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Emily D. Swoboda

Q.& A. | Dave McDowell

27 August 2008

Dave McDowell launched his first startup in Toronto in 1995. It started as a service offering on-site training to individual PC users in both home and small business environments, but SOS Live Coach soon went online delivering customer relationship management initiatives, like training on products such as digital cameras.

In 2001, Mr. McDowell started GameAccount Global Ltd., the London-based skill games provider. There he met Sam Lawrence, his current business partner at FSB Tech. Mr. Lawrence was the chief technology officer at GameAccount.

The two men, who have worked together for the last six-and-a-half years, recently co-founded FSB, a software company that promises a unique white label product that marries fantasy sports and sports betting.

IGamingNews spoke with Mr. McDowell by telephone about his betting idea and the perils of United States law.

    Q: Tell me all about your company.

    A: Last summer we (Sam and I) had both left (GameAccount) and decided to start something else up. We looked at all sorts of crazy ideas, from different carbon offsetting plans to whatever. We ended up saying, "Actually what we know is gaming. And what we really know is how to deliver white label solutions for the bookmakers, the big licensees." I'm not a marketing guy -- I don't know a heck of a lot about b-to-c marketing -- but I know a lot about b-to-b products and b-to-b product delivery. And so we started with that.

    What we did last summer is kind of analyze the entire gaming industry. We looked at the poker suppliers. We looked at the casino suppliers, fixed odds games suppliers and the different folks that were doing things on TV and mobile to try and find a niche that we could get into and we could crack. And what we came up with was that the fantasy sports area is completely untapped. It is one of the most popular online activities with 30 million people active in North America alone. But there's just no gaming revenue model.

    So, what we did is look at fantasy sports through the lens of online gaming and said: "How can we turn this into a sports betting product?"

    And that's really what Fantasy Sports Betting is all about. We're not creating another fantasy sports game that people can play to occupy their time. What we're doing is creating sports betting products that people who study individual players' performances will respond to.

    Q: So, is your market b-to-b or b-to-c?

    A: We are a software supplier. So we are not going to have our own b-to-c Web site. We may eventually have a b-to-c site, but it's not our purpose. The first time you see these products in action should be on one of the licensee's Web sites. We're talking to about a dozen different companies in the space looking to sign our first licensee.

    Q: What does your product do for people that other fantasy sports products don't?

    A: It allows them to bet. Pure and simple this is all about sports betting.

    It's very much a sports betting product allowing punters to bet on individual players.

    It's about taking proven betting models and instead of allowing people to bet on which team will win, they can bet on who will be the best player on the pitch.

    Q: Who are you trying to reach in the industry? How are you getting your name out there?

    A: Well, our customers are actually the big sports books -- Ladbrokes, William Hill, Bet 365, Sportingbet, Paddy Power, SkyBet. These are our customers and these are the ones we want to approach. So, we're not putting together advertising campaigns to get to the end-user. We're putting together our materials to sell directly to the sports books.

    Q: What's your vision for FSB, short-term and long-term?

    A: Really, I think what it comes down to is I'd like to have about a half-dozen licensees up and running before the start of the next football season.

    Ideally, within about two years I'd like to have about 10 to 12 licensees in the United Kingdom.

    Longer term: English Premiership football was the product that we've chosen to start with and that is one of the biggest sports betting products in Asia. If you go to any of the Asian sportsbook sites they've got a huge amount of activity on English Premiership football.

    So, we know that this is a product that can expand globally. Some of the products that we're looking at doing may be legal in America and depending on the opinion on that we may be doing the N.F.L.

    Q: I could see this walking a very fine line, legally. Because it's fantasy sports it would be exempted under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, but then it's sports betting.

    A: Exactly.

    Q: So, that's going to be another one of those grey areas, which is what the whole UIGEA is. Let's be honest.

    A: It's a little grey corner of a grey area. Absolutely. We're actually trying to come up with a U.S. strategy right now. We're not going to do it if it's not legal. I've got a U.S. passport and I'm not about to lose it. But fantasy sports are carved out, as you said, and I think there are certain ways that we can structure our products.

    Q: But if you're marketing them through companies that are offering sports betting a product, that's where there could be a problem in the U.S.

    A: When I was writing the business plan I had two major questions to answer: U.S. or U.K.? And because of the legal grey areas, even knowing that we could construct a legal product in the U.S., I just don't want the hassle of trying to collect the credit cards and trying to just manage the product with all the scare tactics that are going on. It's just not where I want to get started.

    The U.K. is such an open, such a fantastic place to be doing business, even if our servers are offshore -- sports betting is part of the culture here.

    I also had to choose whether to go b-to-b or b-to-c. In this economic climate I think it's crazy to go b-to-c, especially over here in Europe where 90 percent of the major operators have pulled out of America and have named Europe as their battleground.

    To try and start up a new b-to-c operation in Europe right now is very expensive and it was a pretty easy decision with mine and Sam's background. We've integrated products for all the major sports books over here. We know how they work. We know how to give them products. We know all the economics of supplying products b-to-b and I think we can definitely leverage our reputations as the founder and C.T.O. of GameAccount to get our foot in the door.

    See Mr. McDowell pitch FSB at the EiG Launch Pad session, Sept. 24, 15:00.

Q.& A. | Dave McDowell is republished from
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda