How Dino Morea-backed fantasy sports startup LivePools grew 4X in 7 months
LivePools is among the latest entrants in India’s rapidly-growing fantasy sports ecosystem. But, the Mumbai-based startup is already making its presence felt.
Launched in late-2017 by brothers, serial entrepreneurs, and sports enthusiasts Gaurav and Vickram Assomull, fantasy sports startup LivePools offers a skill-based sports predictor platform to online gamers, and lets them earn real cash rewards based on their teams’ on-field performances.
The platform went live in February 2018, just ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which typically records the highest fan engagement for any sporting league in the world. In 18 months of operations, LivePools claims to have surpassed one million registered users.
LivePools co-founders Gaurav (right) and Vickram Assomull with key investor Dino Morea
Growth this year
The startup's growth has been particularly swift this year, courtesy marquee sporting events like the ICC Cricket World Cup, IPL 2019, and the Ashes.
“We’ve grown from 300,000 to 1.2 million users [4X] in the last seven months,” Co-founder and CEO Gaurav Assomull tells YourStory. “About six to seven percent of this are active users,” he says.
The topline is looking up too. From Rs 30 lakh a month, the startup has now reached Rs 1.2 crore, with a peak of Rs 1.5 crore during the World Cup. “Our fixed costs for a 22-member team are now covered,” the Co-founder reveals. Like all fantasy sports platforms, LivePools takes a 17 to 18 percent cut off player winnings.
App downloads are up as well. LivePools is targeting 1.5 million to two million downloads by next IPL from its current 400,000. The platform can be accessed on the web too. At present, the startup offers cricket, football, and kabaddi, but will add more sports such as basketball and rummy in the coming months.
Cricket, unsurprisingly, commands a lion’s share (75-80 percent) of the fan engagement on LivePools. “It was at 95 percent earlier, but now traction from kabaddi and football are increasing as well,” Gaurav says.
“There’s tremendous engagement during the English Premier League, the Pro Kabaddi League, and the Indian Super League. On a national level, India’s appetite for non-cricket athletes has gone up,” he explains.
The Yuvi factor
Last year, the fantasy sports startup roped in popular Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh as its brand ambassador. That may have played a part in popularising it and giving it more visibility. Yuvraj’s association, however, was for the “short term”, claims LivePools. It ended following his retirement from the game.
“Yuvi is an iconic sportsman and names like him always add credibility to a platform. He supported us and drove engagement, but now we have to speak to the next generation.”
LivePools says it will appoint a new brand ambassador shortly and has already put funds in place for that.
The startup counts Bollywood actor Dino Morea among its “key investors”. Morea has been an active investor in media, social, health, and wellness startups lately.
“The tech space in India is growing at an accelerated pace and sports being as big as it is, made this platform a proposition too good to ignore, hence, the investment,” he was quoted as saying.
LivePools is also backed by undisclosed HNIs from Singapore. Overall, the startup has raised about Rs 5 crore until now.
“We have locked in another $3 million to $5 million, which will be our Series A round. We expect to complete that investment in the next six months,” Gaurav states.
A changing landscape
Are VCs more keen to invest in fantasy sports startups today given the enormous success of Dream11? (The Tencent-backed fantasy sports startup became India’s first gaming unicorn in April this year, thereby validating an entire industry that was earlier considered “illegal”.)
Gaurav, like several of his peers, is sincerely appreciative of the role Dream11 played in “educating Indians about fantasy gaming”.
“Dream11 has raised the awareness of the space tremendously. They are a giant, yes. Today, customer acquisition costs are much lower because of that, and other platforms are able to piggyback on them,” he says.
While that is true, Dream11’s monopoly over the fantasy sports market — close to a 90 percent share among India’s 60-odd fantasy sports companies — may pose other challenges. For instance, the amount of money Dream11, backed by deep-pocketed investors, can splurge on marketing and player rewards is hard to match.
In a recent interaction with YourStory, the founder of a Jaipur-based fantasy sports startup called it a “David-versus-Goliath market”. Gaurav agrees.
“It is a price-sensitive market and Dream11 is pulling in most users. As an avid gamer, their prize money catches my eye. They are paying down to the 100,000th player.”
But this status quo will change, he reckons, as the market expands.
Future growth opportunities
An IFSG-KPMG report projects the fantasy sports industry to touch $5 billion in two years. The number of fantasy gamers in India will reach 100 million by next year.
LivePools is targeting five million users by IPL 2020. The startup believes it is a “very achievable” target.
“We have a strong, service-driven product and budgets in place to drive this expansion. There are many T20 leagues happening in the next few months. There is Australia’s Big Bash League too, and India’s home season starts in September. So, we are ready to go.”
The good news is that not only are urban users signing in, but Tier II towns are hooked on to fantasy gaming as well. “We have plans to launch in multiple Indian languages, but that will happen post the IPL,” Gaurav signs off.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)