Hartford, Conn. (April 28, 2014) – The name of their game is “Underdog,” a fantasy football mobile application that is team-based rather than based on individual athlete’s performances, as standard in the fantasy sports world.
The idea won Alex Barker ’14 and Jake Shimmel ’14 $10,000 in Trinity’s Inaugural Entrepreneurship Competition, hosted by the Career Development Center, which will go toward further development of their project.
“It feels great, we put a lot of work into this,” Barker said.
“We’re really excited and we think this idea can go a long way.
We had some really stiff competition and we all worked really, really, really hard.”
“We’re just ecstatic,” added Shimmel. “This has been going on since October. It’s a long process, and we’re just very excited.”
At one point in the pressure-packed presentation to a judging panel of five and an audience of well over 100, the team was questioned on whether their idea would be able to survive in the uber-competitive sports marketplace.
“It definitely had us second guessing,” Shimmel said. “I think we answered the question well. We were just hoping that our idea was good enough to get through.”
The duo was an “underdog” of sorts in the competition, as the question appeared to cause some skepticism.
“It gave us an opportunity to reiterate our strengths and I think we got that point across,” added Barker.
“We’re a small, nimble, versatile team, so we can move quickly, which works to our advantage with this.”
The application will be entirely mobile-based and will reward participants on their ability to correctly predict the winning teams each week during the N.F.L. season, with incentives for correctly predicting “underdog” teams that are not expected to win. This app will cater to those who don’t have the time for a typical fantasy sports commitment, and to those who would prefer to root for teams, rather than individuals. A fantasy sports league typically requires a season-long commitment and a dedication that can eat tens of hours each week. Barker says the plan is to start with the N.F.L., and grow to other sports from there.
Shimmel came up with the idea while the two were eating in the Cave on campus, and talking about their own fantasy teams. They were both excited that the New England Patriots had won, but disappointed about their fantasy teams’ poor performance that weekend. They had heard about the Entrepreneurship Competition and after thinking it over for a couple of days, decided to see what they could do with their idea.
The timetable for the application has not yet been released, but the target launch for beta testing is this upcoming N.F.L. season, with plans to put the app to public market in time for the 2015-16 season.
“It’s going to move very quickly,” Barker said. “Winning the competition changes our strategy with this.”
Four-time Emmy winner and accomplished entrepreneur, George Bell P’15, '17, was the keynote speaker at the final event of Trinity’s Entrepreneurship Competition, where he stressed the importance of professionalism, hard work, and doing what you love.
“Walk with a great degree of confidence, have conviction, and own your ideas, and when you do that, there’s power,” Bell told the audience. “At the end of the day, your highest negotiating power is through the maintenance of your own integrity. If you just hang on to who you are, no one has the power to take that away from you. And as that becomes more valuable to you, you’ll find that’s in some way your best negotiating power.”
Four teams made six-minute presentations before a four-minute Question and Answer session with the judging panel, before each judge and the audience casted their votes in a deliberation period.
Entertainment was provided by Sea Tea Improv in a surprise appearance, cutting the tension during the deliberation period.
“We are incredibly proud of all of our student entrepreneurs,” said Career Development Center Director J. Violet Gannon.
“The entrepreneurial spirit is woven into the very fabric of the Trinity experience, and our teams’ creativity, innovative thinking, and outstanding business plans are a testament to the power of the liberal arts.”
Introduced by the Career Development Center, the Trinity Entrepreneurship Competition, in its inaugural year, began in October. The finalists
were each awarded $2,000 in seed money to further develop their ideas. The finalists were also assigned alumni mentors and participated in workshops to hone their ideas and develop their presentations.
Jeb Balise ’03 served as the alumni mentor for Barker and Shimmel. Balise is the CEO of PuzzleSocial Inc., a social gaming company based in New York.
The event was sponsored by Tom Safran ’67 and Stephen Hopkins P’14, who also led two incubation sessions for the finalists.To watch a video archive of the full event, visit www.trincoll.edu/livevideo.