Investors after the latest round, which closed in March, include Philadelphia 76ers co-owner David Blitzer, former Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz and tennis legend Andre Agassi. The San Francisco Giants and principal partner Jeff Mallett are also investors.
A business-to-business company, Simplebet’s plan is to license its oddsmaking technology to sports books, and partner with media companies who can use the data to enhance broadcasts and build free-to-play games. Its first public deal is the latter—a partnership with Marquee Sports Network, the new TV home of the Chicago Cubs.
The heart of Simplebet’s product is live betting, and specifically wagers on micro-moments within events such as the result of the next pitch, or whether the next football play will be a run or a pass. Those wagers, a growing piece of the sports betting industry, are especially valuable for operators and rights holders because they settle in a matter of seconds, entice a more casual fan, and keep people engaged throughout a game, as opposed to have bettors focused solely on the final score.
“The average NFL fan watches 52 minutes of a game. If you can increase engagement from 52 minutes to 57 minutes, that has enormous value when the NFL goes out to do rights deals,” said Chris Bevilacqua, a media consultant and one of Simplebet’s three co-founders. “More people are watching for longer. That’s their currency.”
Bevilacqua said there are about 900,000 pitches in a normal baseball season and about 250,000 at-bats. Simplebet’s algorithm can create markets around every single one of them. Right now, operators like DraftKings or FanDuel only offer those options in select games, and when they do, the odds are inputted manually by human traders, he said.
“There are about 22 seconds between each pitch, so you can’t offer that across an entire game unless you do it with automation,” he said. “We’re first to market with this level of automation.”
Simplebet was founded in April 2018 by Bevilacqua, Joey Levy and Scott Marshall. Thirty days later, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its surprise ruling, striking down a federal ban on sports betting. The company, which has raised $35 million to date, says it is currently in the process of obtaining provider or vendor licenses in a number of states, a process that is less intensive than the regulatory track for operators.