On today’s episode I chat with Dan Porter, Co-Founder and CEO of Overtime.
Overtime is the leading brand for the next generation of sports fans. Dan and his team at Overtime identified that the traditional sports media players were (and still are) heavily invested in the old infrastructure like cable deals. That left an opportunity to create an agile sports media brand that would cater to the younger generation utilizing new technology such as social platforms.
What started as an app turned into a community and has now morphed into creating and managing sports leagues. They currently operate two leagues OTE and OT7, one basketball and football.
Dan is a startup guru. He’s sold a few companies before starting Overtime and teaches entrepreneurship at NYU. If you’re interested in media, the business of sports or entrepreneurship this episode will have something for you. Enjoy.
Transcript (this is an automated transcript):
MPD: Dan, thanks for being here, buddy.
Dan Porter: Thanks for having me.
MPD: Cool. Let's let's jump in. Can you start off by giving us an overview of Overtime?
Dan Porter: Overtime is a company that I am the CEO of. And I co-founded with Zach Wiener it's a it's a lot of things. But right now, overtime is basically an owner and operator of kind of next generation sports leagues.
And we started off five or six years ago was sports and social media, we were like the next ESPN and that we evolved into a community. And then we said, what are we gonna do with this community? And we're like, there's an opportunity for in basketball and now in football for us to start and own new sports leagues, given that we hope have audience and distribution.
And that's what we've done. So over time owns OTE. Which is a basketball league based out of Atlanta with six teams. And it also owns OT seven, which is a 7 0 7 football league with some of the nation's top five star recruits playing in it. And then underneath all of that is 75 million followers and a big community and a lot of content.
MPD: started on the social side and try to create a new disruptive media play. Can you tell us what the original plan was and how and why it Evolv?
Dan Porter: The original plan really was about the audience. So when I worked at endeavor William S endeavor building a digital department, I ended up working on a lot of sports projects, including with the NFL and with other sports leagues.
And this was 20 13, 20 14. And in working with those leagues, I got a lot of feedback about their general concern about kind of the next generation of fans. That's crazy. That was nine years ago. So almost 10 years ago. And they were saying, young people are on social apps, they're playing video games.
They don't watch linear TV, they don't have cable. What does that mean for the future of sports and sports consumption? And I walked away from that thinking, okay that's not me. I have a big screen TV. I pay for cable. I watch live sports. But there's gotta be an opportunity in there if they're all concerned about that and structurally, when you looked at the market.
The traditional players, the ESPN, the Fox, NBC, CBS, they were heavily invested in the old model. So they can't swing and change for the new model. So over time really was this idea. Who's gonna capture the next generation of audience. And that was it. No idea how no idea, what the content was gonna be, but just this gnawing idea that.
Kind of each generation has its own thing. My generation had MTV like that was so defining in the early eighties through the mid eighties to the point that I actually didn't have cable when I was a kid. And when I got to college, all I wanted to do was sit in the basement and watch Howards of MTV because it was, that, that was the definition of our generation.
And so we thought let's build this for sports. Okay what are we gonna put on it? I don't know. We gotta figure that out and like, how are we gonna do it? And we actually started by building an app. We went on Instagram to promote the app. And everyone was like more interested in the Instagram account than they were in the app.
So we eventually abandoned the app. And then we realized two things. One is there was a whole next generation of superstars. If you follow basketball, like a Zion Williamson, or a lo Meow ball. And we were able to go into gyms and cover them when they didn't have as much coverage. And not only would we distribute that on an Instagram account, that there was some kind of special sauce and a network approach.
So today over time operates over 50 overtime branded apps. They're all called overtime, something overtime, season overtime, FC overtime. And we realized that essentially through that network approach and by capturing, 15 to 20 of the next generation superstars, that was gonna be our formula.
And when I ran the digital department, I managed agents who managed tons of YouTube stars and. You have a sense of who those are and how they're successful. That's a lot harder to do in sports cuz you can't film yourself running up and down the court. So it's almost like we partnered with that generation of athletes told their story in a really fresh and accessible way, use social media as a distribution tool.
And that was the origin and growth story of overtime. Okay.
MPD: And so the concept was original content. That was the not on the court. On the field.
Dan Porter: Yeah. For us it was on the court on the high school level. Because there are no rights around that. And then if we worked with college or pro athletes, it was off the court.
