I recently caught up with Valery Bollier, Founder and CEO of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) Game Oulala, to discuss the big data revolution and fantasy sports. The iGaming industry is seldom linked with big data and data science, however Valéry Bollier chooses to contest this notion. He fleshes out the various do’s and don’ts of building a fantasy soccer game such as Oulala, which is founded on an elaborate mathematical matrix and several statistical variables. The following interview will divulge information from first hand experience regarding fantasy sports and methods to beat the adverse stigma that surrounds certain aspects of it.
Daniel – Managing Editor, insideBIGDATA
insideBIGDATA: Although “big data” is a trendy term, what does it truly mean for you?
Valery Bollier: Big data has set a shift in motion where companies move from a world where guesswork is necessary to one where facts can be inferred from data. The era of big data will pave the way for a speedy paradigm change. Personally, I believe that big data is a rather extraordinary revolution.
insideBIGDATA: What are the main challenges that a company encounters when beginning to study their data?
Valery Bollier: Despite the necessity of considering data prior to making any decisions, many companies neglect to do so. The current revolution comprises an augmented reservoir of available information. In light of the numerous challenges headed their way, the most consistently important one that companies face is that of unscrambling the signal from the clamor of their information and reports.
insideBIGDATA: Do we still need data scientists with all of today’s existing tools for data cleaning, analysis and machine learning?
Valery Bollier: We need them now more than ever before! A data analyst is one of the most vital members present in a digital marketing team. Thus far, the nature of traditional marketing has been entirely based on an imprecise science that relies solely on one’s experience, a number of best guesses and an abundance of hunches.
The progression of digital marketing towards a consistently more precise science is all thanks to big data and data analysts. I strongly believe that the forerunner of future marketing will, in fact, be a statistician. The help that machines and tools offer is invaluable however there is no machine thus far that can surpass human effort when it comes to closely understanding the data and applying the deduced information to a strategy. It can be said that a good data scientist is indeed “half analyst, half artist”.
insideBIGDATA: Is it important to be data driven nowadays? If so, then why?
Valery Bollier: Is it even possible in today’s day and age for a company that is not data driven to flourish? In my personal opinion, I firmly believe that the chances of that are extremely low. Obtaining and thoroughly analyzing detailed information on customers’ behavior could help even electricians or bakers improve their business by a wide margin.
What we promise our clients is a game that enables them to assert their superior knowledge of soccer over their peers and community. In order to make good on this promise, it is therefore vital that our game is skill-based rather than merely being reliant on luck. Hence, we are making extensive use of data and processing power in order to produce a game that is as close to soccer reality as possible.
We have put in six months of hard work with a team of statisticians in order to build a mathematical matrix that would help us achieve this goal. Our aim was to guarantee that our algorithm was an accurate enough match for reality and that the most influential soccer players affecting the match results would also score the highest in our game. The actions occurring on the pitch are converted into numbers in our game through the use of mathematics and computing power.
This intricacy and precision is what makes Oulala so distinct, boosting its prominence as the only fantasy soccer game out there right now that is genuinely based on true skill. We are relentless in our search for more ways to improve and progress since this is the true foundation of our game.
For a good number of our smaller competitors that do not make use of data, it is a lot harder to offer the same kind of promise to their customers. Despite their efforts to appeal to clients as a skill-based game, the random nature of their game results only show that luck is the main factor helping you win rather than your own superior skills. The cornerstone of our own success is that we are data driven.
insideBIGDATA: There often appears to be a rather negative stigma hanging over fantasy sports. What are your thoughts on this matter?
Valery Bollier: One might ask whether DFS is in fact nothing more than a new iGaming activity. The evident monetized nature of the game clearly points to the necessity of supervision from a legal authority. At Oulala, however, we believe that daily fantasy sports should be considered “moneytainment” as opposed to “iGaming”.
The reason for this is that the very mechanism by which the game functions is entirely different. The platform that fantasy sports offer gives adults the opportunity to challenge others on their sports knowledge, while capturing their interest with the involvement of money. The nature of fantasy games is rooted in skills, far removed from a luck game disguising itself as a skill game. It is imperative to understand that the prime goal in fantasy sports is not money but pride!
Fantasy is an extremely social game that bolsters people’s desire to win and show off. From a fan’s point of view, finally having access to a tool that will allow them to assert their soccer managerial supremacy is an excellent break.
Therefore, to answer your question, all we did was cap the maximum amount that a person may enter in a league. In other words, we like to think of ourselves as something of a funfair game stall where people buying a ticket to play is synonymous with putting money into a common pot to have fun and compete with peers and colleagues. One’s success in managing to win the teddy bear up for prize in the game is similar to winning their league in our game.
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