Real Talk With Dan Porter of Overtime
The CEO of Overtime tells us what it takes to challenge ESPN for the crown of world’s biggest sports network.
Dan Porter’s mind is a dowsing rod for finding the web’s richest untapped markets. As president of Ticket Web, later acquired by Ticketmaster, Dan sold the first online concert ticket. Then, as CEO of OMGPOP, he helped create one of the first mobile gaming sensations with Draw Something, the success of which eventually resulted in a $200M acquisition by Farmville-makers Zynga.
Sometimes called a ‘serial entrepreneur’, since late 2016, Dan’s been laser-focused on tapping a new opportunity: the raw, latent social media power of tomorrow’s sports and e-sports stars, many of whom are still in high school. His new sports startup, Overtime, co-founded with Zack Weiner, aims to challenge ESPN for the crown of the world’s largest global sports network… not on the back of televised professional sports matches or already-established celebrity endorsements, but the combined reach of an entire generation of young up-and-comers sharing their sick dunks, tricks, end runs, and video game kills on social media.
Having just completed its Series B funding round, Overtime has raised over $35M to date, from top VC firms like Spark Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and Greycroft Ventures, as well as industry leaders like Kevin Durant and former NBA Commissioner David Stern. But before Overtime started raking in the converts, Afore Capital was there, believing in Dan and his vision even when other investors were giving him blank stares.
In this interview, we talk to Dan about the ‘Eureka!’ moment that led to Overtime, why some investors just aren’t worth working with, how his company found market fit, and what made him realize Afore was the perfect pre-seed partner for his new company.
Tell us about your ‘Eureka!’ moment. What inspired you to launch Overtime?
When I was working in the talent business as head of digital for WME, I kept hearing from my clients that the younger audience just wasn’t watching live sports in the same way older audiences were. High school kids weren’t checking out ESPN, or sitting down for three hours to watch a live game. It just seemed like such an obvious opportunity, to build a global sports network from the ground up for the social media age. But it was surprisingly hard to convince investors of that.
So they were skeptical? What was the reaction when you first approached partners and potential investors about Overtime?
Sports is a really hard vertical, so yeah, initially, investors were really skeptical. In those early meetings, I walked in thinking: ‘I’m Dan Porter. I’ve made investors money twice now and worked in some of the most dynamic companies in the world. Investors are going to beat down my door.” But really, it was much harder than I thought, because many VC’s right now really don’t like sports or media, so that first round was enormously difficult to raise. On the plus side, though, a lot of those investors who passed have since come back and said: ‘I was wrong.’”
How did you process it when investors passed?
Look, not every company is for every investor. So it’s fine if people pass. It’s only when they give you some bullshit rationale that only shows they didn’t understand your business at all that it’s frustrating.
I think the challenge for investors is that when you’re creating something totally new, you can analyze the limited data all you want, but at the end of the day you need to make a bet that a founder is seeing a real market opportunity and has the flexibility and tenaciousness to keep going after it. You have to see the intangibles, like authenticity, brand, and vision. And those intangibles are really hard to see if you don’t look beyond a spreadsheet.
Finding early funding is a lot like going on a bunch of bad blind dates.
So finding early funding is a lot like going on a bunch of bad blind dates. When I was pitching Overtime, I had investors who kept checking their phones, ghosted me, even fell asleep in our meetings. But all of those bad dates were worth it every time we found an investor who could jam with us and really make us think.
What convinced you that Afore was a good early partner for your company?
Meeting with Gaurav and Anamitra, two things appealed to me right away. First, they just got it. They asked great questions about what we wanted to build that showed they understood the opportunity and saw what I saw. But second, these guys weren’t just armchair investors. They were real product guys with real product backgrounds, who knew firsthand what it takes to create something tangible. I knew I could learn things from them.
[Afore] weren’t just armchair investors. They were real product guys with real product backgrounds, who knew firsthand what it takes to create something tangible. I knew I could learn things from them.
How did you know you had “product market fit” with Overtime? What advice do you have for other founders trying to get to product market fit?
For me, I think I knew we had fit when people started saying to me: ‘I see you guys everywhere’ but they’d never once checked out our website or our social media presences. They saw us everywhere because everyone was sharing our content.
As for finding product market fit, it’s never over. So my advice would be: move fast, keep tweaking, and don’t be afraid to throw stuff out.
What hiring advice do you have for other founders?
For me, a big part of interviewing a job candidate is taking the opportunity to really pound the desk and explain our brand and our mission. Right up front is the best time to really make sure people understand what we do. We don’t have any space here for people who don’t get it.
Some of the best people I’ve hired, it hasn’t been based necessarily on what they’ve already done, but about the potential I’ve seen in them. So we do a social media test to see what people can actually do, and that’s more important to us than just what skills they list on their resume.
Bottom line? If you find someone amazing, make space for them in your company. Don’t let talent get away from you because of technicalities.
Don’t let talent get away from you because of technicalities.
You just completed your Series B funding. What can you tell us about what’s next? What does Overtime go from here?
Working on building the biggest sports network in the world!