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Startup Learnings from Dream11.com Fantasy Cricket

Hi everyone,

This is my first post on Rodinhoods, so I hope you like it! I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, though it’s likely to be longer than you’d like 🙂

A short introduction to who I am: I’m the co-founder and CEO of Dream11.com, the World’s No.1 Fantasy Cricket Game. I also co-founded Red Digital, one of India’s leading digital media agencies with 40 employees in 5 offices, which was acquired by Gozoop (Rohan Bhansali, Gozoop’s co-founder, is a fellow Rodinhooder!)

It’s been exactly 5 years since my friends and I launched Dream11.com to solve the problem that we were facing: we were all CRAZY fantasy football (soccer) players, so we wanted to play fantasy cricket as well. When we started looking for a good fantasy cricket website, we realized that there was no such thing! Super Selector had fizzled out after a huge launch in the internet boom of 1999, and any other fantasy cricket games were only namesake and hidden inside generic websites, probably satisfying a criteria on the KPI checklist of some product manager.

With grandiose visions, we decided to launch our own fantasy cricket game and found the perfect name: Dream11.com, since the nomenclature in cricket for a dream team is Dream XI. We thought we’d keep the game free to play and after spending some money marketing, have millions of users playing on Dream11.com, and make money from ads/sponsorships. Little did we know that when we would go to the mass market, their response to our ‘Play Fantasy Cricket’ ad was ‘Fantasy kya hai?’. Cutting the long story short as I promised, here are 10 great lessons I learnt the hard way:

    1. The business model didn’t work without at least a few million users
    1. Having a salesforce is super-expensive (bonuses, targets, travel, attrition, etc)
    1. Clients NEVER pay on time, but vendors ALWAYS demand payments on time – managing your cash flow is the biggest challenge
    1. Your income statement can be highly deceiving, especially with a salesforce – focus on your cash flows!
    1. Make sure you don’t go all out with your marketing spends to launch your product without getting an MVP (minimum viable product) out there first and gathering positive customer data and stats, which you can build upon
    1. If you have a consumer product, your whole life should revolve around Customer Acquisition Costs, Customer Lifetime Value and Churn
    1. You will never ‘lose the opportunity’ if your product is launched a little later but works exactly as it should – product always wins at the end of the day
    1. Unless you’re 1,000% sure your backend can handle it, never splurge on marketing because its much more expensive to convince unsatisfied users to return
    1. Never hire someone to run your startup – they’ll burn your money, earn their money, and leave for a better job whenever shit hits the fan (which it always will)
    1. The BIGGEST mistake I made was letting others convince me to spend much more and much earlier than I should have!

But in 2012, after spending the last 2 years researching on legal requirements and getting the required signed opinions, we finally pivoted to a freemium fantasy cricket game on Dream11.com.  Our users can now register, create a team and join leagues for free – but to win cash they have to pay cash! For example, 10 users can join a league where the winner wins Rs.10,000 by paying Rs.1,150 each. Dream11.com keeps approximately 10% of the fees after paying out the payment gateways.

We were the first daily paid Fantasy Cricket site in the world and now, 10+ other websites have followed us down this road, although we continue to lead the pack significantly. I’m very excited about the future as we build this industry and make sure Fantasy Cricket earns its rightful place in the Fantasy Sports world. We’ve also just launched our US operations, along with our Android app, and now users globally are competing to win our daily cash leagues! With hundreds of thousands of users currently, our future is looking very bright indeed, if I may say so myself 🙂

If you have some feedback on Dream11.com, I’d love to hear it in the comments below. Check it out: fantasycricket.dream11.com

Lastly, we’ve just launched Fantasy Football as well for the FIFA World Cup – so don’t be shy; try it out and win some cash! fantasyfootball.dream11.com

Thanks for reading! 🙂

First Published on: Jun 9, 2014

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14 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Chetan Soni

    I have played this game..

  2. Profile photo of Sushrut Munje

    Harsh, one of my college batchmates just upgraded his job profile as senior software developer at Dream11. Proud and happy to see this post again 🙂 Best wishes.

  3. Profile photo of Harsh Jain

    Great to hear you’ve played on Dream11.com Chetan – how was the experience? Would love to know your feedback and suggestions.

  4. Profile photo of Harsh Jain

    That’s great Sushrut. Thanks!

  5. Profile photo of Martand Biniwale

    Thanks a lot Harsh for posting the business model of Fantasy Sports.

    I want to Start a Table Tennis Fantasy League .The Only Difference is the Points will be calculated on individual Win Losses .

    So does it still come under Game of Skill ? Is Fantasy League allowed in Europe ? or the rules differ from country to country ?

    The Target Audience is mainly European Countries .

  6. Profile photo of Harsh Jain

    Hi Martand,

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that would qualify as a game of skill because it is a single athlete game with a single performance. Look up the UIGEA in USA to understand what qualifies fantasy sports games as games of skill.

    Fantasy Leagues are allowed in Europe but as far as I know you’ll have to buy a license, just like any other gaming/gambling operator in countries that allow it.

    Good luck!

  7. Profile photo of Martand Biniwale

    Hi Harsh ,

    Thanks a lot !

    I will try to find if any other Business model can work 🙂

    Once again Thanks a ton !

  8. Profile photo of Harsh Jain

    You’re most welcome! 🙂

  9. Profile photo of asha chaudhry

    happy b’day harsh!!

    it’s been so long – pls share more about your journey – am sure lots of new things have taken off since this last post!!

  10. Profile photo of Roshan Desarda

    I have played the game quite a few times and was addicted. However I was unable to withdraw the money I won and have never logged in again. It is still in my Dreams11 account.

  11. Profile photo of Harsh Jain

    Hi Roshan,

    I’m sorry to hear that. We have quite a strict process for verifications, because users from Assam/Odisha and those younger than 18 years aren’t eligible. But once you’ve completed this 1-time verification, withdrawals are just a single click away straight to your bank account.

    Please email us on helpdesk@dream11.com and I’ll get my customer care head to personally take care of this!

    Thanks

  12. Profile photo of Akhil Suhag

    Hey Harsh,

    I am trying to figure out how can I incorporate real time score updates. We were looking at feeds- like opta etc but they seem pretty expensive for commercial purposes.

    I am mostly just looking for football and was wondering which data feed do you use and how much do you have to pay for it, would really appreciate if you could let me know.

    Regards.

  13. Profile photo of Manoj Yadav

    Hi Harsh,

    Your post was one of the most read articles on therodinhoods.com and we are happy to have featured it again on the home page! Check out – http://therodinhoods.com and congrats!

  14. Dream11 Fantasy Cricket is the Best Online Portal. Lots of people already earnings Lakhs of Rupees easily.

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