Chris Reynolds and Jason Angelides developed the TV remote gadget that gave millions of Xfinity subscribers deep-rooted sports stats — game momentum tracking and player stats.
Now, less than two years after leaving executive positions at Comcast Corp., they want to be a part of the online sports betting action.
Reynolds and Angelides have launched a start-up, Epoxy.ai, in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, which aims to personalize the gambling experience for 75 million sports fans which experts say could place more than $20 billion a year in bets as more states legalize online sports betting.
Epoxy’s First Idea: Using the Microphone on a mobile phone to determine which match a sports fan is watching and to synchronize the match on television with a recommended stake. Reynolds said a sports bettor would agree to the synchronization through the terms of service of the company that licenses Epoxy’s technology. Epoxy’s first customer is betParx, a sister company of Parx Casino.
“Amazon, Instagram, Spotify, those companies are built on knowing who you are and doing the right things for you,” said Angelides. “It is an expectation and the sports media and game industry, while recognizing the need for that kind of experience, they struggle to support it for a variety of reasons. First, because they are technologically extremely thin as they are being rolled out across states. Second, they are not technology companies.”
Too early for innovation?
In May 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, paving the way for the gold rush of online sports betting. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and 21 other states have legalized online sports betting. Pennsylvania sports fans placed more than $6 billion in online bets in the past year.
Experts believe that the national volume of online sports betting, or the “handle,” will grow to $25 billion to $30 billion a year as more states legalize online sports betting.
Chris Grove, co-founder of Acies Investments, a venture capital fund for sports, gambling and technology start-ups based in Las Vegas, called the Epoxy founders “very talented.”
Comcast buys OneTwoSee sports info service
But Grove believes sportsbooks have more immediate issues to solve before considering the innovation Epoxy offers, including launching sportsbooks in new states, registering sports bettors more efficiently, and handling deposits.
“It’s easy to be overly optimistic about the pace of innovation in regulated sports betting,” Grove said. “It’s like talking about putting solar panels on the roof before you put the roof on it.”
Ready for some football?
Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, owner of Parx Casino in Bensalem, is off to an early start with Epoxy led by Matthew Cullen, who was hired four years ago. He heads up Greenwood’s 100-person digital betting operation, which includes overseeing the company’s online sports betting operations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Michigan. Cullen expects to expand sports betting to an additional three states. According to figures from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, Parx settled $147 million in online sports betting between July and April.
“Personalization is the next big thing,” Cullen said, because “people want to bet on what they’ve wagered in the past, or what they like, or what they like to see.” But, Cullen added, echoing Grove, “it’s still early.”
Cullen’s team will measure whether Epoxy leads to higher bettor retention, affects the amount of money a gambler wagers and whether it leads to longer engagement with betParx.
The NFL football season is boosting television sales and ratings and, numbers indicate, online sports betting. Online sports betting in Pennsylvania jumped 65% to $527 million from August to September 2021, betting board data shows. September is the start of the NFL season. The month with the highest dollar volume in online sports betting in Pennsylvania was January, the month of the NFL playoffs, with $737 million in bets.
Cullen said the Epoxy app was planned to launch on the betParx betting app for the NFL season.
Angelides said Epoxy would be ready. “It’s what we do. Sport waits for no one. The game must go on.”
As to whether sports gamblers would be comfortable with a cell phone microphone listening to them, Angelides said research from Epoxy shows that more than 90% of core and casual gamblers say they “like it.” if the products they use tailor the content to them, so it’s easier to find what they want and discover new things.”
From high-rise to start-up
Reynolds, 47, and Angelides, 54, have settled into post-Comcast life. At the media and telecom giant, they worked from the 37th floor of the technology tower, Philadelphia’s tallest building.
Now they rent the second floor of a quaint office building on the east side of SEPTA’s Berwyn train station. It’s an easy commute for the Epoxy employees who live in Philadelphia. The start-up has 12 employees, mostly a crew that followed Comcast’s Reynolds and Angelides. The company also employs six contractors.
Angelides said the plan is for 20 to 30 full-time employees over time.
Epoxy hopes to raise $7 million to $10 million in venture capital this summer and has filed for patents on their technology through the Philadelphia law firm Morgan Lewis. The co-founders see three services in Epoxy’s technology: synchronization between TV viewing and betting, sports data visualization and betting recommendations.
Angelides and Reynolds met in the 1990s at Traffic.com in Chesterbrook, a real-time traffic information service for radio and television stations. Traffic.com, bought by Nokia, took traffic data from road and highway sensors and sold it to television and radio stations. The company taught Angelides and Reynolds the importance of packaging real-time information for the public.
At Traffic.com, they came up with other areas where real-time information could be valuable. It was in the early days of mobile phone apps. When the pair realized that sports fans always looked up sports stats on their phones, they developed a company to access and visualize sports data from box scores in real time. Fans could consume the data while watching games.
“The idea was that if you were a sports fan and you sat there and you watched the game and a player comes up and you don’t know who he is or what his stats are. How many home runs does he have? what’s going to happen next? What is the most likely outcome? You have to go through box scores? It was a nightmare,” Angelides said.
In late 2011, Angelides and Reynolds launched OneTwoSee to provide instant sports data. It was their first start-up. Over time, OneTwoSee developed the platform to display current sports stats on cable television and integrated the service into Comcast’s X1 platform. Comcast viewed the sports data — accessible via a button on the TV remote — as a way to make its massive investment in sports rights more attractive to its subscribers. In 2016, Comcast bought OneTwoSee for an undisclosed price.
Within Comcast, the OneTwoSee team stayed together and helped deepen the sports platform for the OIympic games.
Reynolds and Angelides said they had a great experience at Comcast and left on good terms. But they were restless and saw online sports betting as the next big thing.
Angelides informed Comcast that he would be leaving in November 2020. Reynolds did the same in mid-2021. About his decision to leave Comcast, Reynolds said that “once you start building things, it’s hard not to.”
2022 The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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