Listen in as Casey Huke, the CEO of Adrenaline, joins Ryan on the show to talk about Football Genius.

Show notes from Casey Huke Interview

Ryan Knuppel: All right. Welcome back to another episode of the Knup Sports Show. I’m your host, Ryan Knuppel here with you once again. Hope you guys are all having a great January and really getting back into the swing of things here as the new year has hit. Hey, today we have another special guest as we always do, another guest with us today. We have the Adrenaline CEO, Casey Huke with us. Casey, welcome to the show.

Casey Huke: Thanks, Ryan. I appreciate you having me on.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, absolutely. I’m excited to talk about what you have going on with Adrenaline and Football Genius and all of this great stuff that you have going on. So yeah man, first of all, how you hanging in there? How was your new year and how is your 2021 begin for you?

Casey Huke: I’d say 2021 has to be better than 2020. We’re excited for the new year, ready to get things going, excited for the continued NFL playoffs and sports to sort of come back to as normal as they can get.

Ryan Knuppel: Sure. Sure. A hundred percent. And we’re getting to that time here where football Super Bowl is coming up here in a couple of weeks. I’m excited about that. Being in Florida, myself, I may shoot over to Tampa and enjoy the festivities if I can do it safely. So that’ll be a good time as well. Always a fun time around Super Bowl Sunday so looking forward to that.

Ryan Knuppel: All right, well, let’s dive right in. Give me a little bit about yourself, man. Where did you get started in this crazy iGaming slash betting industry? Before we get into your company and what you do, how’d you get started in this? And give me a little bit about your career path.

Casey Huke: Yeah, yeah. I’ve kind of been doing things related to this for about a decade. It started in a much different place than where I am right now. About a decade ago, a close buddy of mine who’s actually currently on the staff of Penn State, he came to me and was just talking about all the issues that the big time college football teams and NFL teams had. Kind of analyzing all of the data that they needed to track about their players, their tendencies, all this stuff.

Casey Huke: So we actually initially created a company that shorthand would be to try and create Moneyball for football, where this was software that we would go and sell to major colleges and NFL teams. And it would help them track all of the work that they did, everything from what they did in their practice, creating practice grips to grading their players, to analyzing videotape and doing tendency analysis and things like that.

Casey Huke: That was really kind of how we got this ball rolling. And I was very, very fortunate to get hooked up to the Frank Beamer staff down at Virginia Tech very early on. Those guys really took me under their wing. It was Loeffler, [inaudible 00:02:5`], all of these guys, they took someone that knew really little about what he was trying to do. I was sleeping on their couches doing 17 hour days with them in season for two years while we built this product.

Casey Huke: So it’s been a wild journey to go from sleeping on a coach’s couch in an office to where I am today. But obviously like all startups, there’s fits and starts. Our major issue initially was that the shelf life for a coach is so short. Literally, it’s about two years. So if we were trying to sell a pretty heavy piece of enterprise software, there’s a limited number of teams, 32 NFL teams, 75 colleges that can pay you anything. And then they would get fired after a year or two because it take a year to sell into it.

Casey Huke: So it was tough sledding and we were kind of looking for a new avenue. We thought we had no found kind of the Holy Grail a little bit in 2016 because the NCAA had a rule change. A lot of people aren’t aware of this, but college and NFL level, you’re not allowed to have a computer in the stadium. Some people see the Microsoft Surface tablets in Monday Night Football having think that they’re kind of doing analytical work. That’s really just a marketing thing for Microsoft. The only thing on those tablets is still photographs.

Casey Huke: So what was going to change in 2017 is that the NCAA was going to allow computers to be in the stadium for the first time. What we were able to do, and we worked with some guys on the staff at Boston College in particular, Georgetown, a bunch of colleges had input into this, but we were creating a real time tendency analysis.

Casey Huke: So the idea would be a coach could have a tablet on the sideline and other coaches could be charting kind of what the defenses and the offenses, what their opponents were doing. And they could get real time analytics about what the other team was expected to do.

Casey Huke: We were pretty excited about this product and ready to push it to the market. I think it was April or May of 2017, a few months before the season was going to start in August, the NCAA coaches got together again and they rebanned computers. We had developed this real time software that actually we were getting to a level where we could predict what a coach was going to call about 90% of the time correctly. And now we had no market. It kind of left us scrambling, obviously, time and energy and money. It was like, well, what do we do?

Casey Huke: At about this time, I’ve had incredibly fortunate, incredible good fortune, a lot of luck with what I’ve been doing, whether it was having a conversation with Scott Loeffler, Virginia Tech, when I had absolutely nothing. And he was like, “Yeah, come on down,” to this 2017, when I met Trent Baalke, who at the time was a former GM of the 49ers.