So it was everything except live rights. And traditional sports is built on a package of live rights. When you see this network has bid X billion dollars for the NFL, those are for live games. And so we really built it for non-live rights. And I think one of the things that we learned.
Understood from a lot of the team because the team was the audience. Was that the idea of what sports was much more kind of encompassing than the traditional. So if you asked me who's older, my idea of sports is like whistle to whistle. The whistle blows, you run up and down a field, you run up and down to court, the whistle blows games over we're done.
And the only other thing that exists is talk radio or talk television around that. So our audience E everything was sports. Somebody crossing somebody over in a park in basketball, a pro player, doing something funny on the sidelines or tweeting, like it was this very expansive idea where you took the walls and you blew them out.
And that story around sports, especially the overlap of sports and culture was really where we play.
MPD: And how did that bridge you guys to building your own leagues?
Dan Porter: What was the process? So that what I described was 2016 to 2018, we realized we had a really big community. We really were a focus on the audience.
We tried to put the audience on the account as many times as we could. We responded to over a million direct messages and comments. There are probably 200,000 people who saw somebody from overtime in their high school, gym filming. A basketball event or filming football or anything else like that.
And so we got to that point where people knew what overtime was and we had built this community. And I remember that there were any number of different things that happened. One is the idea of athlete empowerment, especially. After George Floyd in 2018, there was a lot of talk about are we gonna let athletes in college make money and in high school and so forth, that was, I think, one big motivator.
The second was an event that we did where a lot of the top players came and played in an event that we put on and talking to the parents. It became clear that they were not, they were fairly dissatisfied with kind of the process of sitting on a bus, going to a hundred AAU games. What college had to offer, some were not interested.
Some were interested, became clear that there were on the athlete and on the system basis, some things that were structurally not working. And then on the business side, I think that we kept hearing about how, Summer league for the NBA loved overtime, because it was a way when people came to summer league they got to watch all the players that they had watched on overtime.
And you think that's great. But if you abstract that from a business case, what you're really saying is overtime is really good at amplifying the intellectual property of other people. And that's not a, an awesome business per se. And I think we used to fantasize, like what if we had our own league, cuz that's like an extreme and an absurd thing to say.
And Zach and I went to talk to commissioner David stern. While he was so alive, he was our first investor. And he said, I spent 30 years running a league. It's the worst idea I've ever heard stay in your lane. But I think once we started thinking about it. It was just like, wow, it's we have the distribution and we have the content it's and we're covering all these players.
If we could do this as our league, that would be crazy. And I think two things happened. One is we hired a bunch of people who had run sports leagues to advise us, but ultimately the macro conditions really changed resulting in what you have now name, image, likeness, where college athletes are able to make money off their name, image, likeness lamella ball deciding to go to Australia, to go pro as opposed to going to college, to make it to the NBA.
All of these things happen. And the idea just kind. Grew and grew. And we went out to try to see if we could raise some money for it. And everybody from NBA players to other folks were really excited about it. And if you look at overtime today, we have over 30 NBA players who are investors. So about 6% of active NBA players, 10 NFL players, four team owners.
I remember sitting down with Carmelo Anthony and I said, so we have this like idea. And he said, 30 seconds into it. He said, I hope that was what you were gonna say. And so it's rare as an entrepreneur that you take an idea out and people are like, this is awesome. And then you just get caught up on it.
And then you just think this is like completely absurd. Like what? Do I have to go out and start a league and try to change a basketball ecosystem. I'm like, I'm not a sports executive or anything else like that. It took on its own momentum and it turned into overtime elite, and we just, we finished our first year, this spring packed audiences, millions of followers on social.
We had two players in the draft, one who got signed by the spurs. We have some. Top 10 draft picks next year, and some really good signings. And it was crazy to watch the draft and hear Jay Billis talk about well, or they could go to overtime, elite. We're like, that's our crazy idea that we had.
To go from an app that didn't work to a basketball league is quite a journey.
MPD: What's the what's the future here? It sounds like it's happening. It's early days. What does the next cycle look like for you?
Dan Porter: I would say the future is we would like to own sports leagues or I say sports, IP, intellectual property in a business sense in basketball and football and potentially in some other areas as well.
Our focus has really been. The 10 to 12 mainstream sports that are understood on a global basis that you could turn on your quote, unquote TV, streaming service or internet device, and, immediately, oh, that's tennis or that's golf or that's boxing or that's MMA or anything else like that.
