Dustin Sullivan of SportsData.io joins the Knup Sports Show to talk about his company and the future of sports betting data. Listen to how they started with Fantasy Data and have emerged into a Sports Betting Data company thanks to the legalization in the United States.

Show notes:

Ryan Knuppel: 00:00 All right. Welcome to another edition of the Knup Sports Show. My name is Ryan Knuppel. I’m your host here each and every week. Today we have a very special guest with us. We have Dustin Sullivan who is a partner at SportsData.io. Dustin, are you with me?

Dustin Sullivan: 00:13 I am. Good to be here, Ryan.

Ryan Knuppel: 00:15 Awesome. I really appreciate you joining me. I know we connected several months ago back at the Betting On Sports America Conference in New Jersey. I had a really good time talking to you and thought, hey, what better way than to myself get to know you then let my audience get to know you as well. So I appreciate you joining me.

Dustin Sullivan: 00:34 Absolutely.

Ryan Knuppel: 00:35 Cool man. So SportsData.io, tell me a little bit about what your company does, kind of why you guys are in business.

Dustin Sullivan: 00:43 Sure. Well, let’s start from the beginning. We’ve been around since 2008. We started as Fantasy Data, but that company was essentially in the B to B commercial space. We would collect, collate, cleanup data, stats, projections, etc. Then we would deliver that from our API to different businesses. Whether they were doing some kind of tools type of app, you could think like a a FantasyPros, or they were even a DFS operator like a DraftKings or FanDuel. All those types of businesses need data to power what they’re doing. And we had a lot of success in the fantasy space for years and years. But a sports betting is legal here in the US now and so we’re in a totally different world. So in Q1 of this year we rebranded to SportsData.io. In response, to that passed over appeal. So we could start to not necessarily pigeonhole ourself in the fantasy industry, but also because we were building all these sports betting specific products.

Dustin Sullivan: 01:40 Now today, we cover practically all the popular sports, the Big Four, the two colleges, PGA, NASCAR, all the top soccer leagues, even a few e-sports titles. Then we have tons of different data and content feeds that can power different sports betting applications from like aggregated odds feeds. We have all of the New Jersey and PA books and we’ll continue to add on new sports as those go live. We’ve got a whole suite and collection of predictive models from confidence ratings above and below the line to different team and player prop prices all the way down, just like the core game feeds, so stat scores play by play, et cetera. Yeah, we license that to other different, usually commercial entities and then they build whatever they want to build with that. The use cases are pretty limitless.

Ryan Knuppel: 02:28 Wow. I mean that’s pretty amazing. I’m guessing, as you mentioned, legalized sports betting here in the United States, so I’m guessing you guys are in fairly high demand right now. I mean, data is really the driving force around nearly every app, nearly every website, every application that you’re dealing with in this space. With data being a premium, I’m guessing life is good right now for you guys. I mean, are you seeing I guess a spike or an increase in demand for what you guys do?

Dustin Sullivan: 02:57 Absolutely. To put it simply, it is absolutely off the charts. We look back to what we saw in the heyday of DFS, I guess, if you will, where DraftKings and FanDuel came online ,and they kind of took the nation by storm and what was that like 2014 or ’15? We immediately saw this kind of cottage industry of content sites pop up around that. Think again, guys like FantasyPros, RotoQL, RotoGrinders. You want to go play DFS, we’ve got an optimizer that’s going to allow you to play better.

Dustin Sullivan: 03:30 There’s always been sites out there that do picks and different types of sports betting things, but when it’s kind of centralized to either offshore or Vegas only for decades, and now all of a sudden all these new sports come online and you’re opening up yourself to a bunch of new bettors per state, we’re seeing the exact same thing happen. So really starting Q4 of last year, Q1 of this year, the influx of people writing into us and saying, “Hey, I’m building a content site. I’m building an analytics site or a pay for pics type of site, free to play, peer to peer.” I mean again, there’s so many different kind of avenues that you could go with this, but it has been a steady increase in demand really since kind of the end of last year where people are seeing the writing on the wall, having this 10 or 20 year outlook where how big this is going to be across 30 plus states and however many years that takes to get there. They’re trying to be in that kind of first position move to that spot.

