Jeremy Levine and Nicolo Giorgi launched StarStreet in 2009, which began as an athlete stock exchange but eventually turned into a daily fantasy sports site. They did pretty well but did not gain the momentum and the dollar backing today’s Goliaths of the daily fantasy world have. The Goliaths control nearly 95% of the DFS game but that doesn’t mean the game is over. The daily fantasy sports industry is growing fast, and there seems to be room for more, but not necessarily more of the same. As of now, there are somewhere between 20 to 30 DFS sites in operation, and as each one launches we are greeted to new features, new user interfaces, and new game formats. With a $2.1 million initial round of investor cash, Draft is ready to launch its way into the daily sports scene. Everyone is competing for the top spot and armed with the knowledge and experience from his previous ventures, Levine is looking to separate himself from the competition with a new style of DFS game that is mobile first.
“I had the idea for awhile, and it was also totally crazy to me that no one had built a fantasy game specifically for mobile before…” Jeremy Levine
We looked forward to it every year. Long before the days of choosing a lineup week to week, “draft day” was as important as your wedding anniversary or maybe even a child’s birthday. It was a serious affair and the only time everyone was ever on time for anything.
“My favorite part of fantasy is the draft…” Jeremy Levine
Using draft is extremely simple and I can see how it will have broad appeal. All you have to do is download the app, create your account and you are off and running. Click the “start a new Draft” button, choose your entry fee (There are Free games available) and begin choosing players. It is a Head to Head format in which each player gets (So far only NFL games are available) a QB, 2 RB, and 2 WR/TE. Once the draft begins it continues in snake draft format until each player drafts 5 players. Each players gets 10 minutes and will receive a push notification on their device when it is their turn to draft. The drafting page is complete with projected points and a search bar and tabs for each position in case you want to find a specific player quickly. There is no player swap in this format so if your putting money on the line you better be in tune with injury reports. Once drafts have been completed they can be viewed on one page, and choosing them will reveal each lineup and allow you to challenge the player for money if you selected to play for free. As of now the only buy ins are $5.50, $11, and $55 dollars.
“ESPN, Yahoo, DraftKings, et al., all have great mobile apps, the games aren’t geared toward maximizing the gaming experience for mobile users.” Jeremy Levine
It seems that they aren’t necessarily going after DraftKings and Fanduel by trying to stand toe to toe with them on their court, they want to capture the exploding mobile market by using the new growing appeal for one day fantasy sports. Levine said he envisioned it to be the daily fantasy equivalent of Words with Friends. According to Zynga, Words with Friends has about 55 million matches being played at any given time.
“If we get this right,” he said, “this is going to be the easy entry into fantasy for people hesitant to get involved. With mobile, we have an opportunity to go way wider than the typical fantasy site.” Jeremy Levine
Going after wider market means making the product more easily accessible and simple to use. It is estimated that 40 million people play fantasy sports in the US each year and daily fantasy sites are capturing around one million of those players. Those are the hardcore players, the ones who play on DraftKings and Fanduel almost every day or every week. The causal fan can pick up the app and make some picks on the couch and put up the entry fee without the time and energy spent trying to fit players in a salary cap format.
40 million people is a lot but when you consider that mobile penetration in the United States is 101%, meaning there is at least one mobile device for every American, you’re looking at a much larger audience to capture imminently. A growing number of people are playing casual and casino games on mobile devices. Taking aim at both of these user bases and any casual NFL fan looks like a good way to go. Draft is only available in Apple’s App Store and is enjoying five star reviews so far even though a game has yet to be played. The reviewers are excited about the format and the ease of use of the app.
So far Draft only offers NFL games but is projected to have NBA games by Christmas and MLB up and running before the beginning of the season. We should see NHL come to Draft as well but it looks like we will have to wait until next year. Since Draft isn’t targeting the hardcore daily players as much as the top two sites they can offer an entry level daily fantasy sports experience for all types of players, especially those playing it for the first time. Picking up on how a daily fantasy site works and how to create rosters and enter games isn’t easy to the causal Yahoo fantasy sports player and Draft looks to be poised to change that.