I think our goal is to find. Sports where there is some kind of white space or opportunity in the structure to make it to the next level, as well as in the storytelling and the characters there. And then I think third to find a partner in football we initially partner with cam Newton and basketball.
Obviously I mentioned the 30 NBA athletes. And if there's a partner and there's a white space opportunity, and you can tell the story as they become pros, Whether they start when they're 22 or they start when they're 17, those are the market dynamics that we look for. Does that mean you're
MPD: looking at sports that are already wildly popular?
It sounds like the first two obviously are.
Dan Porter: Or are you looking at correct. Okay. I don't think that I would feel comfortable making a bet on. Making pickle ball as big as Wimbleton or anything, pickle ball gonna be huge. I'm a big fan pickle ball. Pickleball is big. I'm big too. It's a big, it's a big participant sport too.
it doesn't mean that people wanna watch it. Fair. And maybe I pick the wrong one. Maybe I should pick like corn hole or something like that. I just went after you for it, cuz, but I, you. You're gonna have friction in a lot of areas. The one area where you probably want less friction is a sport that people already understand and might watch.
And by the way, as an, as a side note I think people often make the mistake that participation drives viewership soccer is, probably the most participant sport or in the top in the United States, but it's not the most viewed and I'm a huge NFL fan and a huge football fan, but I never played football.
So I that I think is, as you build out in sports, you find that's a false assumption. What's
MPD: playbook for starting a league. This is not the type of typical endeavor. People kind of land on their lives. How the, how do you do
Dan Porter: that? Get a lot of, get a lot of good advice. Try to find some allies try to make sure that there's some guts of the white space and then.
Spend money, find coaches, recruit athletes all of those kinds of things. It's it's like a roller coaster ride to some extent. And I would say ultimately, if you're a sports fan, try to find something that is unique. I think traditionally in this country, we tend to say like it's football, but it happens after the super bowl is over.
It happens at a different time of year. And I don't think that's different or unique enough as it regards to the sport. I'd say the second thing is you have to give people characters they know, and they care about, and you have to have infrastructure to tell those stories.
I might love football or basketball, but doesn't mean that I'm gonna watch anything just because it has a round or a ball or a football on it, like who's playing. And why do I care about that? To some extent. And so I think that. Really digging in around those and finding where you have that competitive advantage.
And we already had the distribution, we had the brand and we had the story storytelling capacity to do that for sure. Now you started
MPD: out telling the story of kinda how this all came to be by talking about how the more traditional sports media companies, we're trying to figure out how to adapt and acclimate to a new tech paradigm.
How has. The evolving tech landscape change things, right? Obviously we've got the advent of social media and the obvious things, but are there any major tectonic shifts that maybe are surprising to folks about how this is played out?
Dan Porter: I would say the two, the three biggest influencers on, sports and live sports in the last three in the last 10 years are probably social media and social distribution.
Number one, sports betting. Number two and streaming like this year, you'll see the NFL on Thursday on Amazon. Amazon and Netflix, both made bids for formula one and even ESPN and winning the bid wanted to put some of it on ESPN plus, which is a streaming service. So you see some changes in distribution and everything around the game.
At the end of the day. I would still make the point that I could watch a football game when I was seven years old, which was a heck of a long time ago in the seventies. And you could put me to sleep and wake me up 50 years ago and I'd be like, that's a football game. Where's Howard Cosell, kind of everything about it looks and feels the same.
And. Whereas you could show me Fortnite or Snapchat or any number of things from the seventies to now. And I would've no idea what I was looking at. So I think that there's. There's opportunity there. And I think the flip side is true. Also. I think when I was a young person, there were so many, fewer, there was so much less competition for my attention.
I'd play pinball or maybe I had a handheld video game, but you could watch sports now there's there's. A million shows on streaming there's you can catch up really quickly on Twitter, on Instagram or on TikTok. So there it's just it competes in a different landscape and there's a core demographic, maybe 40 to 70 for whom it's exactly the way it's always been.
And there are a lot of those folks. So sports is fine because that audience remains gigantic. I'll never forget, going to a premier league football game, a K soccer with kind of one of the most famous coaches of all time. And him telling me I'm worried that in 10 years I'm gonna look out and the stadium's gonna be half filled because a generation grew up playing video games and they just never got into it the same way that I got into it, or they got into it in the way that like, we might be familiar with sports, but it doesn't mean we sit down and we watch it doesn't mean we buy a ticket.
