Fantasy Site ScoreStreak.com Does Things Their Way

Written by:
Thomas Somach
Published on:
Fantasy Site ScoreStreak.com Does Things Their Way

Site’s Unique Format Proves Popular With Fans

SAN MATEO, Calif. -- With a steady supply of computer- and Internet-savvy talent and some of the biggest techno-brains around, it's no surprise that Silicon Valley in Northern California has become Ground Zero for the Sports Fantasy League business, including much of the newer business in that industry that involves daily sports fantasy.

One of the most innovative of those new Silicon Valley sports fantasy sites is called ScoreStreak (www.scorestreak.com), based just outside of San Francisco in this small upscale suburb.

What makes ScoreStreak so different from its many competitors?

Gambling 911 last week paid a visit to ScoreStreak headquarters and sat down with company chief executive officer Ross Borden to learn the secret of his early success.

Gambling 911: How does your fantasy operation work and how is it different from the many other fantasy leagues out there?
Ross Borden: ScoreStreak uses “objective-based scoring” and is unique from other daily fantasy sports games. You pick each player to your nine-player lineup to complete a single objective, like “Score 24 Points” in NBA contests. Meeting or exceeding objectives rewards you with points. We have three levels of objectives across every category of every sport. The “difficult” objectives reward 14 points, “moderate” objectives reward 8 points and “easy” objectives reward 5 points, for a total possible score of 81. Once you see it in action it’s very straightforward. We allow users to pick any player to their lineup, which is a really cool concept when you think about how much that frees you up as a player. We set our objective thresholds based on historical statistics so that “top players” within each category have certain baseline probabilities of meeting or exceeding the objectives. Of course, any player’s probability of achieving a goal is influenced by factors such as matchups or weather. Like most fantasy sports, the goal in ScoreStreak is to have a higher total score than your opponents. Our format uses what I call our “carrot” approach, which is very different from the salary cap “stick” approach. While the salary cap format tells you, “No, you’re over the salary cap, find less expensive players,” ScoreStreak’s format tells you, “Yes, use any player, but he must achieve his goal in order to earn points.”

G9: How did you get into the fantasy sports business? Can you tell us about your personal background?
RB: Sports and video games have always been two of my greatest passions. I attended UCLA for both undergrad and business school. In 2000 I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from Los Angeles and began my professional career in video games. That year I also joined my first fantasy football league and I’ve been playing ever since. As I grew professionally, I continued to enjoy the pleasure and pain of fantasy sports. Most recently, before co-founding ScoreStreak, I ran North American and European business and publishing for the online gaming company NCsoft.

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G9: How are you preparing to compete against the commercially successful DraftKings and FanDuel?  Both companies have attracted significant investment monies recently, so are you preparing to do the same?
RB: We have tremendous respect for FanDuel and DraftKings. We are a much newer entrant into the daily sports fantasy category. In fact we entered and won the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Elevator Pitch competition, a full five years after a FanDuel entered it. Having said that, I don’t believe that we are competing directly with FanDuel and DraftKings. Our focus is on providing an accessible format that doesn’t require the time investment that the salary cap format requires, and of course it has to be fun. Fantasy sports have come a long way, but there are over 120 million avid sports fans of NFL, NBA or MLB in North America and still only one in three play fantasy sports. Whenever I ask my sports friends why they don’t play fantasy, the answer is always the same, they don’t have enough time. We believe that ScoreStreak will solve this problem and tap into that larger group of sports fans. And because our objective-based scoring format is so unique, we patented it. We were funded by private investors.

G9: What states and countries are you legal in and how do you stop players who are not in those locations from joining? And what is the age limit to join and how do you verify that?
RB: We serve residents of the U.S. and Canada, excluding Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and Quebec, Canada. Players must be age 18. We have software to enforce these eligibility rules.

