Unsatisfied by the static nature of the sports betting industry, three Sydney-based sport acolytes decided to take matters into their own hands and build a mobile app. Their startup, playfully named Bet Your Balls, facilitates all the fun and banter between friends around ‘who will win the game’.
The startup was founded by entrepreneurs with impressive track records. Doug Carlson was the founder of greengrocer.com.au which was later sold to Woolworths; Nick Fish was the original founder of FishTech which was later sold to Solution 6; and Jeff Brookes established Habbo.com. All three share a common hobby of sports tipping; and they decided to team up and execute an industry disruption.
And yes, Bet Your Balls is what they came up with. The app enables the broadcasting of bets to a player’s friends; and gamifies the betting process through power-ups, bonuses, penalties, badges, and customised leaderboards.
The gameplay is fairly simple. Players harvest their Balls via tipping – and then use those Balls to bet against their friends. They can test their skill by competing on the global leaderboards; or alternatively they can create their own competitions and invite their friends to compete. The best part, according to the founders, is the fact that players can rub it in after they’ve won the bet.
Co-Founder and CEO, Brookes says, “Featuring a huge range of Aussie, USA and European team sports, Bet Your Balls has shaken up the traditional sports tipping model by allowing players to actually do something with the points they earn through tipping, instead of just blindly climbing the leaderboards.”
Spotting an opportunity
Although betting is now done online, Brookes says the actual gameplay hasn’t changed all that much from the days when people put their paper tips into an office envelop.
As such, the founders spotted an opportunity to disrupt the sport tipping industry. To keep with today’s trends, they specifically created a mobile app and added new gamification elements to the tipping process.
They also created gameplay so that it wouldn’t matter if players missed a week of tipping or had a few bad weeks of results. They could still compete across the whole game season.
Essentially, the power is in the hands of players who can create and manage their own fully customised tipping competition.
Capital raise and development
After conceiving the idea, the founders decided to raise a small amount of funds from a group of investors in their own networks.
Initially, they raised enough money to build a Minimum Viable Product. They used their basic iOS build to validate the concept amongst a core group of sports fans.
Once the product was validated with positive feedback from users, and had month-to-month retention rates of over 75 percent, they knew they were onto something great. The validation motivated them to enter the next stage – in this case, the next stage was raising additional funds for a more advanced iOS and Android version of the app.
Brookes says they initially used an Australian company for their front-end development – and although they were happy with the result, they realised very quickly that Bet Your Balls was going to be a very expensive and complex ongoing development project.
“We needed to move to a cheaper off shore development solution. We now have a full time development team based abroad, and an Australian based in-house back-end developer,” he says.
Business model and marketing
Globally, the sports industry is worth $650 billion, with over three billion soccer fans alone. The Bet Your Balls founders haven’t decided what slice of that market they’d like to have a hold over, but Brookes says a small slice would provide their investors with a nice return.
At the moment, though, they’re placing most of their marketing efforts on our own sports obsessed nation.
“The success of the app will be determined by its ability to go viral. The good thing about our content – sports, mates and banter – is that it’s inherently fun, popular and social. This provides all the makings for a viral app – if executed well,” says Brookes.
“This flame of virality is key – we will then spend some additional funds through performance-based mobile networks to fan this flame.”
Currently, Bet Your Balls is completely free to use. Brookes acknowledges that there are several monetisation options available to them – such as an in-app purchase if the player runs out of Balls mid month and cannot wait until the end of the month to get topped up, as well as advertising, sponsorships and premium features.
But at this stage, they’re not trying to drive user revenues: “We are 100 percent focused on providing a fun and engaging experience for our users – all for free,” he says.
Thus far, users have provided overwhelmingly positive feedback: “Our users love the game – so if the service is ever down for maintenance we get panicked emails from our players – when will it be up again!”
However, that’s not to say that there have not been challenges throughout the process. Brookes says it was difficult complying with the old adage of “fast, cheap and good”.
“We have gone “good and cheap” – however the process has taken longer than we hoped,” he says.
This year, the Bet Your Balls team will be focusing on product refinement and user acquisition.
“We plan to further develop the app and grow our user numbers by focusing on the viral potential of friends connecting through sport. We will then raise additional funds for us to take the business to a new level,” says Brookes.
Bet Your Balls is available on iTunes and Google Play for free. For more information, visit www.betyourballs.com.au.