into the clear market leader. Mike Denevi is Betr Head of Media, joining us from Bleacher Report where he helped build BR Betting into the top sports betting media brand on social. Ashwin Krishnan, Jake Strasser, Bradley Gabel, Victor Pires, Caroline McDonald, and Derek Sullivan are also on the founding team — most of whom have picked up their lives and moved to Miami to build Betr with us. We are hiring across the board and if you are still reading this, I hope you give us a look!
Finally I’ve got to shoutout Geoffrey Woo & Nakisa Bidarian, who played an integral role in helping me and Jake get this business off the ground. Scott Marshall for helping me think through the many challenges along the way since he invested in me as a 19 year old first starting Draftpot. Greg Elinsky for helping me pursue DTC Simplebet. Chris Bevilacqua whose leadership made this all possible. And Saxon Baum, Ryan Whittemore, & everyone at Florida Funders for believing in me not once, not twice, but three times now — having invested in Simplebet, 305 Ventures, and now Betr — leading our Series A by making the largest investment in their firm’s history. So pumped to build this company in Miami with you all.
Lots more to come. LFG!!!