PIONEERING AND COMMERCIALIZING A NEW INDUSTRY – KFFL.COM
Before the ease of owning a laptop, one day in college, I was in the computer science room. There was a program on the computer. It was called “Netscape.” It allowed us to scour the Internet. It opened the door to the commercialization of the Internet. I dreamed about the possibility of bringing fantasy sports to the masses.
Only a dream, but one day, the better half, irritated I spent more time on fantasy football than her, said, I should figure out how to make money with that as much as I love it. Now, she didn’t say it out of love but sarcasm with a large hint of anger. Yet, it was the catalyst. Even before I graduated, I recruited partners, and we started our own company. Eventually, becoming the majority owner.
I brought together the team that built KFFL.com – a site housing a few fantasy football leagues that we rebranded into a full-fledged content site. We survived much. Shoestring budgets, losing partners, disputes, and the Dot-com bubble collapse (1999-2001). Yet, we persevered, and I am proud, with my partners, to have begun KFFL.com with a simple yet creative idea. Launching from our homes with no amenities.
In the fledgling fantasy sports industry, we grew into a leader in player news, content, and services, generating some of the industry’s largest traffic. We built a profitable business by creating both B2B and B2C premium content and services with online advertising, resulting in multiple business and writing awards and many fantasy championships.
- We incorporated statistical analysis into player rankings and content to fulfill consumer needs and help players become champions using data, analysis of non-data factors, and wait for it, common sense.
Radio and television appearances include Chris Myers on FOX Sports Radio and Rich Eisen on NFL Network’s NFL Total Access. That’s right; we were the NFL Network’s first fantasy analysts, and I was good to the point, Myers kept me on for two years longer than his network wanted.
You see, they had their own fantasy analysts. Yet, Myers viewed me as one of the best “NFL insiders” because of my ability to gather the details of the news, others didn’t. Although I repeatedly said I was not an “insider” like Jay Glazer or Chris Mortensen.
- We created online videos and podcasts – before the term podcast. Back then, some called it “Internet Radio.”
Creating B2B partnerships with NFL.com, NFL Network, Yahoo! Sports, FOXSports.com, CBS SportsLine.com, SportsTicker, RTSports, MyFantasyLeague.com, and others increased brand recognition. Yes, we dominated the industry!
- Before it was common in marketing and advertising, we used website analytics to provide better consumer content and smarter placement for advertisers.
We continually challenged our programming team to develop new programs to help consumers make fantasy football decisions. We built programs on who to start, bench, trade evaluations, custom cheat sheets, rankings, and statistical-based formulas. You may go, “big deal,” but it was a big deal with all the technological limitations back then!
Our techs even built our own CMS, because, at the time, there were no CMS programs you could buy. We also worked with our business partners to integrate our products seamlessly with their platforms.
KFFL succeeded in all this. Time.com listed us as one of the ten essential sports sites for fans, athletes, and fantasy owners. We also captured dozens of expert league championships. There were television and magazine write-ups, praising and acknowledging our work as some of the best, if not the best. There were industry and individual awards, too.
One of our proudest moments was when the CBS NFL pregame show featured us. To this day, I believe we were one of the first fantasy sports companies Americans saw.
- Through KFFL, America learned what fantasy football and fantasy sports were all about – being an armchair QB and owning our friends with our superior sports knowledge.
KFFL.com was a founding member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), now the Fantasy Sports Gaming Association (FSGA), an international business organization dedicated to fantasy sports. Members from small startups to large media companies provide demographic data, annual conferences, and collective action, including lobbying.
Obviously, we became a respected industry leader, leading to the company’s eventual sale. Immediately following the sale, I continued to operate KFFL.com and served on Fantasy Sports Ventures’ Board of Directors, helping to guide the company and its 400 affiliates.
This job was the American dream for me. I am a former member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), served as a board member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). I’m in the FSWA Hall of Fame and was a premier fantasy player.
Despite this, shortly after selling the company (now owned and dissolved by Gannett), I walked away from it all. The ugly side of business reared its head. Betrayal, greed, nepotism, and corruption, yet I have no regrets.
Struggles make success sweeter, and I am honored because I can look back at my life, and smile that KFFL.com helped usher in a new industry. A billion-dollar industry with thousands of employees. How many five-seven Latinos can say this? Few.
America provided me with opportunities few other countries could. I eventually left the fantasy sports industry, but not before working my dream job and helping Pro Football Weekly build out its fantasy section. I then left, believing that I would come back with a new fantasy sports project. I am back! However, it took longer than I thought.
The political bug hit me hard as a former entrepreneur, business owner, and Latino. I got angry that Democrats continued to make victims of and use minorities to further political aims that wouldn’t help anyone, despite their words. I was proof of American success versus being a victim.