As the fantasy gaming space evolves more and more into the mainstream, no one is more positioned to be a leader and innovator in the space than RotoHog.com Chief Executive Officer, Kelly Perdew. Kelly's entrepreneurial experience and vision, as well as his track record of success, puts him in a very unique position in a space that most media experts see as emerging as a viable, long term financial investment in the sports and entertainment world.
Rotohog.com, an industry leader in the creation of fantasy sports platforms for leagues, portals and major media companies like the NBA (official fantasy basketball game provider), Pro Football Weekly (commissioner and exchange football games) and Brazil's ClicRBS (the largest online fantasy soccer game in the country) has quickly carved its spot in a crowded field under Perdew's guidance.
The former Army Ranger is one of the veterans in the relatively new fantasy activation space, and his track record of delivering successful results with solid start-up planning is almost unparalleled in the business. Prior to taking the reins at RotoHog.com, Perdew turned two start-ups, one in the grassroots sports area and one in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, into the leaders of their genre. First, as president of the largest amateur sport portal on the web -- eteamz.com - he oversaw the strategic build of a company which addressed the needs of recreational athletes and teams to connect, and is now serving more than three million amateur sports teams as part of Active Networks. Then as president of ProElite.com; he created an online social network that was among the most innovative in the highly popular sport of MMA. Under his leadership, ProElite, Inc. raised over $40M, including $5M from CBS, inked a three-year exclusive deal with Showtime for airing its fights and televised the first network primetime MMA fight on CBS.
Although known to the public mainly as the winner of the second season of the NBC hit TV show "The Apprentice," and as the author of the critically-acclaimed book "Take Command, 10 Leadership Principles I Learned in the Military and Put to Work for Donald Trump," Kelly's real success has been behind the scenes, building and managing forward-thinking and innovative emerging brands. In addition to his three successful digital ventures, he has been a Manager at Deloitte Consulting in the Braxton Strategy Practice and served in the US Army as a Military Intelligence Officer and Airborne Ranger. He has also held numerous leadership positions in such companies as the Trump Organization, CoreObjects Software, K12 Productions, and eteamz.com.
Perdew has a BS from the US Military Academy, West Point, a JD from the UCLA School of Law, and an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA. He also hosted a show on the Military Channel called "GI Factory," and is a celebrity spokesperson for Big Brothers/Sisters and The National Guard Youth Challenge Program. Kelly received a Presidential Appointment to the President's Council on Civic Participation and Service in June 2006. He currently lives in Los Angeles.
Here's a transcript of my conversation with Kelly:
PRC: West Point grad. Army Ranger. Winner of Donald Trump's celebrated reality show, The Apprentice (Season II). JD/MBA from UCLA. Author. Successful entrepreneur. The list goes on and on. You've accomplished a lot in a little time. What inspires you?
Kelly Perdew: Fear of failure? (Smiles) Seriously, I love the hunt and the entrepreneurial spirit that these times present and games and sports really are still like the Wild West in the digital space. We have just started scratching the surface of what can be done, and fantasy gaming (not just for sports, but for entertainment, social and even regulated gaming) is really a very interesting place to be right now.
PRC: How did your military academy background and Ranger training prepare you to succeed under pressure on such a large stage (national television)? What is the single-most valuable piece of advice that Trump instilled in you?
Kelly Perdew: I wrote a book titled, Take Command: 10 Leadership Principles I Learned in the Military and Put to Work for Donald Trump, that specifically outlines why I think my military leadership background has helped me in business and helped me succeed on the show. I was very fortunate to be able to attend West Point, where they actually train leadership as a course of study. It is an amazing institution and they do a great job at training leaders, not just for the military, but for a lifetime of service to the country.
Donald taught me to think big. Too frequently people look at a problem and then frame the solution in a very small and specific way. Donald does a great job of solving problems in a very big way. He is also a master at using the media to his advantage - a very important tool in business.
