Ashneer Grover's Crickpe app to offer cash rewards to cricketers

Crickpe, run by Grover’s new venture Third Unicorn, is yet another fantasy cricket platform but with an option to offer cash rewards to actual cricketers based on game performance. The launch comes ahead of the start of this year’s IPL matches on March 31.

Ashneer Grover's Crickpe app to offer cash rewards to cricketers

Thursday March 23, 2023,

5 min Read

Key Takeaways

Crickpe, Ashneer Grover’s much-awaited new startup, is a fantasy cricket platform competing with the likes of Dream11 and Mobile Premier League.

The startup has so far raised seed capital of $3.5 million from ZNL Growth Fund, Vevek Ventures Investments, Rishaayu LLP and other venture and angel investors.

Users can not only create virtual teams based on real players to join contests but also offer cash rewards of up to Rs 1 lakh in a financial year to actual cricketers.

Ashneer Grover’s Third Unicorn has officially launched its first startup, fantasy cricket platform Crickpe, in time for users to get familiar with the platform before the IPL matches begin in a week from now.

The Crickpe platform, launched on both Android and iOS, will not only allow users to create virtual teams with cricketers, and participate in contests to earn points and cash prizes linked to actual game performances, but also allow them to offer “cash rewards" to real-life cricketers for "good performance".

While gifts to cricketers may or may not breach legal boundaries, companies have tended to avoid arrangements involving external rewards or payouts to players, particularly after the sport was spooked by booking and game-fixing scandals in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Crickpe, described as a platform for online skill-based fantasy cricket games, is somewhat similar to other gaming platforms such as Dream11, potentially Crickpe’s main rival in a crowding market.

The big difference, potentially controversial, however, is the “cash rewards to real-life cricketers" option.

“The only differentiator (from other fantasy cricket platforms) is that cricketers can also be rewarded based on their live performances, along with the users,” said a source, declining to be identified.

“As a fun feature, contest winners can send their favourite cricketers cash rewards. If the cricketers don’t claim their rewards, Crickpe will distribute that as cashback for users,” this person said.

Crickpe didn’t immediately reply to queries emailed on Thursday evening, although Grover announced the launch in a LinkedIn post. A company executive declined to officially comment on the app’s launch or the proposed payouts to cricketers.

As per information on Crickpe’s website, users can offer cash rewards of up to Rs 1 lakh to a cricketer in a financial year, but it would be up to the cricketer to accept or decline the offer.

If a cricketer accepts the offer, the cash reward would be subject to applicable taxes and processing fees of 10%. As a promotional offer, no processing fee will be collected till June.

“We are not acting as agents of cricketers and are not under binding contract to collect any money on their behalf. Crickpe shall solely be acting as your (user’s) agent in offering this cash reward,” the New Delhi-based Crickpe says on its website.

If a cricketer declines a cash reward or does not claim it for 90 days, Crickpe says it will return the money to the user’s Crickpe account without any deduction. It also says that it may use the unclaimed gift amount to offer cashbacks to its users or towards prize money for contest winners.

Users will need to pay entry fees of between Rs 50 and Rs 3,000 depending on the contest they want to participate in. Crickpe will also take a portion of the winning purse, although the person quoted above said it would be lower than that charged by other fantasy cricket platforms.

Third Unicorn’s LinkedIn page states that it will be a multi-product startup. For now, only Crickpe has emerged from the venture.

Grover’s IPL connection

Grover’s business association with the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, currently in its 15th year, goes back to his BharatPe days as Co-founder and CEO, and later MD. 

In October 2020, when startups were reeling under the economic impact of Covid, BharatPe signed up 11 cricketers, including Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, and Suresh Raina, for an IPL campaign–effectively making for a fantasy team of brand ambassadors.

BharatPe also ran a contest called BharatPe Premier League for merchants on the platform to predict match winners and the best players, and win cricket merchandise autographed by the brand ambassadors. 

The following year, BharatPe signed a three-year deal as an official partner with the International Cricket Council. The contract ends this year.

From BharatPe to Crickpe

Grover joined BharatPe in October 2018 as a co-founder and took over as the CEO from Bhavik Koladiya, the original founder of the digital payments startup. In August 2021, he was named the managing director. 

Early last year, however, an audio clip surfaced allegedly of Grover hurling expletives at an employee of Kotak Mahindra Bank over financing for Nykaa’s public share offering. The incident opened a can of worms, including allegations of financial fraud, that eventually led to Grover’s exit from the company a few months down. 

Both BharatPe and Koladiya have filed suits against Grover.

In July, Grover incorporated Third Unicorn with him and his wife Madhuri Jain as directors.

Crickpe has so far raised seed capital of $3.5 million from ZNL Growth Fund, Vevek Ventures Investments, Rishaayu LLP and other venture and angel investors. As per an Entrackr report, Grover and family own over 74%, and Aseem Gharvi, announced as a co-founder in January, holds an 8.85% share. 

In social media posts in January, Grover declared that Third Unicorn would not have more than a 50-member team, and would work towards generating $1 billion in revenue. Currently, the startup has about 25 employees. 

Grover also offered to present a Mercedes car after 5 years of Third Unicorn’s operations to all those working with him, a high-decibel hiring tactic he previously employed at BharatPe.

[Cover image by Nihar Apte.]

(The article has been updated to change the headline and fix a few typos.)

Edited by Feroze Jamal