Q&A with OneUp Games founder and CEO, Daren Trousdell about bringing gamification to fantasy sports
Palm Beach Gardens, FL-based OneUp recently launched in order to coincide with the start of the NFL football season and baseball playoffs. The company was a GamesBeat 2011 Mobile Startup of the Year finalist.
SUB: Please briefly describe what OneUp offers.
Trousdell: OneUp Games makes live sports more fun and rewarding through casual, social sports games. It’s a mix of Zynga—social games—and ESPN—sports and big data. Our first two games are Baseball and Football Connect. We have a few more games coming soon too.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Trousdell: Initially, we thought we would be competing with the fantasy sports networks—CBS Sportsline, Yahoo, ESPN, etc.—as we shared a focus and similar customer group. However, as our product has evolved we see ourselves as an addition or extension to the fantasy sports world. We have been really fortunate to be one of only a few entrants into the live-social-gaming space. However, no one group or games has made enough of an impact with users to make an impact. We hope to do this rather quickly as we’re learning from their mistakes and lack of understanding of the live-gaming market and user.
SUB: What differentiates OneUp from your competitors (or from those who have similar social gaming offerings)?
Trousdell: There are a number of factors that we think set us apart from current and prospective competitors. Our games are fun, competitive, can be played from anywhere, and unlike traditional fantasy sports games, players do not need advanced knowledge of the teams, players or league to enjoy or succeed in the game. It’s also very quick to set up a game, players can jump right in and play instantly at live-games, in sports bars, or at home by simply signing in with Facebook Connect and selecting the current live games they want to play. From a user experience and design standpoint, we are developing the best looking social games in the space and staying away from the traditional ‘cartoony’ social game style by creating a premium game experience with familiar pro-sports tones that we believe fans want. We are also going to be offering our players the ability to earn real goods for their success in our games; no sweepstakes or contests like some of the others in the space.
SUB: How are you marketing your games?
Trousdell: For our first two games we have the benefit of having two very important events; baseball is almost into the post-season and football is benefiting from an increase in popularity. We believe we can immediately take advantage of the relevancy and use PR, influencer marketing and sports blogs to generate awareness and competitive play. In addition, we also benefit from the lack of social sports games competition in the app store. Lastly, the viral loop we have built into our game has an incredible effect on our player’s friends as we’re using real game events to draw friends into the experience.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind OneUp? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea longer in developing?
Trousdell: The “aha” moment came when I started and stalled in yet another fantasy football league…I just never had the time or interest to devote to the constant upkeep and management that fantasy sports requires. It turns out the majority of sports fans experience the same thing. Also, I was regularly texting with my friends amongst the live games—usually trash-talking and predicting events. I went searching for something that could facilitate our live competition and it just didn’t exist. I saw an opportunity that couldn’t be ignored. OneUp Games was born.
SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps you took to establishing it?
Trousdell: We established the company in the beginning of 2011. The first thing we did was to see how fast we could build our first game and how many users we could generate for little to no money. The result was the first and only Super Bowl Squares game on Facebook. We built the game in less than five days and spent only $400 on Facebook ads. We generated thousands of users in one day and cemented that we were on to something with our casual, live-play formats. We learned quickly that Facebook offered some unique benefits but mobile is the area with the largest void and opportunity.
SUB: You recently launched the company, and will be launching your football game with the beginning of the NFL season. Why was now a good time to launch?
Trousdell: Now is a good time to enter because there are millions of digitally and socially connected sports fans (100m+ in the US) without a real-time way to get more into their favorite sports, leagues and teams.
SUB: Have you raised outside funding?
Trousdell: Not yet. We decided to self-fund our start to avoid early equity dilution and distraction. We are currently in the process of raising our first round of financing and hope to complete this within the next few weeks.
SUB: What have the biggest obstacles been so far to building OneUp?
Trousdell: The biggest obstacle in the beginning was choosing where to start. We came in at an odd time where we would miss the beginning of baseball season and a looming NFL lockout. However, we now look at the timing as beneficial as we learned so much through the beginning of baseball season that has helped us in shaping the product. Since then we have had such incredible momentum we are working to avoid the typical pitfalls and obstacles of start-ups that fail.
SUB: Where do you see OneUp in about a year from now?
Trousdell: We think there will be millions of sports fans flocking to our games to amp up the fun while watching their favorite live-events. Also, we are building our games and platform to scale globally. I am really looking forward to offering the same fun and rewards for the passionate fans of amazing global sports like cricket and rugby.
OneUp – www.1up.me