Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Interview with Jose daVeiga, KlickSports
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Los Angeles-based KlickSports (www.klicksports.com) recently rolled out the firm's live sports prediction web site and game, looking to harness the enthusiasm of sports fans for their favorite sports and teams. We spoke with Jose daVeiga, the firm's CEO and co-founder, to learn more about the company.
What's the idea behind Klicksports?
Jose daVeiga: In a nugget, we started Klicksports to empower sports fans with the ability to interact with sports they like, and with each other, in an interactive way which also provides them with information, on the fly. It's a Twitter-like experience, and harnesses the couch effect--as if you're sitting around the couch with your friends, having a few beers, and calling plays and trading smack talk. We've set out to enable that across any platform, live, during games. The underpinning of the technology is much more complex than that, of course, and we've been building this for awhile. It's an intelligent engine that filters information that we receive from stats feeds, and asks for responses to questions from sports fans based on the common interests of those sports fans. We don't ask questions about every play, but we ask questions about plays that matter. We started in 2006, with an in-venue trial at the Alamo Bowl, where we gave out prizes and coupons. Most, if not all of the fans -- 96 percent of them -- made every prediction. It was a great success, and was how we kicked it off. We are not trying to reinvent the fan, and are not trying to be a betting site. What we're trying to do is we're trying to make a "Blackberry" for sports--something you can't live without.
Explain what you mean by in-venue?
Jose daVeiga: In 2006, we started developing the concept, consisting of a PA announcement and a Jumbotrom image. It announced the sponsor, and had a call to action--which was to text ALAMO to 31207. Unlike a text-to-win game, the idea was to ask the fans about questions about what the two teams on the field would do. We made one announcement that year, in the first quarter, and had a huge adoption. The game consisted of a string of questions during the game that people could make predictions about. In 2007, we did five bowl team venues the same way. Last year, we decided to not do it in-venue, and did it all online, which did great. When we got funded, we worked harder to put together a product which was longer lasting, and not just a beta attempt like what we had done before.
What's your background, and the background of your other partner?
Jose daVeiga: Kent Jordan is my partner. We met at a startup where we were working at. I was doing project management at CarsDirect.com, and we met there while Kent was in Business Development. I started as a tester, but in six months, I had risen to assistant project manager at CarsDirect. It was 1999, and it was not like things are today! I then had the crazy idea to do something with sports. I had done lots of multimedia, and I have a background in architecture--and actually did a masters and Ph.D. in architectural technology. I think of it as a Ph.D. in Computer Science disguised as an architectural Ph.D., or maybe that's an architectural Ph.D. disguised as a Computer Science degree. Anyway, Kent and I went to lunch, and started throwing ideas around. Our first idea had nothing to do with what we are doing now, and it had to do with tracking players on the field. We found out there were people already doing that, and figured out that probably was not a good model. We filed for a patent in 2000, but in 2001, when we filed for the final patent, the market tanked. I then got laid off from a subsequent job with Strategic Data Corporation (which we sold to Fox Interactive), and went back to architecture, doing my masters and Ph.D. Kent also went off to other things, but in 2005 we got awarded that patent. In 2006, I decided, after Kent bugged me a lot, that it was time to try and make it a business. At the time, I was teaching at Cal Poly Pomona, so I stopped teaching, and went kamikaze and took the leap of faith. We started this as a business in 2006, so it could become what it is today, a brand and company of its own.
We understand you've gotten some angel funding?
Jose daVeiga: We got angel funding from independent and unaffiliated angels, 1.2 million early last year. We had done lots of work on friends and family money, and got the first check from a friend of mine. He walked in the door before we even had a prototype, and before the Alamo Bowl. He told me--I believe in you--and wrote a check for $20,000. We ran the company for a year and a half with only $80,000, building the back end, SMS proxy, etc. I had previously worked for SDC, Strategic Data Corp., and in December I started talking to my ex-boss, who is now Chairman of our board--Lee Cooper, who is now at the Anderson School. I started talking to him about funding, he was our advisor for about a year, and then the stars aligned and we raised money in December, and closed at the end of February.
So what's the revenue model for the site?
Jose daVeiga: As you can see online, we have a free model. We actually have a four pronged strategy. First, obviously, is we have sponsorships. This year is probably going to be a terrible year to chase that, but last year, we did a promotion with Fox Sports Network. Fox had pre-season basketball tournament and we did a promotion for them. Part of our model is also to sell promotional leads. Anyone can create a lead on Klicksports, and brands can sponsor a sport, an event, or a playoff event, which is a series of games. We offer prizes, deliver coupons, and are doing lots of other things. We're working very hard on streamlining that, so it's a finite product and not everything is totally custom. That will be one of our main streams of revenue. We're atively pitching for March Madness right now.
We are also going to offer premium features on the site. One we're going to release is called Fantasy Plus--we might change the name--and add on to fantasy where we become a complement to fantasy. If you have a fantasy sports league, we allow you to make projections when your play is on the field, based on the Klicksports predition model. You can subscribe, and pay a monthly or a season long fee--depending on sports--and we'll give you the ability to show what you know about your players, that you're not just picking the right horse. We've also got some other things coming along the pipeline, like video clips and so forth.
It seems like there are just a ton of fantasy sports sites and others looking for sports fans--how do you get above the noise?
Jose daVeiga: Going to Klicksports is a very different approach to the total experience. We're not about forms, and what we're doing is a little like Twitter. It's very much a casual game that people can play, and it's not trying to cater to the fanatics. Having said that, we're looking at it as a complement to fantasy. It's not there to compete with fantasy sports, which is great and what it does--but what we want to do is enable people to make meaningful, live predictions, and trade chatter and smack talk, comment on others predictions, follow other people, and add the social component that fantasy does not have a lot of. I hesitate sometimes to use the term social, because it's not at all about meeting girls, but it's more about sharing the experience of a sports fan, with a larger group of fans with a shared, common interest.
Finally, what's your biggest sport so far?
Jose daVeiga: Last year, baseball was huge, and we used it as a development sport, even though we hadn't released baseball openly. Obviously, our company relies heavily on stats feeds--we've got a great relationship with PA SportsTicker. I'm from Europe, and I hope by the end of next week to have the Premier League on the site. Our intent is to add as many sports as we can, and we're basically limited by our ability to get sports feeds. That's one reason we've been fundraising--who isn't these days--looking for the money we need to go to the next round. If you've got a stats feed, we can do this with virtually any sport. We can also grow this moel beyond sports, into the stock market, into entertainment, anywhere feeds are quantifiable and reasonable.