Ryan Knuppel: 04:26 Sure. That’s pretty amazing. Without getting real technical, because I know you don’t want to get real technical with me. You’ve got your team that does that. How difficult is something like this to implement if somebody listening here was to say, “Hey man, I need this. I need this type of data. I need some of this,” and they wanted to get with you, order your service. I mean, how difficult of a job is it to kind of plug it? Is it a plug and play thing? Is it a lot of custom coding? At a high level, how difficult is it?

Dustin Sullivan: 04:54 Yeah, sure. Well, first off one of the questions is who uses our stuff? I think as it is applicable to your audience, while we do service mostly B to B, Fantasy Data as a brand is still online and it has a consumer API offering as well. If you’re a professional sports punter, right, and let’s say you need an aggregated odds feed, so you can do your own price comparison or maybe you’ve got a machine learning model that allows you to kind of find arbitrage opportunities in the market. So you want to go as a personal or a professional better. We certainly can service those guys as well.

Dustin Sullivan: 05:27 So whether you’re more of an individual or you’re a company, as it pertains to the amount of effort it takes, the short answer is it depends. But it really depends on the complexity of what you’re looking to do. For example if you’re like a bar or restaurant and you want to show a live score ticker across the screen, I mean you only need access to one of our feeds, scores feed, which has the start time and the current score. Two teams. That’s it. Pretty, pretty simple.

Dustin Sullivan: 05:53 On the other end of the spectrum, let’s say you’re a DFS operator and you’ve got really complex scoring systems across multiple sports with real time in play updates. Just to be able to wire that up to your game engine. I mean that could take months. Six to 12 months. But on average, all that being said, for a commercial entity that’s looking to kind of power their tools or their content site, usually a handful of months will get them to the finish line.

Ryan Knuppel: 06:21 Man, that’s awesome. It’s good to see you guys a really growing like this. Like I said, I really did enjoy … I’m kind of going to flip gears on you here. I really did enjoy sitting down and chatting with you at that conference back in New Jersey. Did you guys have a good experience there? Did you enjoy that conference?

Dustin Sullivan: 06:36 Yeah, it was okay. I’ve been to the conferences in Europe, I’ve been to ICE in London before and you just see how big of a show that is. I think that was my measuring stick. To see what SBC is doing here in New Jersey and I think ICE has a like a betting on sports, I think it’s called. Those guys are trying to get into this space and like my commercial clients, these shows are trying to get in that kind of first position spot. Because I think they see where it’s going to go. I don’t think it’s an apt comparison to look to the shows here in the US to what’s happening over in Europe, but also the market here is a lot less mature as well. So it was decent. But I fully expect those shows to get bigger and bigger and bigger over this next three to five years.

Ryan Knuppel: 07:21 Yeah, for sure. I didn’t have that comparison because I’d never actually been over to London for any of those other events over there over in Europe. To me this was like the Superbowl, right? I mean this was like the best day ever just having a conference dedicated to sports. I went to three or four of them and really enjoyed my time there.

Ryan Knuppel: 07:39 But anyway, back on track here. SportsData.io, what’s the future for you guys? I mean, I’m looking at your site and after talking to you, it seems like you guys have nearly everything. It seems like you have every single data point and every single thing out there currently. What’s the future for you guys, I guess with SportsData.io or with anything else you can talk about that maybe futuristic in thinking?

Dustin Sullivan: 08:06 Yeah, sure. I mean, I think you kind of said what our vision is for the company and that is to kind of be a one stop shop. In the past, a lot of times if you were a business owner, if you were a commercial app owner and you had a tool or a game or something that you need powered with data, a lot of times you’d have to kind of piecemeal that together from going to a bunch of places. I want player head shots, so I’m going to go to this guy. Then I need an injuries feed, I’m going to go to this guy. Then I need just the box scores to be able to settle up contests, so I’m going to go to this third guy. At the end of the day, to integrate a data feed, like we said before, it’s no small feat. Right?

