A Change of Course
About a year after starting up a company to take on the problem of local recommendations called GuideMe, it became clear that we hadn’t generated the amount of user traction we had hoped and we didn’t have the path to get there. We made the decision to end our development on GuideMe in September.
Even though GuideMe as a product had failed, the team and our great investors still had a desire to work together and take another crack at a different problem. We took a step back and opened our eyes to look at numerous problems and opportunities that could have been interesting to pursue. However, I couldn’t get past one idea that had been in my mind for a few years.
Everyone who knows me is aware that I’m a big sports fan, and more specifically an Oregon Ducks fan.
Over the years I’d played fantasy football/basketball/baseball/golf, various pick’em games, March Madness pools, and other assorted games. Like many sports fans, these fantasy games provided me an additional way to engage with the sports I was already watching.
All was not perfect though, as I found that there were two major problems for me with the fantasy sports experience.
- Amount of Time Required – In order to succeed at most fantasy games you need to spend a significant amount of time researching players, analyzing matchups, scouting the waiver wire, reading news, and managing your roster. Some players who have a lot of free time actually enjoy this, but there is a large percentage of fantasy players who don’t have the time. Additionally, so many sports fans I know don’t play fantasy sports specifically due to this time commitment.
- Caring About All Teams – The other major issue I’ve had with fantasy sports is that while I follow the full league action, I tend to only focus and watch the teams I actually care about. For example, in the NBA I primarily follow the Portland Trailblazers. When I play fantasy basketball I will have 0-1 Blazers on my fantasy team, which really doesn’t tie into my personal fan passion for the team.
These two frustrations led me to question why there wasn’t a simpler game to play that could also be focused on specific teams. Why can’t I play a game based on just the Oregon Ducks or the Portland Trailblazers? And why can’t I play with more than just nine other people in my league?
Obviously a simpler game focused on one team wouldn’t work in the traditional “manage a roster” fantasy format, and I wanted something that required less time, so the game itself needed to be totally different.
In thinking deeper about this, it became clear that fans of a specific team talk about and predict a pretty consistent set of questions. Who’s going to win this weekend? What’s the final score going to be? Which player is going to have a great game? Player X had a great game last week, will he keep it up?
Turning these questions into a game seemed to make total sense to me. We’re already talking about these questions with each other, so let’s actually compete around who can predict the upcoming game the best!
This basic idea to create a simple prediction game for specific teams had been rolling around in my head for a few years. I wanted to make it quick, fun, social, and let people feel like they are engaging with their team and fanbase. However, it had never gotten past the concept phase.
When the opportunity to revisit this idea came up after shutting GuideMe down, the changed internet landscape had seen casual game success and monetization, the rise of mobile time killing, and “2nd screen” mobile usage for TV watching. The time seemed ripe to strike, and with the additional ideas from our investors and Joe (the rest of the team) we quickly built a mobile web prototype called Fantuition in late October.
It was clear right away that playing Fantuition in a very basic form for Oregon Ducks Football was a lot of fun for us and our close friends. We cared more about the games we were watching, we could discuss our predictions socially, and we were learning more about our favorite team. It wasn’t long before people we didn’t know were signing up, and users were suggesting that the format would work for other sports and their favorite reality TV shows.
Fast forward a couple of months and we’ve got a lot more users, a third employee, a number of different games going, a full website, and a ton of ideas about where to take the product and games that we need to go execute.
The ability to play casual social games about all the teams we care about, the reality TV shows we watch, and the award shows or other non-scripted special events we attend needs to exist. So we’re building it.