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How To Build A Billion Dollar Company And Start All Over, With Nigel Eccles Of FanDuel And Flick – Part II

Deciding to change the entire direction of your business is inherently hard. Are you giving up too early? Will you lose the value you’ve already built? What if the new idea doesn’t work out?

In part two of our interview with Nigel Eccles he explains why his team made the decision to pivot their product and start in a completely new market – fantasy sports betting. It started with an ideation session with his team, and a realization that they still had a lot of potential with the part of their original idea that had been working – prediction software.

Nigel discusses how they built their first MVP with no coding, and how lengthy early discussions with customers helped them identify a huge opportunity to create FanDuel. Once there were signs of success, Nigel went on to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in Venture Capital, investing deeply into marketing and growing the company into a billion dollar business.

We also learn why Nigel decided to go through the process of building a company from scratch all over again with his new business, Flick, and how he continues to validates his products to know when to correct course. If you have any questions or comments after hearing this episode, message us on the Flick app to chat.

Show Notes

Please note that these time stamps were noted during the recording of the episode, and although they’re not accurate they should give you a general idea of when in the episode a particular section was discussed. 

27:30 There’s this month during which you built a lot of conviction about this because you stood your ground in front of investors. Where did that conviction come from, especially in a market that you didn’t really know and understand? Where did it come?

27:42 I think the more we dug into the more we thought that there was often would work here and then we, we knew we could build good games and these types of prediction games. We’d looked at a lot of the other stuff in the market and that just didn’t make sense to us. We just built a belief that we could do it better.

28:14 Do you remember at this time when you were realizing the other concept was failing and this was an idea that you kind of stumbled upon, were there other ideas that you were exploring as well?
28:30 Yea, there’s a photo of the founders at SXSW. We’re sitting in the backyard of this house we’d rented and on the back of this, like woodshed has all these sticky labels with all these ideas on it. And we ultimately realized that we still had something with the prediction tool we built. So we decided to figure out how to leverage that.

30:09 Now you’re getting ready to launch a new product. I’m sure you have a team, you’re burning money. You’re running against time. So how do you decide what to do next? Because you said you did the launch a little bit different then. So how much time did you spend building versus testing and how did you accomplish that much?

30:30 We built and launched FanDuel very differently. Hubdub was built in the idea of a vision that we were right and that this was going to take the world by storm, we’ve learned from that. And we also knew that we didn’t know this market and said, okay, we are going to be very disciplined about testing things with customers and testing demand and not building for what we think they want because we have no idea.

32:15 So then when did you start actually coding and what did you do right before launch to prepare.

32:43 What we did is, the team got to work to try to build the most basic version of a product.

35:15 What was that strategy then, when you launched, to acquire customers?

35:16 So, at the time we could advertise on Google with PPC and you know, actually for the first year that was one of our biggest sources.

37:44 How do you go from, you know, a couple thousand daily active users to building a billion-dollar company? What do you think, what happened in between there?

37:54 I think by 2011 we had a really great product. People loved the game and we had a platform that people loved. So the period from 2011 really to 2015 was all about how do we scale our marketing. That meant hiring people that were very diligent, and were able to setup and manage complicated tests and execution.

40:54 You just told us in the pre-interview when we were chatting a little bit, that in-between FanDuel and that acquisition and you starting Flick, it was really a very short period of time. How did the idea for Flick come about and how did you decide what you were going to build next?

41:38 Like I’ve always been someone who’s always sort of had ideas and sort of thought, oh maybe that’d be a cool business. I help lots of founders. I’m always intrigued by what they’re doing. And with FanDuel I was really fascinated with the community.

43:07 You went from, you know, going to Meetups, meeting your team and building a company, pivoting, growing it to hundreds of millions of dollars and obviously doing very different work, right? Where you’re managing a big team, you’re pitching to investors all the time. And then having to do that all over again, is that daunting at all?

43:29 It was totally daunting. It did really surprise me. Like I was like, you know, with FanDuel I raised over $450 million.

45:29 You have an idea for a way to build community. How did you figure out who to target first and then what’s been the iterative process there?

45:38 We had what you would call a pivot with Flick within the first six months because we had this strong hypothesis about building community and we looked at the market and we said, you know, I think e-sports is the market. E-Sports is incredibly hot right now, we sort of felt that there weren’t great tools for people to build community, particularly on mobile. But it just didn’t have much user traction. And what we found was that people played that mobile games didn’t really treat communities seriously

47:03 How did you go about choosing the next vertical you were going to test?

48:32 There is an opportunity for a mobile community, but the e-sports isn’t the right place. It’s actually podcasting because we found that’s where audiences are very engaged.

49:28 So, what are some of those ways that you’re, now that you’ve entered this market, that you’re trying to acquire customers both paid and unpaid?

49:54 What we find though with podcasters is it does have a viral curve. Because when someone gets on the platform and starts promoting their Flick group to their listeners, within their listener base there are people that really want to connect with each other.

52:09 What’s the revenue opportunity there that you’re seeing?

52:20 Certainly any podcast below 50 to a hundred thousand downloads a week really struggles on advertising, but they may have a very engaged listenership who wants to contribute or want to kind of get extra content. And so we’re working with them on building a premium model.

55:15 How are you actually getting those 40 or 50 podcasts that are joining per week? How are you actually getting some of them to start using it?

55:30 We’re really doing that on a direct outreach basis with our team just kind of reaching out. So we’re reaching out and saying, let’s jump on the phone and we can help you get this community setup.

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