G9: How much does it cost to join and what do you get for your money?
RB: Our contest entries range from free to $250. We have different contest sizes and entry formats but most common are 2-, 6-, 40- and 100-person contests. Usually 40 to 50 per cent of players win some portion of the prize pool.

G9: Why is your operation legal and why isn't it considered gambling? Is there really any difference between guessing which team will have a good day and win a game, which is gambling, and guessing which players will have good days, which is legal fantasy play?
RB: People are starting to become familiar with the fact that fantasy sports is legal as a skill-based game and exempted under the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. Since the ScoreStreak format is so unique, we conducted a thorough legal review with respected legal experts in this category before launching www.scorestreak.com and our iPhone app. And believe me, the most skillful players win consistently in ScoreStreak

G9: What has been the growth rate of your business since last year?  What is the driving force behind that growth?  Has the media coverage fantasy is getting this season translated into a boost for your own business?
RB: We have been growing at a significant rate each month across all of our metrics since our beta launch in April of last year. Increasing consumer awareness of daily fantasy sports has definitely helped. Having said that, we have used this period primarily for learning and refinement of the ScoreStreak product based on analytics and customer feedback. A significant share of our upcoming financing round will be allocated towards growth efforts in 2015.

G9: Can you compete with the likes of ESPN and Yahoo should they enter daily fantasy sports, as is rumored?
RB: Again, our format is completely unique and patent pending.

G9: Would it make sense for a fantasy company like yours to team up with an online sportsbook partner, such as Bookmaker.eu or Sportsbook.ag out of Costa Rica or one of the European books such as Paddy Power of Ireland or William Hill of the U.K.?  Such a partnership would give you a ready-made customer base of sports-betting fanatics, so have any such companies approached you or vice-versa?
RB: We are open to exploring any partnerships that will bring us, and our partners, value, whether that be in the form of expertise, marketing or distribution.

G9: Where are you based and why have you chosen that location? And are you considering branching out into other locations?
RB: We are in San Mateo, California, which is about 30 minutes south of San Francisco. We don’t have any plans to move at this time.

G9: What do you see as the fantasy highlights of 2014, both the highs and the lows?  For example, what players have crushed your customer base and who are the big money-makers so far?
RB: Every week we see new breakout performers and we have weekly leaderboards at www.scorestreak.com that can give you an idea of who our current top players are on a weekly, monthly and all-time basis. Last year was a big year for fantasy sports and I’d have to say that the two leaders raising more than $100 million collectively is the biggest highlight from an industry perspective.

G9: Do you have many female players? What percentage of your customer base is female? Are there any significant differences in the way female customers play fantasy as compared to male players, as far as strategy, tactics and expectations are concerned?
RB: I would guess that we have more female players than the norm, and in fact some of our female players are really good. But I also believe that increasingly, females are playing fantasy sports. There are plenty of females among those 80 million avid sports fans that still aren’t playing fantasy.

G9: What is the basic demographic of your paying customer? If it mirrors the demo of the average American sports bettor, it would be white and male with a high level of education and income, although the age for fantasy players would be lower on average than the age for sports bettors. How accurate is that assessment?
RB: Our demographic is similar, but as I mentioned, we expect to see more females and younger people get involved with time.

G9: Where do you expect fantasy in general and your company in particular to be a year from now? Do you expect legal sports wagering to become more widespread in the U.S. in the coming years? If you do, how would that affect fantasy?
RB: I believe that fantasy sports will continue to grow, and within it daily fantasy sports for real money will grow even faster. I expect that ScoreStreak will have established itself as a major alternative daily sports fantasy game format with much larger prize pools and tournaments. I also expect that there will be more discussion around legalizing sports wagering, but a change like that will require more time.

G9: Is there anything else you'd like to add that you haven't been asked about?
RB: One of the things that makes my job so much fun is that we truly love our format. Having said that, we have many new features and improvements on our list, and I read all user feedback, so you can send feedback to me at rossb@scorestreak.com.

By Tom Somach

Gambling911.com Staff Writer


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