Casey Huke: He’s currently the GM of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he saw a presentation that we had that described what our analytical software was. He just wanted to learn more about it. We started talking and he kind of looped in a close friend of his Trent Dilfer. And we started to discuss, what do we do with this product? And they joined me as partners in my company.

Casey Huke: It was funny. This was before Tony Romo, but my initial thought was, man, I would kill for this tendency analysis to be on a television screen when I’m watching the NFL. Who wouldn’t want to know the likelihood of a pass is this, or run is this? And really have some numbers behind what was going on.

Casey Huke: That was the initial thought was, well, maybe we can take this, get it to a broadcaster or someone like that and we could start incorporating this data into live feeds. But as we discussed it, we kind of thought to ourselves, hey man, how fun would this be to try and make guesses as a game where you’ve got the odds of something, odds of being a run, a pass, a catch, what have you? You and your buddies, you’re watching the game anyways. What if you could have a competition with them? And that was really kind of the genesis for what became Football Genius.

Casey Huke: We took this enterprise level coaching analytical software and we plugged it into a consumer app. And yeah, one of the things that we knew from the very beginning is that, hey, we’re coming from an enterprise background. We’re a startup. We do not have the marketing budget to really make this a huge play, but the idea was, could we get kind of a workable model into the market and see what the reaction would be, and then try and find partners or people that might want to license technology and things of that nature?

Casey Huke: Again, we’re very fortunate. We were able to bring in investors and advisors like Bill Parcells and Brett Favre and Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis, and Trent and even JuJu Smith-Schuster has been helping us out with some of his online marketing. But we took this kind of raw material and were able to get a product and put it in. We’ve been kind of perfecting this technology over the last three years, really going as far back as 2016, if you’re incorporating all the things we did for the coaches.

Casey Huke: So when the Supreme Court repealed the ban on sports gambling, again, I think I told you, I’ve been incredibly fortunate. I would love to say I’m a genius, but I’m not, I’m sure it’s very clear that I’m not a genius. We just lucked out and a lot of the technology we work with, we patented. We know, I would say, as much or probably know more about what it takes to offer in-game betting, play-by-play betting than anyone in America right now.

Casey Huke: There’s some other people that are going down this path. And I think we see that this is going to be a huge piece of the sports betting puzzle, but what we have done is we put a game on the market. It’s called Football Genius. It’s in the Apple App Store. It’s the first, every play, play-by-play “wagering game,” quote unquote, that is available in the App Store.

Casey Huke: We’re just, again, trying to use it as a proof of concept that we hopefully can find the right partner and bring this to a larger audience because we really do believe that sports betting is going to be one, it’s going to be skills-based games. And two, it’s really going to go down the play-by-play world.

Casey Huke: I think you see in Europe where 70% of wages are in game, and then you add in American sports like football and baseball and golf, where there is a cadence, where there’s a discreet action. It stops for a moment. You can make a bet. There’s a discreet action. So we really believe that that is the future. And that’s going to be the fastest growing part of an incredibly fast growing industry.

Ryan Knuppel: Well, I’ll tell you what, Casey, you just made my job really easy. I mean, that was one of the most in-depth explanations of what’s going on here that I’ve ever had from the beginning of the show. So man, thank you for that. I have so much to comment on.

Ryan Knuppel: I mean, first of all, congrats on just that path that you’ve taken. I mean, it’s not easy to make those shifts as you’re going through business and there’s always going to be pivoting and things like that happening, but it sounds like you guys have went through progression after progression and just built on what you guys continue to take out of each… I don’t even want to call them failures. Nothing is a failure, but you’re learning. You’re just learning and you’ve come to this through all it all. It’s a really amazing story, to be honest with you.

Ryan Knuppel: And then, you said something about luck. I mean, I’m a true believer that it takes super hard work to get lucky. I mean, you have to put yourself in the right position to get lucky. So I’m not a real believer in luck. I think it takes a ton of skill and a ton of work to get lucky.

Casey Huke: I appreciate that. Thank you.

Ryan Knuppel: I’ll balk at that a little bit for you. I’m not going to call you lucky in this business world so great job on that for sure. But let me ask. Let’s get a little deeper into Football Genius because I’m super intrigued about the app and about how it works and all of that. I’m sure the listeners maybe who haven’t played on it or haven’t downloaded it yet, hopefully downloading it now, are checking it out. But I’m curious. Is this a free to play game with prizes? Is this a entry fee type game? Tell us a little bit about how that works.

