I-pools is a peer-to-peer pools betting exchange offering simple and engaging online betting games in which players pit their sporting knowledge against the community or against their friends with the sum of the players’ entry fees (minus a small administration fee) is paid out in prizes. It was launched by Tristan MacDonald in February 2014 and in March this year announced a partnership with the Telegraph Media Group to run Telegraph Predictor. Here GamCrowd speak to MacDonald about his hopes for his version of fantasy sports and how the concept for the offering was conceived around a poker table.
GamCrowd: How did i-pools come about?
Tristan MacDonald: i The original concept was put together around the poker table by some poker players discussing ideas for better ways to bet with each other online. Poker players like more strategic games than pure fixed odds betting. We came up with the idea of a peer to peer betting network allowing players to play sports prediction games against anyone they liked - just like online poker, but for sports betting.
GamCrowd: What funding has the company received or is it bootstrapped up to this point?
Tristan MacDonald: The company is privately funded. We have been through three funding rounds with our initial investors and we are now looking for a strategic investor who can help us take i-pools from the minor leagues into the majors.
GamCrowd: There has been a lot of interest in fantasy-style sports - what is different about your product?
Tristan MacDonald: This is a great question because one of the main topics of conversation around our poker table was what's wrong with DFS?. We set out to create a similar concept to DFS but with more variety of gametypes and less skill - DFS is set up so that the winners win all the time and the recreational player has no chance. i-pools tries to create a balance between luck and skill so that you can gain an edge by studying, but not enough to spoil the game. We also aim to offer a wide variety of different game formats, ranging from the super simple (Last Man Standing for instance) to the quite complex (Fantasy sports). Our objective in the long run is to allow players to set up their own game formats with their own rules. But the most valuable USP our product has is our ability to add game formats to the system without significant development time effort and spend.
GamCrowd: How important is the engagement factor in the product?
Tristan MacDonald: We talk about our games being engaging and relevant. We aim to engage the players through simplicity. So many DFS offerings require hours of studying rules and analysing nuances. Our aim is that you can see your points being scored when you're watching the game. Fewer selections and fewer moving parts that focus on the key elements of the game. We also want our games to be relevant - focusing in on the variables that are really important to an event, rather than just putting everything up on the site as it comes. A great example of this is our General Election pools. We have put in a lot of research time to try and pinpoint the most relevant and engaging hotspots in the upcoming general election - which are the key seats and what are the most interesting variables for the outside observer. Have a go - they're great!
GamCrowd: How long have you been in negotiations with the Telegraph? How important is the deal to the company?
Tristan MacDonald: We first started speaking to the Telegraph last Summer. we were attracted to them because of their very successful Fantasy League franchise which they are looking to expand into other sports - not too many other Fantasy League businesses are doing this. TMG is a huge organisation that tends to deal with large suppliers, so it is tough for a small startup like i-pools to meet their exacting standards. It was a great experience for us to meet the service levels they are looking for in a business partner - so far so good. Part of this expansion strategy is to find other ways to extract revenues from this customer base. Telegraph Predictor allows them to earn additional risk free revenues just by doing more of the same without any additional development or operating costs.
GamCrowd: What are the financial metrics of the deal?
Tristan MacDonald: Our business model is to build partnerships with our B2B partners - so our preference is a revenue share model. We’re also looking at pure licensing deals but our main objective is to build a shared liquidity Network which would allow our partners to offer a highly liquid peer to peer gaming platform to their existing user base without the normal development costs and shenanigans (we do all that). Our front end is highly customisable to fit into others' brands and existing platforms. We pay all the operating costs and we expect our partners to market to their existing customers.