in Innovation

Startup failure. The best odds comparison tool.

Challenge

People who bet online want tools to maximize their winnings while bookmakers are interested in having more channels to attract customers.

Solution

Pricebets is an odds comparison & sports betting online tool that let users search through a massive quantity of sport events and markets of any kind to find the best deals among all bookmakers.

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Pricebets is a big technology challenge, we read more than 6000 feeds every few minutes to get all the data updated and use 15 servers to collect, save, process and provide all that data to our users. The complex architecture uses technologies like Mongo, Redis, MySql and Symfony2.

This complexity in terms of data also created a complexity to display and architecture information in simple and clean interfaces. The problem was complex, the solution was simple.

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My work

  • I was in charge of the front-end, it had to be friendly, clean, beautiful and efficient.
  • I architectured and implemented the front-end using Backbonejs, Requirejs and jQuery. I also created a couple of jQuery plugins.
  • Web Performance Optimization was important because of SEO but also to provide a good user experience – we used intensive javascript and didn’t want the user to think it was “frozen”.
  • I was also responsible for the server-side part of UI’s utilizing Symfony2.
  • I structured and coded the UI using CSS3 (with lesscss) and HTML5 to make them light and semantic and used Twig for the server side markup.
  • I played the role of SCRUM Master.

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Lessons learnt

Product Vs Technology. Your product has a purpose for your users. Enhance that purpose and not just the tech behind because if you ask your users why it is useful for them I don’t think they will JUST answer “because it’s efficient, has a very decoupled implementation and runs super fast!”. Users (people) buy products not technology. Though those things mentioned before matter, I believe users care more about what they see than what’s behind the scenes. We serve users, not our ego. For example, we spent months re-engineering “very important” things, but users and investors always asked “so, is there anything new?”.

Don’t rely on guts, rely on numbers – and get them fast! Let me give you an example. One of our big revenue streams was supposed to be renting our tech to sport webs with huge traffic. We provide tech they provide users, it’s a win/win. I was actually a big fan of this model. We got a deal with Sport.es – BTW it took us a year since we started negotiating until they had our widget in their home page. They put it online a few days before the Fc Barcelona Vs R. Madrid (one of the most mediatic matches every year in Spain). We got more than 1.000.000 impressions in a few hours. Less than 1000 people tried our tool. Just 1 person paid, it was 10€ total, 5€ for the online newspaper and 5€ for us.

Shit happens. Don’t rely on things you don’t have yet. We got half million Euros in funding, more than half provided by government, and the rest by private investors. The government transferred part of the money early this year, and they were supposed to transfer the remaining money at the end of the year. So we hired. But wait! Do you know what happens when the government is cutting down every single budget in the country like education, health care, science, etc.? They also cut funding for R&D.

Be transparent. I think there are two levels of transparency. First, at an organizational level, at Pricebets everybody had access to all data. Second, at an individual level, be a transparent person. Tell what you do well, what you do bad, what you think about the team and the project, and ask things you don’t know – don’t worry “we are all ignorants, but in different fields”, Albert Einstein. Some of us did, some others didn’t. Believe me, when shit happens transparent people become more reliable, while obscure people become more obscure, egoistic and therefore untrustworthy.

Get an A (Aligned) team. You don’t need the best players in your team if they play alone. To move forward everybody needs to paddle together. Selfish people don’t sum, but divide. I remember good soccer players at school, they didn’t like to pass the ball, and at the end they lost it.

If something is core, don’t outsource it. If you can’t find your in-house expert for your core thing, I’d not recommend outsourcing, I’d find another way. For us SEO was core because we planned to get our users mainly from search engines. We couldn’t get a good SEO in-house so we worked with external experts. We tried different companies with different approaches. In the end Google banned us and no one could tell us why. We tried to replace SEO with other strategies like embedding widgets in other webs, but it was too late.