Dustin Sullivan: 08:42 If you’ve got three different contents suppliers, data, images, news, whatever, and that’s three different integrations. So that’s three times the amount of time to get to the finish line. We found that developers at the end of the day are the biggest bottleneck a lot of the times in building these things. Because it’s so difficult to find good talent. As a business owner, if you can reduce the amount of time that those developers are spending, then you’re going to get to market faster. You’re going to keep your developers happier, everything is going to just kind of work out a little bit better.

Dustin Sullivan: 09:12 Our vision has always been let’s be that one stop shop. Like we were during our Fantasy Data era, we had everything that a fantasy company would need. We tried to kind of take that same mantra over to SportsData.io, so that if you’re building, again like an action network type of site, or even if you’re like a peer to peer or some kind of sports book operator, we’re going to try to have everything that you need under one roof. That’s not an available today sort of thing. But it’s something that we’re absolutely working toward.

Dustin Sullivan: 09:40 I think the biggest example is, is our aggregated odds feed. We look to affiliate type of sites, like we did a big deal with Catena Media recently where, obviously those guys are kind of a world leader in monetizing and collecting affiliate revenue. But if you look forward to five years from now and you’ve got 10 books per state across, let’s say 30 States, well is that going to be 300 different odds feeds integrations? Well, it likely will be unless you come to a company like us. We want to take on that heavy lifting. As each new state comes online, we’d like to be able to try to grab those odds, put them into one unified format, one unified feed. All you need to do is just grab the new ID and plug that in.

Dustin Sullivan: 10:24 Today we’ve got, like I said, most of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but that is going to be an ongoing project for as long as we’re in business really and come online and continue to work on that. I think that the other way that we’re trying to innovate in the sports data, sports betting space, is just really more sports. Today we cover, like I said, the Big Six and PGA and golf and MLS and all the big ones. But what about NBA and CFL and tennis and there’s a lot of these, maybe not tennis, but a lot of these kind of like tier two level sports that you will find on a sports book that you can absolutely take handle on. So we want to try to have coverage of those sorts of things so we can stay at one stop shop and not have people to fill in gaps by going somewhere else. I think you’ll see kind of new innovations from us expand that way. More sports and then more sports books for each of those sports.

Ryan Knuppel: 11:19 Man, that’s really powerful. Really cool. What about e-sports? I noticed you list e-sports. I’m curious what your take on e-sports in the future of that is. Are you guys in that space?

Dustin Sullivan: 11:28 I’d love to hear your opinion and maybe your listeners’ opinions. I am a bit baffled on what is going on with these sports. As a company we were told numerous times by a lot of our current and prospective clients, we want to get into the e-sports game. We want access to these data feeds now. Please build it. If you build it, we will come. We built it and nobody came.

Ryan Knuppel: 11:50 Wow.

Dustin Sullivan: 11:50 I think we’ve got just a couple of guys taken some League of Legends and CS Go feeds. That’s the two titles that we cover now. But it feels like it’s still a misunderstood buzzword more than a solid sport that you can go to market and try to monetize today. People know they should do something with it because they see what these brands are spending, especially in Asia, but they’re not exactly sure what to do just yet. We’ve got coverage and we’ve got very basic coverage across stats, even some predictive models built. But I think people are still trying to figure out what is it going to become. I certainly don’t blame them. Like with the NFL, you’ve got Roger Goodell, you’ve got the commissioner, you’ve got to league structure, you’ve got playoffs, everything is nice and kinda in a nice little box.

Dustin Sullivan: 12:36 But e-sports, it really feels like the wild west. What’s the difference between an amateur and a pro tournament? Is this team really a pro team if they’ve only been in one pro level tournament? There’s not that kind of cohesiveness around all these tournaments just yet. I certainly expect it to get there, but as it stands today we try to collect what we can and not everyone is necessarily signed up for it, but I’m sure it’ll continue to evolve.