Doesn't mean we buy a Jersey or anything else like that. Got it. And
MPD: eSports. Do you view that as just a competitive medium at this point? Or how does it fit into the bigger landscape?
Dan Porter: Yeah. I think there's two important things to consider. Number one, is that when you talk about eSports, at least in the United States, you have essentially competitive gaming.
Yeah. And then you have what I would call streaming or let's play. And in, in the United States, let's play a significantly larger. If you look at the aggregate audience who watches, people like ninja or Nick Mercks or other people like that, those are not competitive gamers. Those are. Streamers and that's much larger.
And then secondly, when you look at kind of traditional eSports, PVP player versus player or team versus team significantly larger outside of the United States and specifically in Asia, regularly packed stadiums for all kinds of matches. So I would say in the United States, it is relevant, but it's not it's a poultry competitor for traditional sports.
And most young people in the United States prefer to either play or to watch someone else play, but not to watch competition.
MPD: Why is it different here than there? Why would other countries be more into it? Is any it's any sense on what's
Dan Porter: clicking? It I can't tell you that. I know a hundred percent.
I, I do think that. Number one, our professional sports in infrastructure here is extremely robust and very mature. The NFL, the NBA, these are excellent top level products with incredible executives that have been around for 50 plus years. So there's less market opportunity.
Whereas oftentimes in. Vietnam or in parts of Asia, there's much less competition and much less established, and there's been, political change and all kinds of things that have changed the nature of those countries, political issues. So that's number one. I think that some of those countries have a much larger young person audience who grew up on mobile phones and played games.
And obviously if you look at Asia, they're far ahead of us in streaming, they're far ahead of us in essentially live chat, where you gift people stuff our kind of live shopping infrastructure here, despite everybody starting a company every three months to do that. Poultry I outside of QVC, not many people really buy that way, but in Asia it's massive.
And so I think both culturally in terms of history and then in terms of innovation tho those are two big differences. I just wanna
MPD: do a quick rewind earlier. You mentioned that you guys responded to a million comments on social, and I'm sure that's one of the signals that the formulas look at in the social media platform.
I would like to get a little bit operational for folks listening who are. How do you respond to a million comments? So
Dan Porter: I, or say a million comments and direct messages. Okay. It's it, it's not really the, how the, how is you have four or five people who are passionate about your brand, who wanna get out there and talk to the people who follow you every single day and not only talk to 'em, but they're good at it.
They're funny. They know how to respond. Sometimes they know how to respond when people say challenging things in the DMS or in the comments. But I think trolls ultimately PE the trolls or people say things like I'm not happy with myself or other things like that. There's a whole range of right.
Of ex of emotions that people express. So I would say, I think about that. And I think about the fact that, As I mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of thousands of people who saw somebody with an overtime t-shirt and an iPhone filming in their gym. And it's not that those things are operationally difficult to conceive of it's that most people don't do the grassroots work.
Some companies obviously do, but if you think about media is Joe and Sally left. V. And they put up some laptops and they started their own media company that did this and that. And for us we never did that. We were like we were hand to hand combat, literally winning fan by fan and internally, especially when we launched these new leagues, I say, day one of the league, our goal is honestly just to have a hundred fans.
If we have a hundred people who love us, I can understand how we can get to a thousand. If we can get to a thousand, we can get to 10,000. And that's really different than these kind of boil the ocean or people who aren't willing to do the kind of the grassroots work it's like I came of age when, promoting a record.
When you were in the music industry was about having a street team. You had campus rep programs and people put stuff under your door and you had people driving around blasting music and that very kind of hands on marketing, even in the digital era works.
MPD: Yeah, it's one of the secrets in entrepreneurship is that very few companies get all the go the distance on fully automated solutions.
A lot of 'em have a lot of blood, sweat, and tears
Dan Porter: poured in the, you need that. And I think at the heart of your question, you were like, oh, this is an operational way that you can be successful in the algorithm, but that's just being successful in the algorithm that has nothing to do with actual success.
And you could think about. Popular accounts back in the day on Facebook or Instagram that were so good at hacking the system, but you had no idea what their brand stood for. You would never wear a t-shirt with them on it. There was no real connection. They were just artificially created views because they were good at hacking the system.
