What sparked your interest in sports and sports data?
I've always enjoyed playing sports, even at a young age. Sports kept me away from gangs and drugs, and helped keep me disciplined.
Sports data is extremely valuable to me as an athlete, as it helps inform my progress and how to improve. Studying it for fantasy sports or sports betting is also a winning strategy; it helps me create the best lineups and bets.
How did you build on this love for sports to launch Fanalyze?
My co-founder, Chris Longboy and I go back to junior high, where we both ran in our 4x1 relay team. We also ran the 100-yard dash, played on our high school varsity football team, and danced in a hip-hop dance crew called Dangerous Image—the number one hip-hop dance group in California in the early ’90s.
As an adult, we were in the same fantasy league and unusually, one of us came out on top as the winner. One day I asked him how he did his weekly research and he showed me his spreadsheet with stats, rankings, data, and scores. I was amazed by this and showed him several websites where I looked for rankings, projections, injuries, sit and start, waiver wire recommendations, and more. We knew it would take a lot of time to pull in all of this research to win, so we decided to solve the problem by building software that aggregates the right data points and displays it in one location.
Today, as co-founders, we have a great balance between engineering and product design. We’ve known each other so long and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses while trusting each other.
What got you into fantasy football?
My college friends and I started our fantasy football league on CBS Sports over 15 years ago. We still have the same group playing fantasy football each year.
How do you handle risk and competition?
We follow the sports market trends closely to make sure we make the right decisions. There is plenty of competition out there but as a product designer, I make a habit of talking to our users to make sure we are providing the best value and building products that our target market wants.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
It’s been challenging trying to launch products and fundraise at the same time. However, I've learned to improve my confidence and pitch with every presentation, which has helped me win several pitch competitions in the last six months.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
I grew up winning in sports and being in the top dance crew. I never lacked confidence, but once I got into startups I was humbled and had to quickly learn from many small failures. For instance, when we were selected to be on Meet the Drapers, I was really nervous to pitch on television and was star-struck when I found out at the start of the recording that the guest judge was going to be Ronnie Lott. Ronnie is very knowledgeable about this space and his firm invests in some of our competitor companies. I was so star-struck that I struggled to get my vision across during the show. I wish I prepared differently and it was definitely a good learning experience. That being said, I've learned to stay focused, determined, and to have the belief that anything is possible, so long as you take things one step at a time.
What was it like shifting careers to launch your own startup?
I wrote my first business plan in college. I knew then I wanted to start my own business one day. Prior to working at Apple and Charles Schwab, I was an early employee at a couple of tech startups and I built my first startup, FilipinoPeople.com, on the side in 2003.
Once I had a taste of entrepreneurship, it was really difficult to stay focused on a traditional career track. Even while working at Apple and Charles Schwab, I kept daydreaming about the next startup I was going to launch. Luckily, that dream is now a reality with Fanalyze.
What’s your team culture like?
We have a small team, but doing our best to build the culture now as more team members join. We are focused on building a diverse and balanced team that’s casual, but professional. We encourage open communication and a creative environment. We want to make it fun for everyone, while also making sure stuff gets done.
What is your superpower?
I can come up with the wildest ideas. I've developed a few inventions and I filed a couple of patents on the side when I was working at Apple. One idea led me to design a product that was the prototype of the iPod Video Converter. It was a great idea, but slow to launch. Lesson learned.
One of my first jobs was at an artificial intelligence and natural language processing startup. The company was building desktop assistants way before they were called chatbots. I used the technology to program a demo for the sports industry and instead of an avatar, I used a team mascot that lived on your desktop. Users could interact with the mascot by entering questions on news, game tickets, team trivia, and schedules. The mascot-bot then shared the results via speech or a link with more information. It is crazy how I am applying the same technology I learned 21 years ago!
What’s your kryptonite?
Great food and dessert. I do my best to lose and maintain my weight, but once you get a taste of delicious food, everything goes out the door.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
Other than fantasy sports, I try to stay active by playing basketball in a league with a group of friends and teaching my daughter sports. I also play online poker with my childhood friends.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Even though I was a sprinter growing up, I've definitely learned this fast.