PRC: Working for Donald Trump and the Trump Organization is a fantasy for many MBAs. You've moved on, but the fantasy concept didn't go away. Talk to us about RotoHog.com, your fantasy gaming platform, where you serve as CEO. How did you position the company and your entrepreneurial experience to become a leader in the fantasy sports activation space?
Kelly Perdew: Upon my arrival at RotoHog 18 months ago, we looked at the assets we had and determined where the best position would be for the future. RotoHog has developed two amazing assets - a highly configurable gaming platform that is scalable and flexible and a team of game designers that can create very compelling games for our clients and their end users.
We have invested a lot of time and money in the platform and the team can solve any objectives for our clients (growing and engaging their user base, monetizing, exploiting social media and mobile environments, and we can do this in any language). We have created partnerships with major brands who need help accomplishing their objectives. It has worked very well for clients like Turner Digital, Fox Sports International, NBA, AVP, The Sporting News and now NASCAR and others. They can concentrate on what they do best and leave the below the line to us.
PRC: Fantasy gaming has evolved from its modest beginnings. RotoHog has worked with some very successful brands as you just mentioned. What unique value does your product offer to clients?
Kelly Perdew: The flexibility of our gaming platform allows us to configure very compelling games for our clients and we do it very quickly. The rotohog team can build and integrate a game for our client within 2-3 weeks. This gives our clients the ability to respond very fast to their sponsors for promotions, campaigns and we also provide very deep activation hooks in the games for the brands. These games are fully integrated into the clients' sites, have open APIs for bi-directional sharing of information with social media sites, and can have features that monetize the user base.
The bottom line is we provide best in class game applications that are fun, scalable and adaptable to the audience. We can build games for any sport, reality show, movie release, social media site, mobile device...really anything with structure data. They run well, they look great and the technology is constantly evolving. For instance, you can see the broad range of capabilities we offer by comparing the NASCAR.com stock exchange game we just launched with "The Bachelor" game we launched for ABC.
PRC: Where is this trend going? What drives the growth of fantasy sports participation?
Kelly Perdew: It is all about fan engagement. For sports, it used to be with board games and baseball cards, now you get to really see what it's like to build your own teams and really be the coach or the GM. It is going more global very rapidly. Yes football and baseball are still king, but anywhere there is statistical data to be mined and there is a passionate fan base, fantasy will be in play. Also, the styles of games we can provide allow for broader audience appeal - simple games that exist across all media platforms are allowing brands to grow their audience.
PRC: How does RotoHog.com leverage social media for your brand and for your partners/clients?
Kelly Perdew: The great thing about games is the way information spreads virally and some of our partners are the pioneers in the social media marketing space. They literally have millions of people online and engaged around the world every day. So by powering a part of that network with our games we are able to communicate in real time to a worldwide audience any new offerings or innovations that are a part of the gaming platform we continue to grow. All of the games we build can live in a social media environment in part or completely, depending on what our clients' goals are. RotoHog is a B2B company and our brand to end users is not as important as our clients' brands.
PRC: What is your vision for RotoHog.com? What does ultimate success look like for the brand?
Kelly Perdew: Success is simple: We succeed when our clients accomplish their objectives. As we focus on delivering compelling games that grow, engage and monetize for our clients, success fill follow.
PRC: How about for Kelly Perdew? What will your legacy look like?
Kelly Perdew: My wife and i just had twins, so the definition of legacy changes a bit with something like that! (Smiles). On the business front, I love leading and building companies. The RotoHog team is the best at technology delivery, especially in sports and entertainment, and to some day see that we were part of the wave that created fun products for consumers to use as an escape from everyday life, and to further engage with their favorite brands, is pretty cool to me.
PRC: I would have to agree with that. Congratulations on all of your success, and double congratulations on your newborn twins. I really appreciate your time, considering how limited and valuable it is. Thank you!
Kelly Perdew: Thank you for the opportunity!