Business Startup Spotlight: Draft Fantasy

Draft Fantasy

Draft Fantasy Co-founder shares thoughts about their local startup ecosystem:

We were lucky to be in a great eco-system in Tel Aviv, which always has start-up events happening. We used these events to learn and network whenever we could. I would highly recommend other founders to tap into their local eco-system.

Name: Draft Fantasy

Fantasy Soccer

Sam Guigui, Co-founder

Location: Tel Aviv, Israel


Product / Service Offering: Draft-style fantasy football (soccer)

Co-founder Interviewed: Sam Guigui

Other Key Management Team Members: Elie Steinbock


This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies.  We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.

Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you?

I was born in Miami Beach, Florida and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. I supported teams from Miami and Florida even though no one else did. I think this dedication to my teams through thick and thin played a major role in my passion for sports.

At age 13, I discovered fantasy sports. With fantasy sports I could build and manage my own teams, getting points based on my players’ actual performances. The ability to have my own teams that competed with my friends’ teams amplified my love for sports. I watched many more games each season. Even though I loved sports, I never thought I would be lucky enough for fantasy sports to become part of my profession.

While attending Brandeis University, I was a co-host of a sports radio show called “The Extra Point.” While I was arguing with my friends about sports every Thursday night, I ended up becoming the Communications Director of WBRS, the radio station at Brandeis.

Fantasy Soccer
After graduating from Brandeis, I moved to Israel. Watching American sports live was quite difficult, but there was no way I was giving it up. I completed my International MBA from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and served in a special R&D unit in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). While I was doing this, I would be up all hours of the night to watch sports and follow my fantasy teams. It was just my luck that I moved in with Elie Steinbock. He had built one of the first draft-style fantasy soccer platforms while serving in a special programming unit in the IDF. The website he built attracted incredible organic traction in the tens of thousands of users, so we decided to turn it into a company while finishing up our military services.

When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?

The Draft Fantasy platform was built by Elie a couple of years ago when he noticed a massive gap in the fantasy soccer space. He has been a dedicated fantasy soccer user for over a decade, but realized that the style of fantasy soccer he and the millions of other fantasy soccer players were playing was lacking.

Although I grew up with the American standard of fantasy sports, which has been draft-style for decades, there was no platform for draft-style fantasy soccer. The benefits of draft-style fantasy sports are that users have completely unique teams, can trade players with their friends, and the draft itself. The draft is an intense, fun-filled process for fantasy users to select the players on their unique fantasy teams. Even though there was fantasy soccer, it was missing draft-style until we entered. This made us grow so fast organically while we were serving in the IDF.

What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?

As an avid fantasy sports user and having received tons of feedback from our users, it is clear that our company currently fills a need for our customers to interact with soccer in a personalized and social manner. We are seeking to build on this need by offering different variations of draft-style games to further engage our current users and build our user base.

<  see related:  Key to Startup Success:  Customer Discovery >

What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?

I think the biggest things that set us apart from our direct competitors is our platform’s ease of use and the fact that we have expanded to different leagues and additional draft-style games.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?

We are always going through many challenges, and I think that will always be the case.

If I had to pick the biggest challenge, I would say it was operating the company while serving in the military, especially once we decided to turn the platform into a company. We met with lawyers, tax advisors, potential partners and investors, and most importantly, worked to build on our early success.

It was not easy, but I think we handled it very well. Many times we would change out of our uniforms when we arrived at law offices or get home late from meetings and have to get to our bases early the next morning. We would stay up late and get work done for the company on base while still being responsible for our other duties.

One of the biggest things that helped was the fact that we were roommates, which allowed us to work late hours at home.

Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?

We were lucky to be in a great eco-system in Tel Aviv, which always has start-up events happening. We used these events to learn and network whenever we could. I would highly recommend other founders to tap into their local eco-system.

I also have used LinkedIn a lot to connect with people that I never thought I could meet or even knew existed. If a founder does not have a LinkedIn or rarely uses it, I would recommend changing that.

Interested in learning more about different resources?  See our Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight Series. 

What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?

We have secured a small amount of funding and are currently looking to close a seed round. We are still reaching out to industry leaders and investors around the world to build our network and secure further funding.

It is difficult to focus on developing our company and products while raising funds, but speaking with investors has helped us as a company even if they do not invest. If I could do anything differently regarding fundraising, I would have started using LinkedIn earlier and cast a bigger net instead of focusing on a few investment options.

Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?

For us legal and tax issues have been quite difficult. It seems like even when we receive advice it has not been consistent. It has been tough for us to discern who and what to listen to when it comes to differing legal and tax opinions.

What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?

Fundraising and monetizing before getting licensed. I think part of the fundraising challenge is explaining fantasy soccer and the industry properly, especially when we are not there physically. In Israel particularly, fantasy sports are not as popular as in Europe or the United States, which creates a barrier for us.

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What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?

I personally love this quote from Van Wilder: “Don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never get out alive.” I’m not sure this is a tip or a hack, but it helps remind me that everything will be good. Running a startup can be like a sports game. Sometimes things go our way and everything is looking amazing. Next, we find ourselves facing a bunch of challenges. For me it is about enjoying the successes and facing the challenges, knowing that both are inevitable.

I also discovered a cool hack to automatically invite hundreds of people who have Liked one of our Facebook posts to give our page a Like, saving me a ton of time and effort.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
Fantasy Soccer

Draft Fantasy is the market leader for draft-style despite having a tiny percent of what our competitors have in terms of funding.

I really love how lean we are able to run. I give all the credit to my partner, Elie. We cover our costs without having a ton of revenue yet, which I think is very impressive for a young start-up. Considering what we have accomplished without proper funding, I am excited for what is to come because the sky is the limit.

Interested in Startup Stories? < see related: Business Startup Spotlight>

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Sandra Sloan

Sandra has previous supply chain and business operations experience which she is leveraging as an author with FundingSage focused on spotlighting entrepreneurs and their startup efforts.