Casey Huke: Yeah, currently it’s a free to play game with prizes and that’s really how we were able to get on the App Store. No one’s risking cash. The concept, and this was actually something that me and the Trents kind of agonized over on a play. It’s pretty clear what you’re doing. You’re going to risk some amount of money or points or whatever, and you’re going to get some return back.

Casey Huke: But we were thinking, well, if you can’t really bet real cash, how do you make a game out of this? And how do you do it where it’s not whoever gets the most plays right in a game wins. Because that’s three hours where someone will be plugging away. And we’re like, “No one’s going to do that.” And it was actually Trent Dilfer was the one that was like, “Well, the average drives about five to six real minutes, real life minutes. And what if we did every drive?”

Casey Huke: What we kind of narrowed it down to is we actually do where whoever gets the most plays right in a drive, wins money. And whoever wins, gets the most plays right in a quarter, wins a little bit more money. So we broke these things down into smaller and smaller contests to try and make it so that people didn’t feel like they had to just devote their weekend or their night to playing this game.

Casey Huke: It’s been pretty effective. The divisional round, the average person on our app played for two hours. So the engagement was off the charts. I would expect if we got the right partner, we’re in discussions with people. Obviously, I can’t talk too much detail about it, but the idea would be that it would be more that people would buy into this thing and maybe you’d have a 50/50 outcome.

Casey Huke: Or maybe it would just be like, hey, Ryan and Casey put in 10 bucks each and at the end of the drive or the quarter, however the length of time you wanted it to be, winner gets the cash. Because I really do think that that’s going to take it to the next level where free to play is great. And it’s great to test your technology. Make sure it works. Make sure that you’re integrating with [Sportradar 00:14:58] correctly, all the things that you got to do. But it’s the real money gambling, I think, is a future for all this stuff.

Ryan Knuppel: For sure. It’s definitely coming faster than slower. I mean, it is here and it is going to continue to grow, this whole sports betting industry over the next five years, I think at a rapid pace. So I think you’re onto something with that.

Ryan Knuppel: Tell me a little bit. Obviously, we talked in the beginning, big games coming up, Super Bowl at the time of this recording, I think is in a couple of weeks, two, three weeks. What do you guys have planned around the Super Bowl? Anything big? O is it just a standard Football Genius as usual with one game? Tell us a little bit about the Super Bowl time.

Casey Huke: Yeah. We’ll be increasing the prizes. We’d love to have a massive prize, but we just aren’t in a capital position to start doing that. But it really is, it’s again, it’s trying to drive users to a certain extent and it’s more about testing engagement than it is… Again, we don’t have a marketing bull horn that’s going to reach up and down the East Coast and West Coast to have a million people playing it.

Casey Huke: So we’re really just trying to get people to play it, and then really hoping to get feedback from them, whether it’s a survey or a tweet or anything that they can offer us that that can help us improve our product, because that is one of the major focus of what we’re trying to do. We know a lot about in-game gambling, but there’s so much to learn.

Casey Huke: I would say one of the biggest hurdles that’s out there, it’s a technology limitation on the TV side. What happens in real life, best case scenario, your TV shows in eight seconds delay. And if you’re watching some of these other, DirecTV for instance, you could be five minutes behind what happened in real life.

Casey Huke: So it really does affect the quality of making in-game bets. So I actually think that, not that you asked, but just while I’m talking, I actually think in-game betting initially is really going to be an in-stadium experience kind of thing.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah. You’re watching live with your own eyes, exactly.

Casey Huke: Exactly. Exactly. Hopefully there are partnerships with leagues and teams and they’re going to be able to recognize that. I think streaming video services, YouTube TV, those guys are going to be in a real dangerous situation if they don’t get their latency down. Because I do think that this is going to drive a lot of action, a lot of people watching sports and they’re going to go to whoever has the fastest feed.

Casey Huke: You almost wonder if the casinos, I don’t know, this may be apropos nothing, but I do know that there are some lagless feeds that are used by some of these major league, basically the NFL, major league baseball, all these things. You’d think that they could sell those lagless fees to casinos, and people could go to the casinos to make in-game wagers. And it would just drive traffic to the casinos. It would drive business to the leagues. You think it would be a circle that could be pretty lucrative for some people.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah. That’s certainly such an important area when you’re talking about live betting and with technology and that always changing and growing, there’s certainly going to be some issues and some changes and some opportunities for some companies to really capitalize on that. Whether it be on the TV side or the casino side or whatever, but yeah, you’re right.

