Before we launch our app and start hosting daily games we thought it would be cool for you to get to know Chris Brothers, StableDuel’s Managing Director of Strategy and Operations, and get his take on the start up and what has gone into creating our game.
Strategy and Operations – that covers quite a bit – what does that title translate to your overall role at StableDuel?
I pretty much oversee and support all of our departments to make sure our game is kick ass for our players. In a nutshell, I’m the straw that stirs the drink.
What did you do prior to getting involved in the start-up?
I grew up in Queens, NY, and have always been a sports fanatic, particularly with the New York Rangers and the New York Giants. I moved to Lexington, KY to take a break from the city and go back to school. After my Father visited multiple times for the horse sales, he thought it was a cool place to be. I soon realized I needed a job, so I began weed eating and mowing on a farm in Paris. Before I knew it, I was interacting with the horses and completely fell in love. For the past 8 years, I have worked in the bloodstock world, buying and selling horses. I really loved working with my clients and we still maintain close relationships to this day. But when StableDuel came along, it was the opportunity of a lifetime that I couldn’t pass up.
StableDuel is still operating with a pretty small team. What is the rest of the team like?
We are a small but diverse family, mostly made up of weirdos. We have backgrounds ranging from Wall Street finance to bloodstock, academia, promotional marketing, and technology. It makes for an interesting mix of personalities, but we all have one thing in common – the love of horse racing.
Sounds like a cool group! What is the atmosphere like in the office?
Our office is awesome. Everyone has their jobs to do and we have fun doing it. Lots of white boards for creative thinking, a shuffleboard for office Olympics, and of course, bourbon and gambling Fridays. The team busts their asses whenever things need to get done. That’s something I am truly proud of. We definitely have a “Work Hard, Play Hard” mentality.
This app has been in development for quite a while. What has been going on since its first test games early last year?
We truly believe that people overvalue ideas and undervalue execution. There is a huge amount of execution required to successfully implement the ideas. We’ve taken a lot of player feedback to improve and enhance the game since last year. That’s why it has taken so long. This isn’t the Field of Dreams movie where “if you build it, they will come.” Our approach has been “tell us what you want and we will build it for you.”
The app that we released in November was more so a test version to prove the functionality of the game itself and get player feedback. The new app that we will release has more features, better graphics, and a much-improved user experience. I’d list it all out, but we want you to experience it firsthand.
What have been some of the biggest obstacles within the start up?
Listen, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to any start up. One of the biggest things to overcome is the challenge of developing something new that has not been proven, and then no matter what industry you’re in, there is that ceiling you have to break through in order to be recognized, approved of, and respected. Believe me, we’ve had some amazing high-fiving, chest-bumping moments that have later been met with crying under a desk. The thoroughbred racing world isn’t the easiest to break into. There are a lot of relationships and traditions that have been around for a long time, which we respect. That’s also why it has taken longer to launch.
We embrace the highs and learn from the lows. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’ve gone home and laid in an empty bathtub a few times, to reference one of our favorite shows, Silicon Valley.
When it launches, what are you most excited for players to experience?
The simplicity of our game and the personality of it as well. It is not just a log in, create your stable and place a bet. You get to virtually feel like you’re involved with the horses, jockeys, trainers and other players. All of these relationships become part of your personal player profile that you can follow and experience the races with. It’s really unlike anything we have seen before.
There are always a few haters out there, what do you say to the twitter trolls?
Look, no matter what you do, you’re going to get hated on. A lot of times, you almost know you are doing something right when people are trying to put you down. Early on, a few people dogged us on twitter, but yet we were seeing them log in and continue to play our game. One of our office rules is that we don’t get jammed up. We do the jamming. Let them hate.
This has been an interesting time for all businesses. What has it been like for your start-up during Covid-19?
One thing I’ve learned is that I hate zoom calls. Luckily, we are a small team that has been able to work remotely but we all miss the family atmosphere and fun of being in the office together. We are big believers that “you have to be there,” no matter where “there” is. In times of crisis, there is always a window of opportunity. I hope that we all can see the slowdown as an opportunity for growth, both personally and professionally.
All seems to still be trucking along though! What do you aim to be your launch date?
It is tough because the racing world has so many unknowns right now, but we’d like to coincide our launch with the opening of Belmont. We plan for our app development to be completely finished in the coming week. With some testing to follow, we aim to be live this month or heads will roll!
Do you see this time period as a good or bad time to launch your app?
Mostly good in that horse racing is the only live sport at the moment, but bad that not all of the racetracks are open. The level of uncertainty is hard to handicap, literally. We are enjoying the renewed deserved focus horse racing is getting currently and we think this is a great time to launch and be a part of this rare time period.
Will this launch be the final product or is there still more to come?
There are a lot of awesome features that will be rolled out in the future, including live video feed, track weather forecasts, track media, and even a StableDuel school. If I keep going, your head will explode. StableDuel will never be idle, we will always innovate.
Will players be able to play every track in the United States? What about international?
We have agreements with a sizable majority of the tracks in the United States and we’ve already been exploring and working with representatives in Latin America and Europe.
We look forward to working with all of our partner tracks as well as the associated horsemen groups and charities and aftercare.
StableDuel’s goal has always been to give back to the industry we love so much.
You mentioned charities and aftercare, can you elaborate a little bit more on that?
Last year we sponsored the Best Turned Out award at the Preakness Stakes, which contributed to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. We were blessed to have the Baltimore Ravens’ All-Pro Ronnie Stanley come and hand out the gifts and checks to the grooms on the day.
We have personally been involved with horses, whether it’s from racing ownership or retraining after their racing careers finish. We know how important it is to take care of the animals we love so much. They provide us with so much joy that we need to make sure they are well taken care of after racing.
What do you think the biggest opportunity StableDuel provides for the racing industry?
We think StableDuel can act as a bridge between horse racing and mainstream sports fans. It gives them a product that they are familiar with as well as a simple fun platform to be able to learn about the sport without being intimidated. It makes “The Sport of Kings” more accessible to everyday sports fans.
What is your long-term goal for the company?
We think that StableDuel has the ability to become a brand that people outside of horse racing will recognize as the center of innovation for the industry.
We are very intent on creating exciting content from racing to broadcast and grabbing new demographics of fans.
There is no reason why horse racing should not be just as popular as bigger sports like football and having a relatable brand is one of the avenues to get us there.