And even when I was in the mobile games business there used to be people who would pay download farms in China to download thousands of copies of their games so that they could rise up the chart and hopefully grow from there. And in the end, it's very rare that any of those things actually last over time,
MPD: what are the new technologies you're paying attention to?
Cause we've talked about a couple of the waves that have already hit the media space. What's the stuff that's coming. Are you paying attention to blockchain NFTs? Those are obviously the big buzzwords of the day. What else is going on?
Dan Porter: I obviously pay attention to NFTs as an individual who is not yet retired due to bad timing of acquiring NFTs.
But I think broadly to me, NFTs as an end in and of themselves are less interesting as a potential building block, I think are highly interesting. We did one large project where we took a March madness bracket and we let people buy or sell it depending on how their bracket was doing throughout the course of the tournament.
And that totally just enables a secondary level of behavior versus kind of a sunk cost bracket behavior. So I think that's, I think it's interesting. I think like anything, it'll be very hard to ignore the noise and not chase the trends. But I think people who are heads down will ultimately build interesting things on top of that.
And other people will let their valuations get away. From them or build copycat things. You remember when Groupon came out and there were like 110 kinda offer companies that are exactly like that. So I think it's interesting, but it's hard to navigate. I think that sports betting on a it's betting on a technology side, especially on the user interface side is still very.
Technical. I look at sports betting apps and I just think like I'm looking at a Bloomberg terminal. Yeah. And I'm not really sure what to do. And if you think about the way that, Robin hood changed the nature of UI around that, or even, the original iPod changed the UI around the MP3 players, I think you're gonna see a lot of kind of user.
Interface innovation around making that successful. I would say the number of people I see who wear a whoop or an aura ring or anything else like that for some kind of light quantification quantifying of self and measuring and so forth. Tho those are off top of mind. There's I think if you're gonna talk about social and platforms, TikTok just released that they're they make more money than Snapchat and Twitter combined.
There's no doubt. There's no doubt that when I dig into where our fans are and I read the comments and I look at the engagement that, Instagram is an amazing platform and it's what we built over time on, but the audience Is getting older and there's another generation ONAC, which means if you're really strong on one platform, you have to think about how you build your brand on the other platform.
But besides that there's nothing, there's, those are the main things that I can think of that are ultimately game changing, obviously there's VR and, we actually have a deal with our league with MEST and you can watch a dunk show and other things like that in VR, which I think is cool.
But. I think the game changing thing, there is the social nature. So I go into a room horizon on MedQuest and all of a sudden there's 10 other people there. And I'll tell you a funny story. We had one of the players who was we streamed it live in there, I think, which was really cool. And we had one of the players watching the kind.
The on demand viewing of it. And there were a whole bunch of people in this kind of room conversing with each other. And one of them was like that guy who just dunked. He's not very good. And the player was like, that's. Like I'm that person you're talking about and something like that. So it was like a really, that's a new, good idea.
It was a very cool experience. So I think we haven't, I think we're still trying to figure out like what that looks like, but when it works and it's immersive, if you ever played beat saber on the Oculus headset or anything else like that, I think it's pretty, pretty awesome. Have you played Vader in Martel three?
I have not. Is that worth playing that's worth
MPD: playing. I'm gonna nerd out really hard for a second. They, it has a segment where you can do a light saber, dual, and you're essentially fighting all these things that come at you. And the first time I played it, I was like, all right, it's busy, it's a game it's boring.
And then I had a moment after about a month off where I went back to it. I realized it was a lot like the matrix in that moment where Keanu was in the white room and I got into full ninja stance. And went into full fight mode and broke a sweat, playing it and realized that if you commit to the immersive experience, it's next level.
So that's a game I'd recommend
Dan Porter: trying out. Yeah, look, I think, look at the number of, they really lowered the price on the headset. Made it super easy to use and set up, they sold a ton of them at Christmas. And I think of all the kind of up and down moments, it was a huge moment.
I'll tell you by the time, we did some of our events and I went to talk to the players in our league. A bunch of them were said, oh yeah, I got one of those for Christmas. I've been messing around it. And I've been watching things and playing games. So that was like a huge light bulb.
MPD: That's awesome. What does the sports media industry need? Like you're only gonna be able to solve so many problems staying in your lane. What do you wish someone else listened to this would build and hack and solve?
