Sometimes in business you have just minutes to make an impression.
Marc Saulino, president of StatementGames Inc., a Farmingville-based fantasy sports gaming and content platform, estimates he had about two minutes to deliver his elevator pitch to Kevin Harrington, an infomercial pioneer and one of the original "sharks" from the reality business-pitch TV show "Shark Tank."
That pitch, delivered at a Manhattan trade show in May 2017, was enough to entice Harrington to ask Saulino to follow up with him, which he did. But it wasn’t until four months later, in September, that Saulino finally flew to Tampa to meet Harrington to talk further about the company.
The firm offers a twist on traditional fantasy sports gaming, in which players draft real-world athletes to assemble imaginary teams.
On StatementGames.com, players instead assemble a list of predictive statements describing things that could occur during a real game. For example: Eli Manning will throw for more than 250 yards. Users choose 10 statements per game from a list of at least 50 options; they are awarded points for selections that turn out to be correct.
For now, players enter using virtual coins and earn coins to use toward future play; top players can win real prizes like gift cards. In the future, the website says it hopes to offer "real money tournaments."
Saulino's talks with Harrington ultimately led to Harrington's becoming a mentor and advisory board member to StatementGames. Saulino and Harrington also filmed a Q-and-A style YouTube video that’s been an integral tool for Saulino in garnering the interest of investors and marketing partners.
“After speaking and meeting with Marc, I felt that the video would assist in generating buzz around membership acquisition, as well as strategic investment opportunities,” Harrington said in an email.
And that it has.
Saulino, who launched StatementGames.com last November, has since raised more than half of his $500,000 investment goal.
“It’s validation that if you build the right model you can attract the right people,” he says, noting having Harrington as a mentor has been invaluable.
To be sure, “everyone needs multiple mentors in their life in order to be successful,” says Susan G. Weinberger, president of Mentor Consulting Group in Norwalk, Connecticut. “Mentors can provide support, guidance, career expertise and share their contacts to match their mentee with the right connections and opportunities.”
Still, not everyone makes a good mentor, she says.
An ideal mentor should be “caring, committed, responsible, patient and exemplary in terms of being a positive role model,” says Weinberger, aka “Dr. Mentor.”
Mentors also need people skills because communication is key, she says. It's ideal to communicate with your mentors "on a regular basis,” she says.
Saulino does. He also sends Harrington notes from the quarterly board meetings he holds, and Harrington responds with suggestions and ideas. “He’s a good sounding board,” Saulino says.
Beyond that, the relationship has opened the door for various marketing promotions. In one, with 94.3FM The Shark, former New York Giant Sean Landeta picks his top three "statements" for upcoming Giants/Jets games on-air each Friday. Top StatementGame.com winners from those weekly tournaments can win a gift certificate to Dang BBQ in Islip.
“There’s been a good response,” says Chad Kirschbaum, account executive at Farmingdale-based Connoisseur Media Long Island, which owns and operates five LI radio stations including 94.3.
When he presented working with Saulino to his station, Kirschbaum says, he referenced the YouTube video.
So far, Harrington hasn't invested in StatementGames, although Saulino hasn’t ruled out the possibility of seeking an equity arrangement down the line.
When asked about his future plans with the company, Harrington said, “For now, I am looking forward to helping grow the company and seeing where it goes.”
His current role as a mentor includes providing “guidance and advice for the business to make strategic moves in customer acquisition and marketing,” says Harrington, noting that Saulino “had a unique value proposition,” which was attractive.
While Saulino says there’s a learning curve that comes with educating users about the platform, he says it has about 5,000 users and is growing.
An estimated 59.3 million people play fantasy sports in the United States and Canada, according to the Wisconsin-based Fantasy Sports Trade Association. “It’s a maturing market,” says association president Paul Charchian. “Most of the explosive growth is behind us.”
Still, "there's an appetite for new and different ways to play,” Charchian says. Players likely won’t give up the traditional fantasy sports leagues they already participate in, so alternative models such as StatementGames may be secondary options, he says.
Matthew Pfeifer of Holtsville plays traditional fantasy football on Yahoo, and also uses StatementGames.com.
“It’s different,” he says. “You have to really know your stuff.”
Saulino says he’s gotten good user feedback and is developing revenue streams via the sale of coins as well as sponsorships and advertising opportunities. He says the firm is generating modest revenues, and he hopes to be profitable within two years.
“It’s exceeded my expectations,” says Saulino.
At a glance
n COMPANY: StatementGames Inc., Farmingville
n OWNER: Marc Saulino
n WHAT IT DOES: Fantasy sports gaming and content platform
n FOUNDED: 2017
n CAPITAL RAISED: $250,000-plus