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.