Dan Porter: That's a good question. So it's, I think it's tricky because if you're a league, you're basically a collection of independent team owners.
And you have a responsibility to those team owners. If you're a team owner, you care about everything, parking concessions, facility, season tickets, other things like that. And if you are a broadcaster or you're looking for innovation in that league, you have a very large core audience who is highly satisfied with the existing product.
So you can think about. If you think about the most stat, heavy sport baseball, any kind of innovation or change you might wanna make from a rule basis or anything else like that is gonna have a ton of people who are gonna say, what are you doing? This is tradition. This is the way that it's always been done.
And unclear. I think that some of the innovation, we still tend to focus on let's hire a former athlete or a bunch of former athletes to talk about sports in a very particular way. There's a lot of access and there's still not a ton of access. I think the NFL has done some really cool stuff with the eight K cameras.
If you ever look in the end zone with the depth of field I think there is incremental innovation, but I also think it's an area where again, there are many people who watch. The NBA college football who are satisfied with exactly what it is. Ultimately, I think it's less about the innovation on the consumption project product, and most of all, making sure that it's still as central a part of people's kind of consumption and participation.
I will say it's a good, I feel like it's a great business to be in during a recession because people, still have passion about their sport and their team, but I think you can never take. For granted, even if you look at the whole turnaround of formula one, the previous owner of formula one had said overtly I don't care about the next generation.
That's not, I'm not interest. And, things fell apart for them. And Liberty media bought it. They made a couple of rule changes. They did the drive to survive show on Netflix, which was huge for. Yeah, huge. They're now Las Vegas. They have now three races in the United States. And I think with some skillful operation and understanding of the audience, the CA the camera that's like in the car, showing you that, I think with all of that they've really resuscitated.
And I think all the leagues definitely pay attention. Across sports to like, how do we stay relevant? How do we keep upgrading our rule set? And at the end of the day, the number one thing that every fan wants is just access. And so how do you figure that out? That, that if you ask me what is your kind of special sauce and what you guys do?
I think we really try to focus on access, everything from posting raw workouts on YouTube. Bring the fans in virtually and literally into the game and into the lives of the players.
MPD: Dan, you have a very snarky and hilarious LinkedIn profile. I'm sure you're aware of this. In the middle of the sarcasm, it does mention that you built three number, one apps, and I know that to be a fact.
Can you give us a story?
Dan Porter: Yeah. I love. Platform hacking, like when I bought the very first iPod And actually, when I bought the very first TiVo, I like cracked it open and added my own memory thing to it and stuff like that. So to me, like LinkedIn is this incredible creative platform. And so there are two ways you can go.
I I wrote a lot. My son has a friend who creates like fake Goldman Sachs employee accounts, and then just corresponds with recruiters all day long and he'll just write 20 years derivative trading and nothing else. And then like underneath, they'll be like expertise in fisheries and wildlife management.
And like people reach out to him as, and I was just like, wow. I thought I was funny and creative, but he's more creative than I am. Also is genetic. Yeah. Before, before Over time. I worked in, for a large talent agency and before that I at a mobile games company and, the short story is over the course of four and a half years, we made 40 plus games and we did good, not great.
We were doing really well. And then Farmville came out on Facebook and really kicked our butt in terms of audience size. And then we made a massive hit game 10 years ago called draw something that was number one, top grossing, number one, paid number one free. We made a sequel draw something two.
That was also number one. And together, those games were downloaded over a quarter of a times. That's awesome.
MPD: Now I know that entrepreneurship is never easy sailing. You talked about OMG pop. You had a little bit of a close call there towards the end. Can you tell the story of how you saved the day?
Dan Porter: For sure? I wouldn. Be bold enough to take credit for personally saving the day. But I will say in the passive voice, the day was saved. So as I said, like we had made a bunch of games and we had raised some money. It's funny. I think we raised 5 million in our series, a and 11 million in our series B, which like today combined is like a seed round.
It's kinda like a joke, but it's a different back then. It seemed like a lot of money. And we had that weird space where we were not, we were successful. We didn't fail. People loved our website. They loved our games, but we also weren't gigantic. Like we were somewhere in the middle, we had a million kind of people playing our games every day, but we didn't have 10 million people playing our games every day.
And so you go on and we were getting to the end of our runway and we were essentially running outta money. That's another way to say it. And. The investors were like what should we do? Should we do another round? And I think we just felt like we made a lot of games and we didn't build a hit game company.
