While many companies tightened their budgets during the coronavirus shutdowns, daily fantasy sports company Monkey Knife Fight was eager to get in front of new users.
The growing fantasy sports site signed multiple deals in the past several months, including with the San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, PGA Tour golfer Charley Hoffman, and esports organization Enthusiast Gaming.
According to the company’s executives, there are more sports team partnerships in the works as well. The partnerships are being strategically placed in states where sports betting isn’t yet legal, but have significant potential, like California and Wisconsin. Monkey Knife Fight is live in 31 states.
“Our goal is to focus in those areas that have passionate fan bases and great franchises and lead us to build brand and market position,” Monkey Knife Fight President Nic Sulsky said.
Even with live sports all but stopped, the company was “aggressively open for business” in terms of new deals, Monkey Knife Fight owner and CEO Bill Asher said. That aggressiveness was born out of a desire to ensure it was still acquiring new customers while positioning itself for a potential public offering.
“Instead of letting people go, we went out and started to interview and hire and got a couple great programmers who were available,” Asher said. “Rather than hold back, this was the perfect time to reach out to all the people who had very little to do. We created relationships we never could have gotten otherwise.”
Monkey Knife Fight, which was launched by Asher and Sulsky in 2018, had 400% year-over-year growth before the pandemic shut down sports in March. The company now has more than 100,000 users in its database. Asher is the sole owner of the company.
Asher is bullish about the company as he watches competitors grow with their sports betting components – including DraftKings, which saw its shares more than double in value in May.
“If you have a fantasy sports product, the assumption is over the next five years, pretty much all states will offer some kind of sports gambling, and that’s tens of billions of dollars when it’s easy and on your phone,” he said. “Not every gambler plays fantasy sports, but most fantasy sports players will switch over and do both. So if in the next couple of years we can acquire customers and build brand loyalty, we will have hundreds of thousands who play Monkey Knife Fight.”
Monkey Knife Fight does not disclose revenue figures, Asher said.
Asher said daily fantasy sports generally cater to professionals who dedicate their time to studying the ins and outs of the games and craft detailed rosters. Monkey Knife Fight provides users a quick proposition: Will LeBron James score more or less than 26 points?; will Anthony Davis have more or less than 10 rebounds?.
The simplicity of the games and the user experience is the difference-maker for the company, Asher said. He said it also makes customer acquisition cheaper, allowing them to recoup the investment in a few months.
That idea fits a recent survey by HPL Digital Sport, which suggests sports bettors are starting to scrutinize the operators they use for their games.
“There’s a sea of sameness right now,” HPL Digital Sport CEO Ed Moed said. “Brand appeal will be very important, from the experience and how they look at the brand.”
The Monkey Knife Fight brand is something Sulsky and Asher are excited about. The name came after a night of tequila, but Sulsky said they hope to become a culturally relevant brand outside the gaming with cool logos and swag.
As sports start to come back this month, Asher said the rest of the year would be in the “sweet spot” for fantasy sports players with hockey, basketball, football, and baseball all going potentially at the same time.
Asher pointed to a survey of its users that found 76% are planning on playing fantasy golf props when the sport comes back, a 181% growth of the 27% of respondents who had previously played a golf contest.
“That’s unbelievable, that shows the appetite for daily fantasy sports when major sports come back,” Asher said. “We’re seeing that user anticipation for when golf comes back, and that’s a clear indication that when all the sports come back, it’ll be crazy explosive growth.”