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Nov 28, 2017

Draftboard CEO Dan Quinn talks with eGaming Review

eGaming Review is the world’s leading publisher group for the online gaming and DFS industry, featuring consistent exclusive news, interviews and comment from the most influential people in the sector. Draftboard CEO Dan Quinn recently sat down with Brad Allen of eGaming Review on how his new DFS platform can appeal to pros and recs and provide a second-screen experience.

Download the interview as it appears in the eGaming Review Magazine.

EGR: There’s a good reason so many DFS start-ups have come and gone, according to Dan Quinn, the CEO of Draftboard. Of course there are many challenges, including regulatory issues and the shark/minnow ecology, but the biggest mistake most firms make, he says, is trying to take FanDuel and DraftKings on at their own game.

Specifically that means marketing around GPP prize pools. “How many firms have gone bust shouting about their $500k prize pools, which they can’t fill, while DraftKings has got a $5m GPP anyway,” Quinn says.

Which means his DFS product Draftboard shies away from that kind of competition and looks to establish a name for itself with two unique features. The first is the Fair Match contest structure, which attempts to match players up with contestants of a similar skill level and essentially level the playing field. The second unique feature is an in-play visualization tool which plays out the real life action on your computer screen.

As Quinn puts it: “Our live animations play out every time your players are involved in the action, so you can watch your QB throw deep down the field and sweat it out as the receiver tries to haul it in.”

The project is the brainchild of Quinn, a former poker pro, and his fellow poker player partner Phil Galfond. Below, Quinn explains how Draftboard is leveraging its unique features to carve out a profitable niche in the DFS market.

EGR: How did you meet Phil Galfond and come to launch the site together?

Dan Quinn (DQ): So we met on a poker forum about 14 years ago and ended up living in the same house in Las Vegas together and essentially became best friends talking about poker and just hanging out in general. And then we became business partners with Run It Once, the online poker training site. But I’ve always had the sports itch, and that interest in scouting and being a GM.

I used to live in the same building in Toronto as the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. His name was JP Ricciardi and he was one of the first Moneyball guys, using a ton of statistics to analyze his decisions in terms of player acquisitions. I used to pester him in the lift about hiring me to analyze players for him. So I’ve always wanted to do something related to that and then daily fantasy took off and it was pretty close to that. And I saw some problems with the market, so me and Phil just decided to go for it.

EGR: What flaws did you see in the market and why do you think you can succeed with a DFS platform, where so many have failed?

DQ: The reason that we started Draftboard was we strongly believe that the connection between you and your fantasy players is incredibly powerful and that is the core reason people play fantasy sports. When one of your NFL players scores a touchdown, the enjoyment you get from that is massive.

And we looked at the industry and thought: ‘this is the reason people do this and this is by far the best part of the experience, but other sites are layering additional complexity on top’. So we want to simplify the experience and magnify that owner to player connection as much as possible.

EGR: So one aspect of your identity is Fair Match, and the other part is your visualizations?

DQ: Yes, it’s all about building that connection between the user and their players. We feel that is by far the most important part of the fantasy experience that we’re always trying to emphasize. So you have the actual court or field in front of you. We receive the real-time data feed telling us what happened and we will recreate that visually for the user so that instead of just seeing your point total tick up you actually see a silhouette of a quarterback and your players playing.

Watching it myself and seeing the actual play happen and seeing the faces appear, it really strengthens that bond. You’re just like ‘oh my god, touchdown, amazing!’ And the business reason is that no one is doing this, and they should all be doing it because it really does matter. It’s a great differentiation point for us. It all goes back to building that connection between the user and the athlete.

EGR: Can you talk us through the Fair Match system which is the other key part of your identity?

DQ: There are three core parts. We actually looked at the way other sites were handling discrepancies in player skill level and it seemed to be lazy arbitrary systems like ‘you can’t play more than 20 of this dollar value contests.’ We have rookie contests from $1-$5 and veteran contests from $10-$50. And you can’t play in both types of contest on the same day. Because if you’re a pro, it’s not worth your time playing in these small contests. The parallel there is poker. Phil is one of the best players in the world and he could go clean up at 5-10c blinds. But it’s not worth his time.

