Rax and James – Founders of Moneyball

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Rax Huq and James Fitzgerald are the cofounders of moneyball.com.au. They are sports-mad guys who come from digital backgrounds, having met while working at Fairfax Media.

James was product director for the jewel in the Fairfax crown, Domain.com.au – overseeing its website and mobile app product strategy and delivery. Since departing 2.5 years ago, he’s been helping a number of businesses with their digital product and marketing strategies, before deciding to embark on the moneyball.com.au adventure.

Rax ran search marketing across the Fairfax Classifieds group, and gained earlier experience for several large advertising agencies. Since his departure 3 years ago, he has been running a performance marketing business, before switching focus to moneyball.com.au

Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

Moneyball.com.au is a daily and weekly fantasy sports platform, where users pay to enter contests on their sport of choice.

Unlike other fantasy sports platforms, which operate on a season-long basis with no wagering aspect to it, moneyball.com.au offers it’s contests on either a daily basis (for example, the Friday night games) or over the course of a weekend to cover all games in the round. Users can either create their own contest to send out to their friends, setting the entry fee and prize pool and the games to be included in that contest, or they can enter any other contest that is available in the lobby to play against other users. Moneyball offers leagues anywhere from 2 players upwards to several 100, with entry fees and prize pools starting from $2.

Our users select their team from the actual players involved in the real life sporting contests, and as the games are underway the performances of their selected players accumulate points based on their on field performances as per a set of defined scoring rules for on field actions. For example, if a player makes a tackle, they will earn moneyball points. If they make an error, they will loose moneyball points.

Our scoring updates in real time, so as our users are watching the game either at the ground or on the TV, they can see how their fantasy players scores update live, and how this compares to their mates.

At the conclusion of the contest, whoever’s selected players have performed best and earned the most points, wins the money!

We had been paying attention to the phenomenal growth of the daily fantasy sports market in the US, with the 2 market leaders building over the past 3 years to a user base of 1.5M with annual revenues close to $100M.

We thought that sports mad Australia would love the concept as well as drive increased interest in the sports involved, with a strong fantasy player base already (approx. 1.4M Aussies) and a sports betting population of 1.5M. Moneyball meets these two in the middle.

For us, moneyball.com.au is as much about “chest betting” against your mates as it is about taking a little bit of a wager off them.

Please explain your business model (How do you make money?)

We take 10% on all prize pools as our fee. For example, if 10 people enter a contest that costs $10 to enter, the prize pool is $90 with the other $10 as our fee. Once you take out duties to the gaming commission and the sporting codes themselves, we are left with a lot less than that!

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?

We will very soon be introducing iOS and Android apps to make it easier for users to access and play on either mobiles. We’ve got a nice mobile experience now, but were excited about introducing these. We are also looking more and more about how we enhance the ‘mates’ side of things. 

How do you make ideas happen?

We have 1000’s of ideas for moneyball.com.au and prioritising is key. There’s always things we need to do out of necessity that people will never see, such as everything around compliance etc, but outside of these we look at how we add value to the customer experience, and how we grow customer numbers. We look at everything from a customer point of view, as ultimately the more customers we attract to moneyball.com.au that have a pleasurable experience, the greater the chance of them playing moneyball week in week out. We manage our slate on a week to week basis, planning what will be worked on this week and constructing a backlog for next week and the weeks after. This is quite dynamic as you would imagine, which is the benefit of this approach and quite necessary at this early stage of our business.

Outside of technical development, we spend a great amount of time establishing partnerships with fansites and publishers alike, so we can reach relevant audiences. We’re pretty tenacious in our approach with this! 

What does your typical day look like?

We gave up on typical a long time ago! We split our week on product development and working with our developers; building our audience through marketing and affiliate partnerships; and servicing our existing customers. Most days are pretty long at this stage.

And then of course from Friday through to Monday we’re watching a lot of sport and making sure the site operates as we would hope with live scoring and contest settlement.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

We were self funded for the creation phase of moneyball.com.au, which was a significant amount of cash for 2 run of the mill blokes, around $300k. I think a big problem in Australia is the lack of capital investment options. Although we have been fortunate to secure funding, we keep hearing from other start ups just how incredibly hard it is compared with the US. There is so much talent and ideas here, it’s disappointing to think that many of them will never see the light of day due to the lack of investment backing to get ideas off the ground.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

Being a former Domain guy I think about real estate a lot. I think this is an industry ready for disruption, whether that be the advertising model or the role of agents. Tough nut to crack though.

What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?

We are the first in the market for our industry, so it’s hard to think about who might be comparable. We are based in a start up hub in Sydney: Tank Stream Labs, and everyday I am incredibly impressed by some of the fantastic ideas and businesses that are evolving here and at other workspaces like this.

In the ‘sports’ space, I love some of the concepts around ‘wearable tech’ to measure player performances for coaching purposes, and I think there is something we can do to tie this back into moneyball.

What about internationally?

The two big guys in the US – fanduel.com and draftkings.com are always a source of inspiration.

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

A big part of what we believe at moneyball is that we want to get people more engaged with sport and their sporting team. We have product ideas around getting people back to the stadium watching the game, as ultimately if we can increase fan engagement it is good for the sport and good for moneyball.

Speaking of affecting social change, is there a particular charity you’d like our readers to support?

I’ve recently shaved my head as part of the “greatest shave” – 7 of us raised a considerable sum of money (thanks again sponsors!) for the Leukaemia Foundation which helps family support and research into leukaemia.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.

Moneyball.com.au (of course!)

Home-camp.com (great concept)

airtasker.com.au

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

We are looking for all of that. We’ve had great success with interns and in fact have ended up hiring some. We are also looking to 2nd stage funding soon and starting to put the feelers out there to accelerate our growth.

We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?

Navigating the Australian VC landscape.

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

Baxters Inn – Sydney

 

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