Jock MKT, an app that combines fantasy sports with aspects of stock trading on athlete performances, has raised $10 million in a Series A financing led by Left Lane Capital.
“We’ve been looking for something across daily fantasy sports and esports for over a year and, at this point, had spoken to at least 50 companies in this category or categories tangential to daily fantasy sports,” Left Lane vice president Matthew J. Miller said in a phone interview. “When it comes down to it, Jock MKT has a pretty unique and novel product offering compared to its daily fantasy sports peers.”
Jock MKT approaches fantasy sports like a stock market, allowing users to bid on shares of players in an IPO-like process ahead of a sporting event and then trade them among each other during the game. Payouts if a player hits certain performance benchmarks are known ahead of time, so Jock MKT users can decide if a star or role player may be the better bargain for making money.
For instance, for a May 7 NBA game between Utah and Denver, a share of Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic, a solid if unremarkable player, sold for $2.60 a share at the IPO and paid out $25, after he scored a career-high 48 points. Nikola Jokic, one of the league’s best players, sold for $14.60 in the same day’s IPO, paying out $16 while scoring 24 points, just below his daily average for the Nuggets this season. Users can also lose money by overpaying for a player or buying one who underperforms that night. Jock MKT guarantees every payout, which range from a maximum of $25 to a minimum of $1 per share. It makes money by taking 2% of in-game trade values as a fee (capped at $4.99 a trade) and 1% of value at IPO purchases. Launched last autumn, Jock MKT counted 25,000 users as of March. The game is currently available in 35 states.
The idea of securitizing athlete performance in some form has been attempted before. Most notably, in 2013 a company named Fantex began selling registered securities linked to earnings from contracts the company signed with pro athletes. It stopped accepting new investments in 2017.
“It’s been a bit of an uphill battle because of some of the other stock-markets-around-sports ideas that haven’t worked out,” said Tyler Carlin, co-founder of Jock MKT. “I always felt this was a winning idea.”
He and co-founder Dave Isman started developing their idea around 2016, borrowing concepts from Fantex and combining them with the DraftKings-like model of a fantasy sports event that starts and ends within a night with its NBA, MLB and NHL games—or in four days with its PGA tournament games. Among its advantages: Jock MKT doesn’t need to ink deals with athletes like Fantex, and it controls share creation and contains payouts so, unlike a bookie, it can’t be ruined by a career performance like Bogdanovic’s.
Left Lane’s Miller says the time users spend with the app was a big draw for its investment. “We were able to apply business model mechanics—customer behavior—we had seen in FinTech apps for this type of business and saw tremendous engagement, tremendous customer behavior and retention, which speaks to the novelty and uniqueness of the product engagement,” he said.
According to Jock MKT, users spend more than 1.5 hours in the app per daily cast market. Like a traditional trading market, the pre-game “IPO” period can get hectic as bidders vie for desired players and snag seeming bargains as the bidding window closes. Then, as games progress, users can seek to buy or sell shares with each other depending on how they anticipate payouts. During the Masters, for instance, one user made more than 315 trades over the course of the four-day tournament.
Left Lane is an early stage venture capital firm founded in 2019 focused on Internet and consumer technology businesses. It backs at-home boxing startup Fight Camp and around another dozen businesses in finance, education and food. Miller, who led Left Lane’s investment into Jock MKT, is joining as a board member.
Other investors in the Series A round are Benjie Cherniak, a Las Vegas-based media and sports betting investor through his Avenue H Capital, and Timothy McSweeney, a Boston-based VC investor who invested in DraftKings and the Religion of Sports podcast, according to his LinkedIn profile. Alumni Ventures, a Harvard and MIT affinity investment group, also bought equity in the round. Jock MKT previously raised money in a seed round with participation from DraftKings board member Ryan Moore and Will Ventures and its managing director Isaiah Kacyvenski, an NFL veteran. They both also participated in this latest round.
Jock MKT is preparing to add an NFL market for the coming season and likely will move toward longer time frames and beefing up daily options, according to Carlin. “We started with the casual fan,” he said. “The next step, especially with this round of funding, is to target the more finance-oriented people who are really looking for good liquidity in a market like this.”