Secondly, contests are formed using a random opponent selection process that eliminates the problem of experienced pros targeting new players. And thirdly we have a multi-entry system which matches first entries in a contest with other first entries, second entries with second entries, and third versus third. Just to be clear, a user that enters a contest three times can still be in a contest versus a user who enters once, as both users’ first entry might get placed in the same contest.

EGR: What’s your current view on the DFS market? Do you think FanDuel and DraftKings are vulnerable to smaller operators like yourselves, Boom and Draft?

DQ: I think the industry in general is still strong. Yeah I’ve heard of FanDuel struggling but I think it’s more about the cost base than the revenue side. I think ultimately people love daily fantasy sports. I think it’s significantly better than season-long for NFL fantasy where you have tons of injuries that just train wreck your team.

So I think the industry is here to stay, the legal tide has turned. I think that a lot of companies that came before us and went bankrupt just had no identity. DraftKings and FanDuel built this industry off of extremely large prize pools, but there’s no reason that daily fantasy sports and super large prize pools need to be linked like that.

I never played in those GPPs because I didn’t actually know anybody that had ever won one and I didn’t expect to win. But essentially all of our predecessors built their identity on prize pool size. Which if you think about it doesn’t make any sense. DraftKings is always going to be 10 times the size. You can never take that identity from them. You also saw lots of companies build their identity around offering overlay.

And that’s a questionable business decision, because you cannot offer overlay and make money. So as you become successful and fill tournaments, you stop offering overlay and you lose the identity you were trying to build. I think it was just a lack of creativity really. And I get it because it was such a hot industry. There was a rush to get platforms into the market without much thought going into identities and planning.

EGR: But you haven’t necessarily shied away from jackpot prizes completely, correct?

DQ: That was one thing that we were a little bit concerned about when we were in development was being a small site. We feel like the small site experience is where it’s at. But there is definitely a lot of risk because we didn’t know how much of the population needed that possibility of a big pay-out. So that’s what our Record Breaker feature is for. Essentially you can win $10,000 any time your team breaks the weekly record for that sport. And everybody is eligible for that, whether they’ve entered a $1 or $50 contest.

We’re also doing a unique promotion for our NBA contests as well called Dynasty, where we’ll add up your top 10 contest entries for the year in NBA, and the best total score gets $10,000, second gets $6,000, and so on. So there’s a jackpot element there but it also encourages repeat play, as the more you play, the better chance you’ll have.

EGR: I guess DK Live might be the closest thing to your app in as far as it tried to provide a second screen for players during games. How does that stack up against your product?

DQ: I think it’s really well-executed. I don’t think that it evokes the same emotional response as watching our live view. I mean it’s great for information and it’s really well-designed and beautiful but it just doesn’t have the same emotional impact on the user I think. And that’s why we do what we do.

EGR: Have you been pleased with the early metrics?

DQ: Yeah definitely. We launched the NFL in Week 4 and recently launched NBA as well. We’re obviously coming from a very small base and we haven’t thrown any money at this in terms of marketing yet, but our retention has been incredible. That’s the metric that I’m keying on and it means that people that come to the site are loving it. People love the fact that we only allow one line-up and that just goes back to simplifying the experience and increasing that connection. And we are showing steady growth. Every contest we put out we’ve grown.

EGR: And in terms of geography, last I heard you were only live in Canada. Is that still the case?

DQ: We’re in Canada and 30 US states. In terms of the US, we’re probably the most conservative site in terms of states we operate in. And that’s just not having the legal budget to fight battles in questionable states. So yeah we’re out of states like Texas and Florida. There’s a sort of grey area in terms of legality in Illinois and Georgia so we stay away. And then there’s the sites the small operators can’t be in necessarily, like Delaware. $50,000 for a third of a percent of the US population is ridiculous.

But the nice thing is we’re not in a rush to monetize. We’re waiting until there’s a real business reason to be in these states. I mean if we just got bought for $48m like Draft, yeah we would load up and take them all at this point in time. But it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense right now.œ

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Dan Quinn
CEO, Draftboard.com