Mojo Fantasy launches in 20 states
The first licensed sports betting stock market launches its innovative new fantasy product in 20 states. CEO Vinit Bharara speaks with BettingStartups.com to share his perspective on the launch.
When Mojo launched last year, it turned a lot of heads with its unique idea of a sports betting stock market.
The concept itself was simple: if you believed a professional athlete would have a long and storied career, you could “invest” in that athlete and watch the value of the investment fluctuate (and hopefully grow) with that athlete’s real-world performance.
But for as unique of a concept as that was, equally head-turning was the founding team behind Mojo.
It includes Alex Rodriguez (yes, that Alex Rodriguez), and 3 veteran Internet entrepreneurs behind some of the world’s most iconic consumer brands such as Jet.com, Diapers.com, and Walmart Ecommerce.
With a founding team of such pedigree and success, plus an early track record of novel thinking and focused execution, Mojo has quickly established itself as an innovator in the betting and fantasy sports space.
Now one year after going live in New Jersey as a licensed and regulated operator, Mojo takes a large step forward towards becoming a household name with the launch of Mojo Fantasy in 20 states.
Ahead of today’s launch, BettingStartups.com spoke with Mojo CEO Vinit Bharara to get his perspective on the road traveled thus far, what users can expect from Mojo Fantasy, and what comes next.
The Sports Stock Market, 1 Year On
For American sports fans, the proliferation of betting and fantasy products means that there is no shortage of ways to express opinions about the performance of teams and players.
As Bharara explains, “I'm a huge sports fan, and I've used everyone's products for years. My family's from New Jersey, so I could do it there, and then in New York when it became legalized. But it’s fairly commoditized when you look at what everyone else is offering.”
Offering something truly unique would become Mojo’s rallying cry, and the sports stock market would be the first manifestation of their vision.
Under the hood, Mojo’s sports stock market was structured as a betting product, which made it subject to sports betting regulations.
“What we started out with is a regulated, licensed sportsbook in New Jersey. So our strategy was to launch that product, which we did last football season in 2022. Since then, we’ve worked to consistently add different iterations to it, and to continually refine it. And what we found over the last few months is some of that electricity that we were looking for.”
But the demand for the product in other states didn’t reconcile with the reality that getting licensed as a sportsbook is a slow and costly process.
“We're just in one state and it's 3% of the population. We're getting a lot of demand from folks outside of New Jersey, and the vision for us is to ultimately, methodically roll our sportsbook into many other states.
But for speed, we came up with a strategy to get a gamified, legal, fantasy-oriented version of what we were doing to as much of the population as possible.”
Enter Mojo Fantasy
Mojo Fantasy is structured as game of skill, but its underlying mechanics borrow heavily from the core sports stock market.
As Bharara explains, “it's very different in the sense of it being a contest, but the prime goal here was availability to as much of the population as possible so they could experience what I think is a truly revolutionary product.”
And with its dynamic probability-based pricing, it’s far from a me-too product.
Unlike other fantasy offerings in the market that lock rosters at the start of a game, Mojo Fantasy was built to play live as the action unfolds.
“The whole thing is about live, and the ability to trade live,” says Bharara.
Users create a “portfolio” of player props, which can be bought and sold throughout a game as prices fluctuate. At the end of the game, the portfolio values determine who shares in the contest prize.
Making it even more unique is the fact that portfolios can be constructed across different sports and leagues; users are no longer constrained to assembling a roster within a single league.
Mojo Fantasy launches today with 2 game formats.
The first format - Double Up - will be familiar to current fantasy users. The top 50% of contestants in a pool will double their buy-in.
But the second format is where Mojo flexes its innovation muscle.
‘In The Green’ guarantees a prize to contestants that finish with a positive return on their portfolio. The higher the return, the higher the percentage of winnings earned.
It’s this game format that has Bharara especially excited.
“The idea was to have something that was unique. And the premise of In The Green, I think, lends itself to how our product works.
Because we're moving the odds and giving you the latest probability when you're using it, you can see exactly what the real time value is of your position.
And so as a result, what you have is you're green or red. Like that's what your portfolio is. Green means at the time you're winning money, and red means you're not.
In the green will literally mean that you will be in the green insofar as getting money. So we thought that was a cool thing.”
Mojo Fantasy’s new ‘In The Green’ game
Getting the Word Out
Bharara is under no illusions that the betting and fantasy space is saturated, but he has high conviction that product differentiation will help Mojo Fantasy stand out as it goes live in 20 states, including CA, FL, and TX.
“It’s extremely hard to compete because of the marketing dollars that some of the bigger players have. If you go out with a similar product, I think you got no shot.”
Not that Mojo doesn’t have marketing dollars to spend - last year it raised over $100 million from a who’s-who of investors that include co-founders Marc Lore and A-Rod, plus VC firms such as Thrive Capital and Tiger Global. It even counts the NFLPA on its cap table.
But Bharara isn’t playing the acquire-at-all-costs game. Instead, he’s letting the product speak for itself.
“It seems like there's a ton of competition, and there is. But there's really nothing else like we have. I mean, there's competition generally. But for the products we offer, you know, we're not really competing with anyone else.”
The Journey Continues
The origin story of Mojo is well documented, which dates back to the original dot-com boom in the late nineties (co-founder Bart Stein breaks it down nicely on Ep. 57 of The Betting Startups Podcast earlier this year).
In many ways, Mojo is the culmination of the careers of its founders, and the launch of Mojo Fantasy is just the latest chapter.
When asked what the milestone means to him, Bharara was reflective.
“It means a lot, for a bunch of different reasons. This is something that a lot of folks on our team, that I've known for those 20 years, have been super passionate about.
It's a combination of having that vision and idea a long time ago and being lucky - to be honest - to be able carry it out today. But it's also personally for me being able to do it with the same people. These are some of my best friends.
I just always feel fortunate for that because when you're in these businesses, you do it for a bunch of different reasons. One is for your investors and for your employees, but a lot of it for me is to do it with people that I love spending time with. That makes it all the more gratifying.”
Mojo Fantasy is now available to download in the Apple app store.
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