Ryan Knuppel: I mean, that’s something people don’t think about a lot. But when you’re in the in-game betting space, you really have to worry about that latency because it’s drastic. It’s a game changer. It definitely changes how you play any type of in betting. So very interesting point. I appreciate that for sure.

Ryan Knuppel: Off topic. Who do you got in the Super Bowl? You have a team that you’re cheering for? We’re down to the final four teams right now, but who are you picking?

Casey Huke: The Saints being out of it, that’s who I had. But I’ll be honest, I love Mahomes. I just like everything.

Ryan Knuppel: Class act.

Casey Huke: [crosstalk 00:19:39] great. So I really hope that Kansas City pulls it off again. I grew up a diehard Skins fan. There was always some kind of, I don’t know, connection to the Chiefs. So they’ve always been kind of an AFC team that I’ve appreciated and now they have kind of the most dynamic player, it’s pretty easy to root for them.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, for sure. For sure. It should be a fun time. I mean, I think all four teams that are left are solid. I think we have some great quarterbacks here and then I don’t know, I’m not a Bills fan, but somehow I’m becoming a closet Bills fan all of a sudden. I’ve been gravitated to them all season. I don’t really know why, just something about them makes me happy that they’re they’re succeeding.

Casey Huke: I can relate to that. Just kind of a blue collar, they’ve almost had to earn everything they got.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, you just kind of feel that way. You feel proud, like okay good, the Bill’s, good job. We’ll see though if they can keep up with Kansas City. It’ll be an interesting weekend for sure. So let’s get back on track here. With all the people listening here, we probably have quite a few sports betting professionals and just people in this, iGaming space listening to this.

Ryan Knuppel: What kind of needs do you have or what do you want to ask of the people listening? I mean, is there something you’re looking for, maybe some area in business that you need some help in that maybe somebody listening could offer some sort of help, anything there that you want to say just to the listeners flat out?

Casey Huke: Yeah, no, I appreciate that opportunity. I would say we are constantly in the business of searching for partners. I think we’ve got a lot of strong, raw materials. Getting it to kind of the finished product and the finished company is where we need help going. I wouldn’t expect that we would be a standalone resource just because we’re limited with capital and resources and things like that.

Casey Huke: But if there are people out there that believe in play-by-play betting the way that we do, want to [inaudible 00:21:52], we want to partner with them. We have everything from technology to code, to patents, to engineering expertise, because we have been doing this for years. And it was just like I said, happenstance. We certainly didn’t have any insight into the Supreme Court. We just had a failed market and we’re just trying to find that next move. But I would say be hard pressed to find someone that’s been doing more in real time sports betting longer than us.

Ryan Knuppel: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. Well, Casey, I don’t want to keep you too long. I know you’re a busy man and got a lot going on your plate here. So I guess one of the last things I’d say just to everyone listening, I mean, what I’ll say before you do it, but go out, download the Football Genius app.

Ryan Knuppel: Where can they find it? I mean, is it just in the App Store? Is it you have a website? Tell people where they can find it, maybe how they can get ahold of you, kind of some of those contact channels. And we’ll be sure to link it all up in the show notes, but let us know where we can find some of this stuff.

Casey Huke: Yeah, great. It’s in the Apple App Store. We don’t have an Android version yet, but it’s also available at footballgeniusgame.com. If anyone wanted to reach out to me there’s contact information on that website. So we’d love to hear from anyone. We’re always looking to have more conversations about this. It’s always great to talk to people, even if it’s not business related that just are interested in play-by-play or interested in all these things really dovetail with why we’re in this business.

Ryan Knuppel: Well, you’re definitely in a cutting edge space. The live bedding stuff is not going away, and it’s only going to get better. So I think with you guys having that expertise and really just diving into that space, I mean, props to that. That’s a great space to be in. And you can tell from the success you’re having early, and then from some of the names and advisors you guys have that you truly are making noise in that space. So I just want to give you props for that once again.

Casey Huke: Well, I appreciate it, man. Thank you for your time and interest and inviting me on. This was great.

Ryan Knuppel: Sure. Absolutely. All right. Well that was the Adrenaline CEO. Casey Huke. Casey, thank you so much for joining me. I definitely appreciate it once again.

Casey Huke: Thank you, Ryan.

Ryan Knuppel: All right. And listeners, thank you for tuning in. This was a great episode. If you guys have any questions for Casey, be sure to reach out, get the Football Genius app. Let’s get out there. Let’s play some games. Let’s have fun around this weekend’s games and then also the Super Bowl. It should be a great time. So thank you all for listening, stay safe and we will talk to you next time. Have a great day. Bye-bye.

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