#MySportsBizStart - Jason Shapiro: "If not you, then who?"
For most of my life, I’d never thought of myself as entrepreneurial. I never really had the urge to start my own company, and always thought it was only a very specific type of person who was built to endure the rollercoaster that is trying to create something from scratch. As a society, we are inundated with stories of classic entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and more who appear wired differently than most. And as brilliant and inspiring as those individuals are, their stories don’t always feel relatable.
But when you dig a little deeper, you realize that those stories are the minority, not the majority. Entrepreneurship is not just resigned to a chosen few - it’s available for anyone willing to take the risk to act on a vision. At one point or another in everyone’s life, they will likely identify a worthwhile opportunity, and the most important question is whether or not we are brave enough to dive head first into the uncertainty.
I began my sports career with a few stops in the agency world (shout out the The Legacy Agency, Team Epic & Scout Sports & Entertainment) - a great place to start because of the array of touchpoints it provides. On any given day, you navigate between brands, properties, vendors and more, working across the scope of strategy to execution. This can really help you identify what paths are most attractive long term.
"Taking what was just an idea and seeing it come to life has made the past year the most rewarding of my career."
At Scout Sports & Entertainment, I worked closely with FanDuel for almost two years, focused on their 32 team partnerships across the NBA/NFL and their NBA league deal. As a fantasy/sports betting enthusiast myself, ideas for both product and how to leverage the properties assets came naturally. Through our work building programs that would resonate with sports fans, being onsite at events and listening to feedback and pain points from potential customers, a subconscious vision started to form. And in 2018, the federal ban on sports betting was struck down, creating a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where a billion dollar industry would emerge in the US overnight.
Despite seeing a clear opportunity, I had no idea what to do next. I had no experience raising money, starting a company or building consumer technology. But in a moment of serendipity (reading an article about their fundraise and reaching out cold), I was connected to WinView, and my former boss Anthony Giombetti, to help pioneer in-play betting in the US. Instead of focusing on my lack of experience on the brand side, in tech, or with startups, they took a chance on my potential and natural instincts for the space. So I packed up and moved across the country to San Francisco, where I knew almost nobody, and never looked back.
Being at an early-stage company accelerated my career by 5x. In a year and a half, I went from someone focused on partnerships to expertise in multiple areas of marketing, product strategy, fundraising and more. Most importantly, it gave me the confidence to act on my vision and start Betcha with three other founding members, whom I met through Eric Reiner, a childhood friend and Partner at Sinai Ventures (who ended up co-leading our seed round).
The white space is clear: the current sports betting and DFS products are complicated, isolated and transactional. Sports gaming right now is about as exciting as buying a stock. You win, great. You lose (more likely), sucks for you. And it’s time there was a platform that built an experience on top of winning money that made it competitive, social and fun (like Peloton did for at home exercise).
Taking what was just an idea, seeing it come to life and working with an incredibly talented team unified by a shared vision that motivates us every day has made the past year by far the most rewarding of my career. Not a day goes by that any part of this feels like a job. And with a launch slated for this summer, it’s time to finally share what just a few years ago I never thought possible with the world.
A few key takeaways:
1. If not you, then who?
If everyone was afraid to act on their ideas or didn’t think they had what it takes, where would innovation come from? (PS: books like Originals by Adam Grant will change your entire view on creativity and entrepreneurship)
2. Find bosses, mentors and co-founders who believe in you
Anyone with the right mindset and strong work ethic can learn a skill. Find people who see the potential in what you can become instead of people focused only on what you’ve done.
3. Early-stage company experience can accelerate your career dramatically
There’s no replacement for the pace of a startup and versatility required to help it succeed.
Thanks to anyone who took the time to read my story. If I can inspire even one person to take a chance and pursue an idea, I’ll have done my job. Please don’t hesitate reach out and connect with me on LinkedIn as well.