So maybe we should just go out of business and we'll have a lot of sad fans. But that's that. And so we had a couple of games in the hopper and I thought Why not I thought I'll design the last game, cause like, why not just go out with a bang? And so I was involved in, in, in designing to draw something game.
It was made with four people, very small subset. And so we had these kind of other big games that we'd been working on. We released them, nothing really happened. We had maybe eight or nine weeks of cash. I had, I laid some people off to try to extend the runway. We were released to draw something game.
It popped up the charts. Then it went back down in the process of that happening. I think we realized there was a technical problem with the game and two of our backend developers stayed for 48 hours straight over weekend. Fix the game. We re-uploaded it to the app store. And it just blew up and the rest was kind of history.
I think, to give you some stats on the game, it was downloaded millions of times a day. I think at that point in 2012, it was on nine out of 10 iPhones. Our kind of DAU at that time was 24 million, which is, larger than some of the social platforms had been. And we were making a million dollars a day and all of a sudden we went from this kind of like middle.
Beloved like cult game thing that couldn't really make a business to almost running outta money and essentially, laying off people. And I remember at one point one of the finance guys said what if we just like, stop buying snacks for people? Like how much runway could that give us now we did the math and we were like four hours.
It was just like, you're at a certain size when not giving people smart food, popcorn, and. O milk lattes is really gonna save you that much money. And. That obviously turned everything around and within, a couple weeks of releasing that game, we had multiple offers for the company.
And a couple weeks after that, we sold the company for 200 million. So we went from like Midling to was failing to going out of business, to making a hit game, to turning around and selling the company. And in the process of doing that, I hired back all the people I had laid off so that their, they could benefit from the kinda stock options.
MPD: awesome. That's awesome. I love that last touch media is such an interesting space to me because it feels like at some level, the hybrid of art and business and technology, what's the, you've stumbled into this and I, I think there's something just innate. What's the DNA that makes someone a good fit to be a media entrepreneur media, executive.
What is that secret sauce? What is that twist?
Dan Porter: I would say first of all, media's like a horrible business. Like you should never start a media company. Like it's fun. And like you're a consumer, so you consume media all the time. And everybody likes to start businesses and they're like their friends read it or they read it or watch it.
But ultimately it is either a subscription or an ad driven business. There are, you can count. Maybe on one hand, the number of kind of subscription media businesses that are gigantic. So if you, and I wanna start something and it's niche and we wanna live in Wyoming and each make a hundred K a year and that's awesome.
Like we can go out and we can get 10,000 subscribers and that's a decent business, but people usually do it because they want massive amount of scale. So I, I think that the people who are successful have. A very strong point of view or way of looking at the world that is extensible enough, that it can be understood by the other people who work for them and by the organization as a whole to use an example, that is the opposite of my personal beliefs, but Fox news is that right.
Fox news has a point of view about the world. It. Point of view that I personally endorse, but from an abstract business sense, and I think that almost made MSNBC understand we also have to have the opposite point of view and we have to attract talent that internalizes that view. Now we have to understand who's the audience and how are they being served and how do I reach them?
Because I think the biggest mistake that people make is when they start media companies, they think about what they want to cover, but they should be thinking about who the audience is. If we quit and we're like, let's do a media business that covers podcast or venture start, venture backed businesses.
We're thinking about the subject of the media, but the real question was like, who's the audience? And who's the underserved audience. So you could say. In a certain political basis, you could say these guys don't get the news that the mainstream media offers them. Or they think the mainstream media is too liberal or too conservative.
So I know who the audience is. And then I tailor for that, or, I think a classic case is you have a company in sports, like the player Tribune that starts and says, we're gonna let athletes create the media and tell their stories. But I would always ask them like who's the audience.
Cause you, if you have a very defined sense from a psychographic or a demographic of who the audience is, you can constantly tweak the content to reach and who that is. So that could be our audiences, young people. Our audience is the most hardcore fans who love stats, our audiences, X or Y.
And I think that people who understand that can be hugely successful at building a brand and building a reach And people who don't and then I'd say the second thing is that it's really hard to stand out and you have to be somewhat extreme or you have to go into a somewhat newer area. So if you wanna cover NFTs in your first, second or third, you have a good opportunity cuz nobody's covering them.
