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Simplebet’s Joey Levy: “The Future of U.S. Sports Betting is In-Play & Micro Betting”

Earlier this month Software company Simplebet announced an additional $15M raised in their latest round of funding, bringing their current total investment to $50M. Following the news, Co-Founder Joey Levy said that the capital will help the company speed up development of their micro betting technology and product.

Levy previously founded Draftpot, a daily fantasy sports platform that was acquired in 2017. We spoke to him this week to understand more about Simplebet and asked him about their plans for 2021.

How would you describe Simplebet for those who have not heard about you? What’s your elevator pitch?

Levy. Simplebet is a technology company leveraging data to enable micro-betting on U.S. sports. Micro-markets are betting markets that are created and resulted in just minutes or seconds, and for U.S. sports, are often tied to the core engaging moments that drive consumption (e.g. pitches & at-bats for MLB, plays & drives for NFL).

Given the stop-and-start cadence of U.S. sports and given that micro-betting introduces real instant gratification to the sports betting user experience, we believe micro-betting will be the predominant way sports fans and gamblers bet on U.S. sports by the end of the decade.

Congrats on the latest $15M investment. What will this latest cash injection be used for?

Levy. Accelerating product development. We will be enhancing our existing NFL, MLB, and NBA products by adding dozens of derivative markets, owning more control of the user experience, exploring new sports, and introducing new subcategories of micro-markets, such as Scripts.

I personally think that by the end of the decade, over 80% of U.S. sports betting handle will be in-play, and over 50% of in-play betting handle will be micro-betting.

Scripts enable users to make multiple specific predictions tied to one micro-event (e.g. rather than just betting the next at-bat will result in a home run, users can predict that the next at-bat will result in a home run, off the fourth pitch, off a curveball, with a velocity 80-84 mph).

Scripts combine (1) the excitement of a sports bet with (2) the instant gratification of a slot machine with (3) the long odds of a lottery product – for the first time.

What role do you think in-play betting will play in the adaptation of regulated online betting in the U.S. in the next few years?

Levy. In-play betting is already 70-80% of the handle in regulated mature markets like the UK, and we think there’s a strong chance the percentage of total handle that will be in-play will be even greater in the U.S., given the cadence of U.S. sports and imminent proliferation of micro-betting on U.S. sports.

I personally think that by the end of the decade, over 80% of U.S. sports betting handle will be in-play, and over 50% of in-play betting handle will be micro-betting.

Two components of in-play betting that have a major impact on the betting experience are live data speed/latency, and TV/video feed synchronization. What do you think the solution is to solve the user experience challenges with live betting?

Levy. Live data speed is already quite fast—the real-time incident feed we receive from Betradar delivers data to us within one second of the real-life event, and our automatic operations engine can trigger market suspensions on incidents occurring slightly before live action resumes to prevent courtsiding (e.g. for MLB, we can suspend our Pitch Result and live Plate Appearance markets on a “pitcher ready” signal, which typically occurs 1-2 seconds before a pitch is delivered). We also anticipate this 1 second window to improve over time as Betradar continues to enhance their technology.

The primary user experience challenge is related to broadcast latency, which is typically 7-10 seconds for traditional cable and 20 seconds or more for OTT platforms. We ultimately think this will be solved via 5G technology pioneered by companies like Verizon and real-time streaming technologies pioneered by companies like Phenix.

However, in the meantime, a few thoughts. First, “core micros” like at-bats, drives, and player next attempts are less sensitive to broadcast latency and our initial data shows that these are already commercially viable user experiences.

Second, even if “instant micros” like pitches and plays are not a great UX today as a second screen experience, you can still design a compelling single screen UI that gives users enough real-time match state data to make an informed bet (making the UX almost feel like a mobile casino game).

Your “Play Action” free-to-play games did well during NFl last year. What are the plans for the FanDuel NBA contests in 2021?

Levy. Yes, the NFL product performed well—for the week 17 slate of regular season games for example, the average user bet over 80 times, and session lengths were consistently 20-25 minutes with our 9-10% cohort of power users spending 2 hours or more on the app per session.

For NBA, we are powering FanDuel NBA InPlay, which is an official NBA league brand being hosted on FanDuel and powered by Simplebet. The game represents the first user experience where users can predict possession outcomes and other in-play occurrences, such as will a particular player make a 3-pointer before the end of the quarter.

We are seeing strong engagement with the NBA product, and are about to release two MLB free-to-play products: one with FanDuel, and another with MLB directly (we are powering the micro-markets for their MLB Rally app).

Finally, what is the north star for Simplebet? What is your ultimate goal for 2021 and beyond?

Levy. Our mission is to power the future of fan engagement, which we think will be centered around the in-play betting experience. By delivering simple, intuitive, and entertaining instant-gratification user experiences for sports fans, we believe we will meaningfully enhance the way fans consume sports.

For 2021, we are laser focused on broader distribution of our products and accelerating revenue while continuing to push the envelope on product innovation.

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