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Gaming startup from Jaguars veteran gains traction in DFS world

By Ben Fischer

Hussain Naqi, formerly the Jacksonville Jaguars’ top man in London, has founded a new software startup that has inked a major deal with ESPN to become the engine of global daily fantasy cricket.

Inside the Pocket is a software platform designed to allow gambling or content apps such as FanDuel and DraftKings to integrate daily fantasy and other games without a costly or time-intensive commitment. While Inside the Pocket is a business-to-business product, it has also created its own daily fantasy game, WonderWins, which has struck an exclusive deal with ESPNcricinfo to become the daily fantasy game offered on that app, which has 85 million monthly active users in India alone.

Hussain Naqi is the founder of Inside the Pocket.Courtesy of Hussain Naqi

“Cricket is a religion in India, it’s sort of the equivalent of Alabama football in Tuscaloosa or [Texas] A&M football in College Station,” Naqi said. “You combine that with the exploding interest in daily fantasy and gaming generally, I think it’s a pretty good engagement mechanism for them.”

Naqi, who left the Jaguars last month after nearly a decade, including the last seven as senior vice president of international development, began considering the startup path last year. He had heard numerous pitches from developers of games and other engagement tools that wanted to get their product included in apps developed by sports properties, media companies and sports betting operators. But those clients are forced to make decisions without knowing what content is best for their users, often with long-range implications in a rapidly changing commercial and regulatory environment.

“It’s a hard decision to prioritize or decide among these various developers,” Naqi said. “On a very personal level, I thought this was a change I could make to help my colleagues, to make their lives a little easier.”

This is the first time ESPNcricinfo — the brand’s cricket site — has included a daily fantasy game in its app. The WonderWins brand will generate revenue from advertising, platform fees and monetization elements within the game. It will own the data gained from users, with Naqi describing it as an “acquisition funnel,” with that data feeding back into the broader Inside The Pocket player account management system.

Naqi has raised just shy of $4 million to date, with lead funding coming from the Winsure Group. It is hoping to raise another $8 million Series A financing round.

In a statement, Ramesh Kumar, head of ESPN Digital Media India, said it expects to substantially boost engagement with WonderWins’ daily fantasy game included in its app. Naqi expects everything to be in place before the start of the Indian Premier League cricket season on March 26.

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