If you combine three passions taken to obsessive proportions, you’re bound to stumble upon a business plan worth investing in.
At least that’s the angle from three 20-something entrepreneurs with educations from Penn State and University City incubator DreamIt Ventures.
FanGamb is the Web-based merging of our fantasy sports addictions, gambling habits — with fake money — and athletic infatuations, says Justin Goldman, the company’s founder.
“This probably isn’t meant for someone who turns on a game here or there,” said Justin Goldman, 27, who has partnered with product development head Robert Shedd, 24, and precocious Web developer Alan deLevie, 21. “FanGamb is meant for someone who is waking up everyday to check scores from last night’s game and is falling asleep to SportsCenter.”
Today is the official launch of FanGamb’s first version, a free to join, free to play fantasy gambling league, using virtual fake money, for college and professional football. See a preview here.
Future iterations will include more sports, paid leagues, the chance to join public leagues and account upgrades.
But ahead of a national college tour promoting FanGamb with Playboy Playmates in tow, Goldman is ready for FanGamb to win over obsessively loyal sports fans and take hold of the expanding virtual gifts goods market. Philadelphia, Goldman says, just might be the best place on the planet to do the job, because what other city has more idolatry for sports and gambling?
PROFIT AND PLACE
The graduate of Bucks County’s Neshaminy High School who lives with his fiance in Headhouse Square has an unsurprising passion for Philly sports and that has helped him find the concept.
“Growing up in the Philadelphia area, I know a lot of people gamble to keep things interesting. It’s more fun when you have some skin on the game, but, of course, gambling comes with a price… I know. I’ve lost the occasional friendly bet,” Goldman, 27, says with a decidedly incriminating laugh. “I love fantasy sports, too, but they have their problems. In most leagues, by six weeks in, half of the players are out of contention and someone or a couple people are running away with it. That’s not fun anymore.”
Early tests of FanGamb, as any gambling-addiction counselor will be disheartened to know, show players have a better chance of a late-season surge than fantasy sports, Goldman says.
Above is a graph charting the place ranking of a dozen players in a March Madness trial of FanGamb, as supplied by Goldman. Compare that with the below graph, which charts his own 2008 fantasy league, one that he says his fairly typical.
That’ll keep players more motivated and involved, which, of course, will help once the site adds its revenue model, which will rely heavily on a much trumpeted virtual goods market. The plan is to get a lot of users playing and playing often, Goldman says. Then the team will add more upgrades — for profiles, leagues, additional virtual money and more — that will be purchased by the user by way of an in-game currency.
“Social gaming is a very young, but a very fast-growing industry. In just three years of real tracked use, it’s already a $5 billion industry and that’s expected to be $15 billion in five more years,” says Goldman, noting FanGamb will begin experimenting with their in-game currency in spring 2010. “Those are numbers we want to be around.”
Check out their sleek-looking promotional video on site, as it can’t be embedded.
The core team of three are all Nittany Lions, but their business partnership didn’t brew on campus. Goldman graduated in 2005, followed two years later by Shedd.
The two fell out of contact, until social networking intervened. Goldman, who co-founded an online college dining guide in August 2002 and ran it until last January, changed his status on his LinkedIn profile upon departing his first business venture. He made clear that he was searching for a partner in developing what would become FanGamb. Shedd reached out and, just 60 days later, he jumped off the cliff and left a solid job in project management with IBM’s financial services sector.
Shedd, a Manayunk resident, native of Yardley and graduate of Pennsbury High School — a rival of Goldman’s Neshaminy — brought on the younger deLevie and soon after applied for DreamIt’s 2009 summer session. Out squeezed FanGamb.
Though FanGamb team members are currently working from home, Goldman says they fully intend on making Philadelphia their home, perhaps renting office space or co-working at a place like IndyHall. But that won’t happen at least until they return from their tour.
Earlier this month, the group hired former July 2002 Playboy Playmate of the Month Lauren Anderson to promote FanGamb at Lehigh University fraternity houses. It was a test — a very successful test, Goldman says — of whether their proposed national college tour, bringing a variety of Playboy models with them, would prove fruitful.
“There’s so much noise out there, you have to do something different,” says Goldman, who plans their tour for sometime in October. “This will get attention from the type of guy who is going to use the site.”
Once momentum catches on, FanGamb hopes to show users across the country all of the advantages it has over what’s out there. There are none of the fiscal or legal constraints of traditional gambling, he says, and because you can start playing anytime during a given season, and be able to bet on a growing number of sports leagues and have as many or as few friends participate as you’ll like, none of the timing issues of fantasty sports.
But, he adds, FanGamb is meant to stand alone, not replace anything else.
“Fantasy sports aren’t going anywhere, and, really, neither is traditional gambling. I don’t see FanGamb as a replacement. It’s definitely a supplement to your sports mix,” Goldman says. “There’s plenty of room for us.”
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