Young alumni invent 'fantasy sports for the modern fan' smartphone app
At a Yankees game in June 2009, Andrew Daines '10 took note of something peculiar: Every spectator seemed to have eyes only for their mobile devices, instead of the game.
"I started thinking about ways to engage people while they are watching the game," Daines said. Thus was born the idea for Pre Play Sports, a start-up company launched by Daines and two other Cornellians that bills itself "fantasy sports for the modern fan."
Their first product: Pre Play Sports Football, launched in coordination with the start of the 2010-11 NFL season. The application, now available for free download at the Apple App Store, lets users compete on how well they know the game, at up-to-the-minute speeds. In real time, users receive points and penalties for their predictions during a game. For example, a player would receive points for correctly predicting a touchdown, pass or punt during a football game.
The application is available on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, with development under way for the Android platform. The entrepreneurs hope to roll out applications for other sports, including college football and baseball.
Emily Cohn '10, founding partner and chief marketing officer, began collaborating with Daines while they were both students working at The Cornell Daily Sun -- Cohn as editor in chief, and Daines as a columnist.
"He showed me this idea one night, casually, and I was amazed," Cohn said. The week after graduation they were drafting a marketing plan.
A key partner in the company is Matthew Maxwell, a Cornell graduate student in operations research. Maxwell created the scoring algorithm for Pre Play Sports Football using 120,000 historical NFL plays. Built into the scoring system, this information awards users for taking risks based on past outcomes.
The entrepreneurs believe their app will translate to the fantasy sports market, a $2 billion industry with 27 million users. Pre Play Sports taps into the same type of sports fan, Daines explained.
"Our game is similar in that you can be watching your favorite team -- say the Jets, who could be doing terribly, but you are guessing all the little plays right," Daines said. "You're breaking it down into tiny components and creating little victories. We think the same people who play fantasy and enjoy that will also enjoy our game."
Furthermore, Cohn said, stadiums are increasing efforts to bring fans to live sporting events in the advent of high-definition television and the Internet. Pre Play Sports may integrate well into those efforts, she said.
"We really think the application space is where there is a huge potential to really intensify the spectator experience and add a whole new dimension to the game," Cohn said.
The company has raised $450,000 to date and is working with a team of investment professionals. For more information and to download the application, visit http://preplaysports.com.