Sleeper is attempting to compete with big fantasy league applications from companies such as ESPN, and has raised venture capital from Silicon Valley investors to do so.
The San Francisco-based startup wants to treat fantasy football leagues more like social platforms than a jumble of league mechanics, positioning itself as a simple, ad-free alternative.
Sleeper has gotten little press as it has grown its app over the last two seasons, but the team has been courting investors to help scale the product, raising more than $7 million from VCs so far. Late last year, the company raised $5.3 million in a Series A round led by General Catalyst. In early 2017, the company raised $2 million in a seed round led by Birchmere Ventures, with participation from Expa, the startup studio founded by Uber co-founder Garrett Camp.
There aren’t many monetization solutions available right now.
According to CEO Nan Wang, the company’s current emphasis is on “increasing a wide base of users and making it the stickiest and highest engagement product in the category.”
During the season, Wang claims that app users spend an average of 50 minutes a day on the app, which he describes as “Instagram-like” numbers. The fact that chat is only a swipe away, and that all of the season’s activities appear inside chats to promote interaction, appears to be the key contributor to that figure.
Users will now have a unified experience, rather than having to put together their experience by using a WhatsApp or GroupMe group in addition to their other fantasy league applications. The more distinct UI of Sleeper, as well as the up-to-the-minute alerts that offer league updates, appear to be common among early vocal users.
Though poaching users from other sites is a top priority, Wang says the team has also been looking at how to nab users who have avoided the perplexing world of fantasy leagues and The N.H.L. Schedule. Taking on the leading apps from ESPN, Yahoo, and the NFL can be intimidating; another concern for the younger startup is the short user acquisition window; however, things can rapidly compound if you can attract only one loyal user who takes their entire league to the site.
“From the second week of August to the first week of September, the consumer acquisition window for fantasy football leagues is at its peak. “We’ve seen about 70% of users build their leagues in that three-week timeframe in the past,” Wang says.
The money will be used to grow the company’s workforce, which currently numbers only ten full-time staff, as well as extend its goals beyond fantasy football to other sports like basketball and soccer.
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