But if you're gonna make. Social content or content about news or movies or anything else like that, unless you're like hyper opinionated or have something radical to say, there's so much media out there it's really hard to stand out.
MPD: Now. You've been at this for a while, right? You've raised from great investors like Andre Horowits spark and others whats different as an entrepreneur raising when you've already had some, an exit and you've already established your reputation.
What's different for you in the process. And I'm gonna ask a follow on what do people do wrong when they're second time founders? What's the pitfall.
Dan Porter: So I would say that I figured like I'm Dan Porter. I started unsold two companies, write me a check. I'm gonna do it again. And it didn't work. Like they just didn't.
Like it wasn't like I had no experience, but I started another company that I raised money for and I sold, so this would be my kind of third foray into that. And I think on the pro side, there were people who knew me. So all of those people you mentioned, and the firms BJA and spark in at Greycroft Ben Harwood and mark Andreson at least they all knew me.
So I got in the door. And I got to give a pitch and maybe I got over the line, but of those ones who funded me, there were a hundred to 120 who said no. And I was like, You're overanalyzing this company, my guy just gimme the fucking bag and I'll make you money. Cuz that's what I do. Didn't I just fucking prove that.
And it really didn't pan out that way. So I wish that it was incredibly different, but it wasn't, but it was also wasn't an accident that spark was an investor in my other company. So I think. It's most valuable if you've been successful and you have a relationship with an investor who knows you and they know what they're getting.
I would say when it came to operating the business, You auto correct for so many mistakes. The first company I ever sold by the time we sold it, I couldn't find the initial paperwork from when we had incorporated. It was like in a drawer somewhere. Like I forgot to trademark something like it's a lot of stuff.
I just, we just mess up on. And so you get very good and very religious on that. The kind of second time around the second time around. Had all my founders shares, I never put them in a trust for my kids. I never did anything. So just all I did was pay taxes this time.
I'm like, oh I get it. You're supposed to do this and put some here and put some there. So each time you get a little better I will say that. On the operating of the company and at least to date in the interaction with the investors and the board of directors. I feel like they have a high level of confidence in me and they're not trying to run the company or undermine me because it's clear that I've had not just a.
Track record of doing this, a track record of making it through COVID, a track record of making it through 2008 through lots of things like that. But I wish that having been successful was the golden ticket that I thought it was gonna be.
MPD: I know you're a professor of entrepreneurship. You teach a class at NYU, what's the most valuable lesson you cover in the class.
The thing you wish every entrepreneur heard.
Dan Porter: The most valuable lesson that we cover is that there is no there is no textbook or handbook for kind of successful entrepreneurship. I can't teach you how to do it. I can't give you a rule set that if you just follow it, you're gonna be successful.
And I think that two things we really focus on. Is number one, the difference between kind of the full customer development process, where you really figure out what people's problems are and you become an expert in those problems versus the idea. I have an idea, let's do that idea. You, I always say what, why did X company fail?
Cause they built something nobody wanted. And I think you, you have to say that and drill that in over and over again. And then I'd say this, the second aspect is just how wild and unpredictable the journey is. And in a way, college is a lot about predictability. You go. And then you now are your focus to have a major, and then you interview with the career service office.
And so in a way, all you're doing is de-risking and taking a path so that it's predictable. I'm gonna get a degree. I'm gonna get a job, then I'm gonna go here. Then I'm gonna go to graduate school. And that's relieving to parents and it's relieving to students. And I'm a big fan of the, how I built this podcast.
And so we have, numerous stories and, I started the company and then I ran on a business and then I mortgaged my house and then I failed and then I succeeded. And every year the students are like, wow, this is like a crazy roller coaster ride. And I said, yeah it's literally the opposite of the experience you're in now.
It's highly unpredictable. There's no clear. Causality between a and B that if you do a, B is gonna happen and there's no rule book. And I think if they take that away, then that's bigger or better than any kind of like tactical growth hack or anything else. Like you think
MPD: you're gonna learn, Dan, thanks for being on.
Dan Porter: Thanks for having me
MPD: huge. Having Dan on he is a bottomless pit of wisdom for entrepreneurship. So that could have gone on a lot longer. I hope you got some value out of it. If you liked what you heard, please hook us up with a like or a five star review and feel free to share with a friend. You can find me on Twitter at MPD, and to hear more of my conversations with innovators, subscribe on YouTube.
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