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Upping the Ante

The Entrepreneur

Joey Levy, 28
CEO and co-founder of Betr, Miami

Joey Levy, a South Florida native, dropped out of Columbia University at age 19 to pursue his first startup, Draftpot, a fantasy sports app. While Draftpot ultimately wasn’t successful, he became obsessed with innovating the sports-betting experience for the casual fan. That sent him down a rabbit hole that led him to found two more startups.

In Levy’s view, instead of being engaging and easy to navigate, the world of online sports betting was like interacting with a foreign language or a spreadsheet, with its money lines, spreads and over/unders.

In 2016, he received a Thiel Fellowship for young innovators who skip or drop out of college to create products and start tech companies. Founded in 2011 by investor, entrepreneur and now Miami Beach resident Peter Thiel, the Thiel Fellowship has more than 250 alumni, including: Founders of digital money platform Ethereum; automotive sensor startup Luminar Technologies; and OYO Rooms, a network of budget hotels. In 2018, Levy used his $100,000 Thiel grant to launch Simplebet — a company focused on simplifying the sports-betting experience.

It was good timing: Six weeks after incorporating Simplebet, a Supreme Court ruling allowed states to legalize sports betting, jumpstarting a new industry. Currently, 33 states — but not Florida — offer it.

As they got going on their work, Simplebet’s team saw another opportunity: No company had built at scale the technology to enable microbetting, which is wagering on individual moments in a game, such as the next pitch or play, rather than the final score.

Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, Simplebet built an automated microbetting tech platform that offers realtime bets with instant, fast-changing odds, Levy says. Today, the company licenses its microbetting tech to sports betting operators, including industry giants DraftKings and Bet365.

Levy, meanwhile, had other ideas for using the Simplebet technology while innovating the sports-betting experience. He formed a team and founded a company called Betr last year. “Our objective is to become the consumer company, product and brand synonymous with microbetting, and ultimately the category-defining real money gaming consumer business in the U.S.,” Levy declared when announcing Betr in August 2022.

Last year, with no product to show investors, he raised $50 million from venture capital firms including Simplebet backer Florida Funders. The war chest is small change to build a brand when doing battle with competitors that can spend more than that in a week, but Levy has a literal prize fighter in the ring with him — GenZ celebrity influencer and boxer Jake Paul.

With more than 70 million social media followers and YouTube prowess, Paul was a perfect fit to run Betr’s media arm. “We're building an entire media company to get brand awareness,” says Levy, who calls the controversial Paul a marketing genius. “We benefit from that expertise when minting the next 100 Jake Pauls through Betr Media. Our strategy on the media side is to incubate talent with a laser focus on original content and short-form content built for social media.”

So far, it’s working. Levy says Betr is the fastest growing sports betting media company in the country in terms of social media engagement. “We're competing against companies with thousands of employees and billions of dollars on their balance sheets yet we're No. 2 (among sportsbooks) on social only behind Barstool Sports. We have more aggregate followers and engagement than market leaders like FanDuel and DraftKings.”

Today, Betr employs several dozen people who work out of the company’s new 20,000-sq.-ft. Miami warehouse. Half the space is for the gaming unit and business operations. The other half — for Paul’s team — is a content creation factory, with podcast and production studios, a boxing ring and a gym. “Content creators can come in and do what they do best with all the tools at their disposal,” Levy says.

Betr launched its real-money betting app in Ohio on Jan. 1. There were a few launch-related bugs, which Levy takes in stride. “Perfect is the enemy of good enough,” he says. “Getting something live in front of real users, collecting user data and feedback and iterating the product experience accordingly is why we launched as quickly as we did.”

Despite the initial glitches, Betr “crushed” its forecasts for revenue and customer acquisition, Levy says, and in May, the company launched in Massachusetts. Virginia is likely next to go live, and Betr has been applying for gaming licenses in other states. The startup’s free-to-play app is available nationwide.

This spring, Betr started expanding beyond microbetting, offering some bets on game outcomes. Over time, Levy envisions offering all the betting options that incumbents in the fast-growing multibillion-dollar industry do. “This almost feels like a long game where I've become obsessed with winning the category. I think we're right about both the product vision and the distribution strategy and we now have the ingredients to execute. Jake and I and the team here are not going to stop until we win.”

Big Money

The U.S. sports-betting industry generated $7.5 billion in revenue in 2022, up from $4.3 billion in 2021, according to the American Gaming Association.

Responsible Gaming

Betr was the first U.S. mobile sports betting operator to voluntarily ban credit cards for deposits and set deposit limits for bettors ages 21 to 25. Betr users can also set time limits and "cool off" periods.

Microbetting Mechanics

  • With start-and-stop cadences and plentiful scoring, U.S. sports are driven by moments — baseball's pitches, the NFL’s plays, what a superstar player will do next — making them ideal for microbetting. Microbetting also delivers more instant gratification, leading Levy to believe microbetting might one day be the predominant way people bet on sports in this country. His team at Simplebet built technology that automates the market mechanics while using data science and machine learning to come up with instant odds, making sure the house wins over time. “It was very challenging to figure out exactly how to do this and to build bespoke software for every moment of every sport,” he says.

The Other Betr

  • Levy’s Betr is unrelated to the Australian sportsbook company that goes by the same name. That Betr — which was launched in 2022 by gambling entrepreneur Matt Tripp and backed by media conglomerate News Corp — is not available outside of Australia. In an interview last year with Casino.org, Levy said he was aware of the Aussie outfit but wasn’t losing any sleep over it, citing his company as first in filing for a trademark in the U.S. and relevant overseas markets.