Tech start-up of the week: Bragbet

10 Jun 2012

Phil Riordan, co-founder and CEO of Bragbet

Euro 2012 has kicked off and our tech start-up of the week is Bragbet, a new social betting platform for groups of pals to get together online, form teams, and make virtual bets during the football championship.

The Dublin-based start-up has also put up a prize fund of €2,012 for teams that place virtual bets on its site during Euro 2012, including €1,000 for the best-performing team on Bragbet during the tournament.

Bragbet itself came about after three of its co-founders Phil Riordan, Brian O’Mullane and Jonathan O’Neill met at the 2010 Start-Up Weekend in Dublin. Since then, the new venture has participated in the Launchpad digital accelerator at the NDRC in Dublin while it also took part in Seedcamp in London last year.

Co-founder Riordan, who is now CEO, says that seven people are currently involved in Bragbet, including its three founders, a marketing officer, a designer/animator, a gambling industry veteran and a marketing executive.

Friendly banter and slagging

So what’s the social betting platform all about then? According to Riordan, the idea is to get groups of friends together to engage in social banter, slag each other and place virtual bets, based on their football knowledge.

He says that the Bragbet Euro 2012 contest will take the form of a beta trial for a wider launch ahead of the new football season when the start-up will set its sights on the likes of the Premiership and possibly other sporting events.

“Right now it involves teams of up to six friends or colleagues who take turns each day to place bets on matches in the Euro 2012 tournament,” he says. The bets are virtual ones, however, so no cash will exchange hands.

During Euro 2012, he says a different team member will become captain every day.

“The captain places bets for the whole team. All of the other team members can make suggestions or offer tips each day. There will also be spot prizes for the best tipsters throughout the tournament,” says Riordan.

Social gambling

While the start-up team had taken a step back to focus on other areas in recent times, Bragbet is aiming to gain a stake in the social gambling space.

“We all had other commitments. I had an MBA I was doing part time which I finished last month. We are now looking to push on with the concept and drive it forward to a profitable business,” says Riordan.

Gartner recently predicted that mobile gambling could reach a global figure of US$100bn by 2017, driven by social gaming and the development of mobile wallets.

“Online betting has never been a very social activity and we want to change all that by integrating it with the very best aspects of social media,” says Riordan.

For instance, teams that sign up will be able to use social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to post details of what teams they are putting their virtual bets on.

Beta trial

He says that the beta trial during Euro 2012 will allow Bragbet to test out the platform with users for the first time.

As for user engagement Riordan says that since Bragbet started testing last week, its homepage and initial messaging has seen changes with the site’s conversion ratio going from below 5pc in the first day to almost 15pc on Thursday.

“We will be looking to continue to test all aspects of the platform and get as much feedback as possible to improve it and remove any friction points that may be there.”

Bragbet’s ultimate aim though is to allow users to place real bets on sporting events via the site, possibly by the end of the year.

“We are looking to gather as much data from the Euro 2012 tournament, secure a partner sportsbook and launch a real money game before the end of the year,” explains Riordan.

He says that when the Bragbet site launches for real, users will have the option to place money on the performance of their team.

“This means that the team captains will be effectively betting with their friends’ cash, which should make for some interesting chats in the pub on a Saturday night!”

Lean start-up

Bragbet is running in lean terms at the minute, but Riordan says the start-up team is open to talking to investors down the line.

“We have had some early discussions with investors but will only begin in earnest after the launch and have some partner negotiations lined up.”

Starting out

As for challenges that Bragbet has encountered during its start-up phase, Riordan says there have been no major ones really.

“The Irish tech scene is very strong at the moment, and in general the resources are there with a much easier company set-up than most places in the world.

“The only difficulty we would have is that a number of VCs cannot invest in the gambling space, a category which we would a fall into, but we now have strong interest from a number of specialist firms throughout Europe.”

As for his advice for other thinking of venturing out on their own, Riordan refers to incubator programmes like Launchpad and Startupbootcamp in Dublin.

“Tthe supports are definitely there to get up and running, but even if you are not a techie yourself, tools such as 99designs, oDesk and LaunchRock mean that you can get a prototype up to test your ideas and assumptions very quickly and cheaply,” he adds.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic