FanDuel | LAUNCH.ed

"The leader in one-day fantasy sports."

Tom Griffith, Chris Stafford, Nigel Eccles, Lesley Eccles

Entrepreneurs: Tom Griffiths and Chris Stafford (both University of Edinburgh alumni) and Rob Jones (joined by Nigel and Lesley Eccles)
College/School: Informatics
Company: Fanduel

The Story: Straight out of university, friends Tom Griffiths, Chris Stafford and Rob Jones started a web-based networking and organisational tool called Groopit. In 2008, after meeting Nigel Eccles at a local entrepreneurial networking event, Nigel and Nigel’s wife Lesley joined the team, and the group began working on Hubdub, an online predictions game, with support from Launch.ed. In the early stages of startup, fresh from university and using money cobbled together from family and friends, the young entrepreneurs got “enormous” help from LAUNCH.ed in “all sorts of matters” from making them answer hard questions, to learning financial forecasting, to getting introductions to a variety of potential funding opportunities. While people loved the Hubdub game, it was very hard to monetize.

It was while doing market research, a skill long since polished from his first days working with LAUNCH.ed, that Griffiths had a light-bulb moment when he asked a potential user if he would be willing to pay a small amount to play for a chance to win some money.†† In 2009, the team decided to change their focus to the development of a paid-entry prediction game for sports. That game became FanDuel, launched in July 2009. FanDuel pioneered and is the global market leader in one-day fantasy sports – becoming one of the most exciting and disruptive companies in the sports and entertainment industry. While founded in Edinburgh, Fanduel was initially marketed exclusively to North America, where the five co-founders had spotted a gap in the sizeable but rather traditional American fantasy sports market for a faster, more exciting fantasy format.

Instead of keeping to the traditional multi-month fantasy sports season, FanDuel leagues can last just one day and prizes are paid out as soon as the relevant games have closed. The short timeframe and the added excitement playing in a fantasy league can add to watching live games have contributed to the 15% of FanDuel’s users who are completely new to the fantasy sports market. Users watch more games throughout the season to see how their players perform live, making FanDuel a valuable partner for leagues and teams, and securing FanDuel groundbreaking partnership deals with, among others, the NBA (now an investor and with a seat on the FanDuel board) and 16 NFL teams.

As of 2015, FanDuel is the leader in one-day fantasy sports, tapping into the overall market of 40.5 million people playing fantasy sports. While FanDuel didn’t invent the one-day fantasy sport league, they were the first dedicated startup to put significant resources into an innovative one-day format.†† As of 2015, FanDuel had raised $363 million† in financing and was officially classified as a ‘unicorn’, the term for a start-up that is valued at more than a billion dollars.

From kitchen table start-up to one of Scotland’s fastest growing businesses and all in five years:

  • From a Scottish Young Persons grant of £1,000 to one of the largest funding raises of 2014 – $70 million Series D led by Shamrock Capital Advisors, LLC, with NBC Sports Ventures and KKR participating;
  • From a desk at the University’s Kings Buildings to state of the art offices in New York, Edinburgh, LA, Glasgow and Orlando;
  • From the five co-founders meeting in Edinburgh to a transatlantic company with 234 employees split between the UK and the US;
  • From 609 players and $10,500 revenue in 2009 to over 1 million active paying users and $57 million in 2014;
  • From $560 million awarded in prizes in 2014 to a predicted $1.5 billion in 2015;
  • From self-funded to a latest funding round (2015) that brings the total capital raised by the company since 2009 to $363m.
†† Chen, Albet. (2015) ‘Every Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday,’ Sports Illustrated, 2 February, pp. 33-39. All figures correct as of May 2015


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