FounderDating Success Story: Fantasy Brain

Hayden   |   October 25th, 2012

Jonathan Joseph and Istvan Jonyer are the cofounders of Fantasy Brain. Based in San Francisco, they met through FounderDating and now hope to change the world of fantasy sports.  

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR?

JJ: I started my career in venture capital [at In-Q-Tel], which was like coaching the game, but not being able to play. Because of that, I’ve had the startup itch for quite a while.

Istvan: My dad was a professional athlete and started his own company when he retired. Companies were being started around me when I was a teenager and entrepreneurship was just in the air. I started a company myself right after high school, which didn’t work out, and after three years of that I decided to go to school. I came to the US, got a PhD in computer science and went down the corporate path for a while before finding my way to Silicon Valley and working at Google.

WHY DID YOU APPLY TO FOUNDERDATING?

Istvan: I was trying to pursue every avenue to network in the startup ecosystem. I went to Hackers and Founders, FounderDating and maybe a couple others.

JJ: Looking for cofounders is extremely difficult. Silicon Valley is one of the great networking scenes in the world, but there are still a lot of people out there who aren’t of the caliber to start a high growth company. It is very hard to find a concentrated group of well qualified people that you’re a potential fit for. FounderDating was extremely attractive as a vetted group of high quality potential cofounders.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR “DATING” PROCESS.

JJ: When you’re starting a company, it is very much like dating. You have to make sure you are right for each other personally and professionally. That includes complementary skillsets, personalities and perspectives.

We both knew we had the intent to go through the process and see if there was a fit. We got together a handful of times and spoke about common beliefs and goals. We quickly moved through the process of identifying that we were a good match.

Istvan: I also wanted to make sure the market and the opportunity was well vetted before we embarked on it. We worked together for almost 2 months, a non-trivial period, where we vetted the idea together and each other. It was JJ’s idea and he was more bought in and I had to be convinced.

JJ: The dating analogy works great. There was an initial period of courtship before we moved forward.

TELL US ABOUT FANTASY BRAIN.

JJ: Fantasy sports is the killer app in social gaming. It’s a $2B market and the growth rate is actually increasing. Even though it is the killer app in social gaming,  there hasn’t been any innovation in the space. That’s because the game is not built on top of an existing social graph or platform. For example, when you sign up for Farmville, you can immediately play and interact with your friends who are already playing or invite friends who aren’t. Fantasy sports isn’t like that – you might play in a league with 10 people, but even though you might know you have friends playing, you can’t compete with them, you don’t know anything about their teams or their results.

Fantasy Brain brings social infrastructure and a social data set into the game. We track a user’s existing fantasy leagues and normalize all the data. We measure the efficiency of every move you make in the game based on the rules and scoring systems in that particular league. What that does is normalize the scoring systems and leagues across providers to create common metrics, creating the effect of a platform. This allows you to continue competing with your high school buddies in that league you’ve been playing in forever, but also your work buddies who might be playing in a different league with different scoring rules.

DO YOU HAVE SIGNS THAT IT IS WORKING?

JJ: We’ve been in public beta for six weeks now. So far, engagement numbers are great. We’re still trying to make sure we are ready to scale and are gathering user feedback. There are some great numbers for engagement – some of our numbers are off the charts.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR FANTASY BRAIN?

Istvan: There is two more months until the end of the football season. We are measuring and iterating at the moment. The next cycle will be to analyze the data and iterate on some of our features for the next season and choose the next sport we want to enter.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO FUTURE ENTREPRENEURS REGARDING COFOUNDERS?

Istvan: It is really important to set expectations — figure out who is going to do what, the titles, equity split, etc. You have to get the basics out of the way.  Set expectations right  away and explicitly talk about how [you think] things are going to unfold.

JJ: Don’t underestimate how important the choice of a cofounder is. Ideas change, things change, and in general, even if they don’t, a startup is really really really hard. You have to be able to coexist AND be productive through tough times with somebody. Even with FounderDating helping the signal to noise ratio, it is still very hard to find the right person in a network of highly qualified candidates. The first and most important thing that can go wrong in a startup is not choosing the right cofounder.

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Find out more about Fantasy Brain on their website or on Twitter. You can also reach out to JJ at @jonathanjoseph and Istvan at @istvanjonyer.

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FounderDating Success Story: Signature Labs

Hayden   |   October 4th, 2012

David Hegarty and Traun Leyden met through FounderDating, and are the co-founders of Signature Labs, a company that wants to help retailers encourage casual customers to return. They are based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 HOW DID YOU GET INTO STARTUPS?

David: It is something I always wanted to do. I always tinkered on things on the side and have tried to get a few things off the ground. This time round, I actually quit my job in Seattle and moved down to the Bay Area and started focusing full time on getting something going.

Traun: I’m creative and have lots of ideas.  I love building things, so I often try to turn those ideas into working products.

WHY DID YOU APPLY TO FOUNDERDATING?

David: I knew Jessica [founder of FounderDating] and I heard good things about it. I was looking for a co-founder and so it happened.

Traun: I was building an indie iPhone greeting card app and started to get heavy into Twitter.  Through Twitter I learned about a startup called “Chomp”, and from them, ended up learning about FounderDating.  It sounded cool, and I knew I needed to find someone who was more into the business side of the picture.

WHAT WAS THE MOST BENEFICIAL ASPECT OF FOUNDERDATING FOR YOU?

David: I really liked the caliber of people I met, they were terrific. It worked out for me and I found my co-founder, but I still stay in touch with a lot of people I met at FounderDating. I probably connected with about twenty people, and still see about six of them regularly.

Trying to find people who are in the right space in their life and interested in what you are interested in is the hardest part. FounderDating is good because it screens and sets a certain bar – people are ready to start and jump in on something. 

Traun: Meeting a great co-founder. 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR “DATING” PROCESS.

David: Coming out of our FounderDating session, I took contact details of about 10 people that I was interested in grabbing coffee with. I followed up with them afterwards. Traun and I did that a couple of times, brainstormed ideas and started working together on the weekends. It went from weekends, part-time to all the time, and then finally full-time.

Traun: You know, we came together as “randoms” so there was an initial trust-building process to get over.  But it was cool – I got a whole new perspective on entrepreneurship. I wanted to work with David when I got a strong sense of his complementary skillset on the business side.  I love technology and building products, but I don’t have a strong skillset on the non-technical aspects of building a business / entrepreneurship.

WHAT DO YOU DO AT SIGNATURE LABS?

David: We build a CRM system for high-end retailers, who call what we do clienteling. Essentially it is a system to turn a new customer into a regular customer. Typically retailers do this with pen and paper; we give them a technology system on the iPhone, iPad and on the web.

Traun: We are building the next-gen mobile CRM solution.  My primary role is to head up the mobile development, and I also get involved in our overall architecture and API/webapp development as well.

We’ve built a really awesome product and are in the process of onboarding retailers.  It’s one of the few mobile products that works in “offline” mode and can perform offline or on slow connections.  Everything is seamlessly sync’d to all other devices and the web.  It’s really slick.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO FUTURE ENTREPRENEURS LOOKING TO MEET PEOPLE AND POTENTIAL CO-FOUNDERS?

David: I found introductions to be the most effective. I frequently blast my network, and still do this now when I am hiring. Keep meeting people for coffee and try to leave with a name of two to three other people you might want to talk to.

Traun: Figure out what you really love, and focus on that.  Get yourself out there and meet people who can bring complementary skills to the table.  

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If you would like to find out more about Signature Labs, visit their website. You can also find David and Traun on Twitter at @hegs and @tleyden respectively.

 

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