Every day Todd Heyden gets a feeling as though he needs to do more. The entrepreneur and co-founder of SportsLock, a fantasy sports mobile-first platform, feels as though he has no time off. SportsLock is the third product that Heyden has launched in his brief entrepreneurial career, and even though he thinks he has a winner, Heyden acknowledges that every day has its highs and its lows.
"The best analogy is a roller coaster. One day is so positive, happy, you have so many things going for you. Next day can be the complete opposite feeling," says Heyden.
Heyden and co-founder Ross Karel claim that they built SportsLock out of necessity. He looked at the fantasy sports landscape, which for many years was dominated by Yahoo!, CBS and ESPN with their season-long style offerings, and decided that he wanted to focus on what they were not building. That led him to the daily fantasy sports space, where he also found issues in need of correcting.
"FanDuel and DraftKings are identical," says Heyden. "We wanted to be different."
The Difficulty Of Entering A Crowded, Scrutinized Space
Heyden is building his company to compete against the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings, which have raised $361.2 million and $375 million respectively.
In 2014, roughly 57 million people in North America played fantasy sports. That number presents an opportunity to the entrepreneur who sees inefficiencies in an existing market.
"This thing was built out of necessity," says Heyden. "Since the beginning, we have been building a mobile-first platform and building it for millennials. You have to be able to customize and personalize everything you do in fantasy to make it special."
On top of his competition issues, Heyden is operating in an industry that is currently under heavy scrutiny by politicians, state attorneys general and most recently U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who is looking at whether daily fantasy sports operations violate federal law.
"I'm trying to draw a lot of comparisons to what Uber went through," says Heyden. "When you have disruptive markets, things need to be changed. We're not just trying to change what SportsLock can do in this space, but trying to fix and solve an even bigger issue -- the regulations in the fantasy space in general. A lot of this stuff is new ... new technologies, new companies like us."
Separating Yourself From the Pack
Instead of copying the leaders in his industry, Heyden set forth on his own path of discovery in an effort to find what daily fantasy sports users believed was missing from competition. He realized that the answer was to create something that did not necessarily fall within an existing category in the fantasy sports space.
The creation is SportsLock, which is essentially a social platform for fantasy sports fans. It provides heads-up drafting of professional athletes and NCAA Tournament style bracket play.
"Every day is the playoffs type of feeling," adds Heyden.
Why He Was Destined To Dominate
Perhaps it helps that entrepreneurship in Heyden's family dates back to the 1800s, when his family in Poland created a clothing materials company.
More likely, Heyden's success, which includes SportsLock raising a total of $6 million in 2 rounds of funding (including a $5 million Series A round in June 2015), arises from elements of entrepreneurialism that he has learned over time.
"You have to find something you're super passionate about. One thing no one is ready for is the commitment it takes to build something from scratch," says Heyden. "When you have people you can rely on and surround yourself with smart, talented people, you can see the light and know you're going to get through it."