This week team SBC catches up with David McDowell CEO and co-founder of sports betting platform provider FSB Technology, to discuss his companies journey from fantasy sports technology supplier to optimised real time sports betting platform. McDowell gives his insight into developing new sports betting products, with a focus on dynamic new features which FSB believe will bring much needed innovation to the betting market.
FSB Technology was co-founded in 2008 by Sam Lawrence and David McDowell, former founder and 12 year-serving board member of newly listed GameAccount Network that recently obtained a licence to supply technology to operators in the US state of New Jersey
SBC: David, pleasure to meet you. FSB has had interesting journey as an online gaming technology company. Starting out as a fantasy sports platform supplier it moved into providing sports betting platforms (2012). Can you summarise your company’s journey and how it has helped FSB stand out in the sports betting market?
David McDowell: Sam and I started FSB with seven years’ experience building the gaming platform technology during our time at GameAccount, so we had a great understanding of the industry and where there was an opportunity to add value. From day one we have been developing a modern sports betting platform and working towards the managed service we are offering today. Building a sports betting platform is a massive project, we needed to be careful with our investment capital and wanted to get revenues in the door as quickly as possible. In today’s venture capital lingo, the fantasy products we were selling in the early days were our “minimum viable product”. We have always believed that a modern sports betting platform should be highly automated and that data feeds would continue to get faster, more detailed, more reliable and more expensive as they become legitimate.
If you look at our development, every product we have produced gave us another key component for the betting platform. In 2008 we took the most detailed live data feeds we could find and developed the first real-time player ratings for fantasy games in the UK market. Next, we focused on algorithmic pricing technology and designed new betting markets around individual players’ performances using our fantasy ratings. In 2010 we sold full season fantasy products to get our customer registration platform and betting platform soft launched into market. And finally in 2013 we launched our first full service real-time sports betting platform, which is being used by both Genting and Guardian Newspapers.
What helps us stand out in the market is our vision for how sports betting business should operate. This has helped to attract investors like Mark Blandford and clients like Genting and Guardian. We are defining a much higher standard for managed sports betting services.
SBC: FSB has developed a modern sports betting platform. What key dynamics led to the development of your product and what competencies do you want FSB platforms to display to clients and players?
DM: Today, most betting operators spend a small fortune on labour for trading and marketing. At the same time they are looking at rising costs as more territories ring-fence and demand additional license fees and taxes. Many operators simply cannot compete without a major change to the way they do business.
We have used modern technology to re-engineer the entire business of sports betting. At FSB, we deliver more efficient solutions that help our clients slash their operational costs, while at the same time improving their customers’ value. We have modernised everything from managing live data feeds right through to the mobile user interface. Our extensive use of live data and algorithmic trading models means that the trading team can focus on value added tasks such as risk management and customer profiling. Our campaign management tools help the marketing team to automate customer segmentation programs rather than manually awarding free bets. There has never been a more compelling argument for migrating away from a legacy platform.
SBC: Your team places a high emphasis on delivering more accurate information and live data. Operationally how have you set up your team differently to other platform providers in order to service this provision?
DM: Probably the biggest difference is that we are a technology company running a betting operation. We have developers, traders and marketing staff working together to run the most efficient operation possible. When one thing starts taking too much manual effort we quickly find a way to build automation in rather than throwing more labour at the problem. From my experience, the majority of bookmakers are not well versed in technology development and most platform providers are not experienced in running betting operations. We do both exceptionally well.
SBC: Which areas of the sports betting value chain should platform providers look to improve or prioritise – where do you see weaknesses in current sports betting provisions?
DM: There are two main areas we are focused on, the first is reducing costs through automating the trading effort, and the second is driving revenue growth with better CRM tools. Everyone’s prices are readily available on the internet and so using data feeds and automation to reduce the labour required for market setup, pricing and resulting is a great way for an existing operation to save costs. The biggest opportunity to drive revenue growth is with CRM tools. Betting software is notoriously lacking in CRM tools and any bookmaker who can run hundreds of automated marketing campaigns will deliver better lifetime customer value.
SBC: Finally, how do you see sports betting habits evolving, and how will these impact your business? What should the sector be preparing for in terms of new user habits?
DM: Everything needs to be focussed on mobile user experience and customer engagement. From that perspective, there is a growing field of predictive marketing where you are able to push exactly the right message to the right customer at the right time. For example, if a customer frequently places a bet 10 minutes before kick-off you should consider pushing a message with the starting players once the team sheets are announced. The push notification is off-the-shelf technology, but knowing what message to push and when to send it will be the real key to creating value.
Engagement is another key area of focus for us. When we introduced live fantasy football player ratings to the UK market we saw average session times exceed an hour during the previous World Cup Finals. In addition to finding engaging ways to present live data, social interaction will be a key to driving low cost customer acquisition and retention. Fantasy sports are inherently social, which is why we are putting so much effort into that side of our business. Daily fantasy games are exploding in the US and we can do so much more with real-time fantasy games in regulated markets..
David McDowell CEO and Co-Founder FSB Technology