Ryan Knuppel: 13:01 Yeah, I think you’re 100% right in your assessment there. It is like the wild wild West, which can be a good thing and it’s actually a fun time in that area. So I’m really curious to see where that space goes. I mean you see these events that just thousands and thousands of people at them and these big arenas are being built every week. It seems like there’s a new huge arena being built around this. So you just know big things are coming, but to really know what and how that’s going to look, it just seems too early. It was good to get your take on that. I do see you guys have some feeds and stuff out there. So any listeners out there that are looking to get into these sports, I encourage you to talk to Dustin after this and we’ll go from there.

Ryan Knuppel: 13:41 Well man, Dustin, I really wish this was available back in like 2004. Why couldn’t you guys have been been here back like 15 years ago? Because I was struggling developing some little makeshift data feed scraping program that would try to compare odds and give me arbitrage opportunities. I was doing that back in like 2004, and I was struggling. I really wish you guys were here 15 years ago for me.

Dustin Sullivan: 14:08 Yeah. I mean, I know for years and years there was really just one company in the space and from the mid eighties up until the early 2000s. I mean they really were the only place that you could go. They knew it as well. I think they kind of treat it as a bit of a monopoly sort of thing because that’s how they had it set up.

Dustin Sullivan: 14:25 But as the internet started to take off, as data became more available online, especially as access to video streams of games became more widely accessible. I think you had companies starting to pop up and we’re certainly one of those and there’s a couple of others now that are in the space that, even though they are our competitors, I look to them as thinking they’ve got great products, great teams. Unfortunately for you in ’04 but fortunately for the guys that have started today, there are quite a few good options out there.

Ryan Knuppel: 14:55 Yeah, that’s awesome. Well great. Well I won’t keep you too long here. So if the listeners wanted to get ahold of you or if they had any interest in data, tell us the best way to contact you or to just find more information about what you guys have.

Dustin Sullivan: 15:07 Yeah, sure. I mean we try to be kind of dev friendly dev first, which means that everything we have is published on our website. If somebody wanted to just start looking through our feeds, they could literally get access in about five minutes by sign up for a free trial on our website. SportsData.io. It never expires. You get a thousand API calls per lead per month. So I’ve got guys that go to the majority of the way through integration before they ever even reach out and I know who they are, and we’re happy to do that. We certainly give a lot of stuff away for free as well. Schedules, players, standings. There’s a lot of powerful stuff that you can do right out of the box directly from our website. But if there’s more things there that you want access to, or I tried to talk about getting access to the premium stuff, I’m at Dustin@sportsdata.io. Drop me a note there and yeah, we’d love to try to help out.

Ryan Knuppel: 15:56 That’s awesome. I always love free stuff, so I encourage you guys to head out there, check out at SportData.io, see what Dustin and his team have available for you. Certainly big things to come from you guys. Any last closing words here for the audience as we get off?

Dustin Sullivan: 16:11 The only piece I would probably mention is just that while SportsData.io is our commercial entity and it’s always fun to talk about the business side of things and trends we see from an industry perspective. Fantasy Data lives on as a consumer brand, and we have all kinds of really powerful research tools, advanced metrics across NFL, our own odds and projections on there. If someone out there listening is just looking for robust research tools for their own personal use, we certainly have a lot of products that are available on Fantasy Data as well and trying to roll out new stuff all the time. I’m always eager and keen to get feedback on those if people think those are valuable.

Ryan Knuppel: 16:50 That’s at FantasyData.com, correct?

Dustin Sullivan: 16:52 Correct.

Ryan Knuppel: 16:53 Awesome. Well, Dustin, it was a pleasure. I appreciate you joining me and if you ever need anything from me, don’t hesitate to holler. Audience, I urge you to get ahold of Dustin and take a look at SportsData.io. I’ll continue to look for big things from you guys, Dustin, so I appreciate you joining me.

Dustin Sullivan: 17:10 Oh, thanks a lot, Ryan. Glad to be here.

Ryan Knuppel: 17:12 Have a great one. Take care.

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