Fantasy sports is big business. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 32 million Americans take part in the pastime, spending $15 billion on playing.
We sat down with Chris Tisler, Chief Operating Officer of White Tie Fantasy, to hear how they got their start in the industry. White Tie Fantasy partnered with NapkinBetaBeyond, to take its idea from go from Napkin ➤ βeta ➤Beyond℠.
NapkinBetaBeyond: What was the genesis idea for White Tie Fantasy?
Chris Tisler: My partner and I have been playing fantasy sports for over a decade. When we discovered daily fantasy sports (DFS) in 2013 we were stoked, there was a chance to earn money every day. After the enamor of the frequent prize pools wore off we realized it was missing something… the draft. In traditional fantasy leagues the draft has always been the most important and anticipated day of the fantasy year. We thought daily fantasy was missing that.
AS: What has the launch process been like? How is the beta product doing?
CT: The launch has been tough. The legal scrutiny the industry is under has made some aspects difficult. Besides that, it’s been hard to grow the user base and once we get them to the site, it’s tough to keep them interested. These aren’t unexpected obstacles, just something we’re learning to manage a little better every day.
AS: How long did it take to get from napkin (idea) to launch (beta)?
CT: We first thought there was a problem in the market that we could address in August of 2014. We immediately began doing research and flushing out ideas. We began full scope development in Jan 2015 and launched our beta in April 2016.
AS: How did you hear about NapkinBetaBeyond?
CT: Chander Joshi was a friend of ours that had some background with the California Gaming Commission. We sought his advice on some of the legalities we knew we’d face with this business. He introduced us to NapkinBetaBeyond’s San Francisco representative while we were in the early stages of development.
AS: How would you describe the experience working with NapkinBetaBeyond?
CT: I’d be lying if I said there’s been no adversity. What I will say is that when there is a problem from either side, it is quickly voiced, resolved and put behind us. Those growing pains have been integral to us having an understanding of one another and have created a pretty cohesive and effective unit.
AS: Where do you see White Tie Fantasy in three years?
CT: We feel strongly that White Tie Fantasy’s Fire Auction draft system is the first in DFS to address social and competitive drafting. By nature, competitive drafting also creates a more fair user environment than our competitors’ formats. In three years those traits will catapult us to the third largest DFS company, poised to be the defacto draft format in fantasy sports.
AS: What is the White Tie Fantasy differentiator?
CT: Our differentiator is Fire Auction. There is nothing like it in fantasy sports. It’s fast-paced, it requires quick thinking and reactions, and it’s the first in DFS to capture that emotional ebb and flow of a traditional fantasy draft and condense it down to less than 10 minutes.
AS: How important is team culture, and what defines the culture at White Tie Fantasy?
CT: I think team culture has to be very important for any startup. Job duties are not always black and white. You must value everyone’s ideas and contributions. Even with our founders, we don’t have anyone that thinks they know all the answers, but we do ask that everyone helps out when searching for those answers. So far we’ve been really lucky with the team we’ve put together.
AS: What one essential tool has benefited initial brand awareness the most?
CT: Probably a combination of Twitter and Crowdfire. There is a constant turn over in our Twitter audience and Crowdfire helps us to maximize those changes. When we give our Twitter audience a call to action they really go hard.
AS: When should a startup give up the startup mindset?
CT: Never. There is a certain grit and agility that a startup has that I think businesses of all sizes can benefit from. Those characteristics become more difficult as the company grows and the stakes get higher. That doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t fight to keep it as long as possible.