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Founder Lesley Eccles of FanDuel on Raising Series A

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By Simone Brummelhuis (Founder, TheNextWomen)

Lesley Eccles, Founder of FanDuel, is in a good mood. The company has just raised a series A funding due to its success in the market. Time for an update and interview with Lesley:

Simone Brummelhuis: So, what’s the update on the company?

Lesley Eccles: We are transforming the fantasy sports industry in the US. There are 30 million people who play fantasy sports each year and there has been little in the way of innovation over recent years. Our game, FanDuel (launched in July 2009) takes the traditional way of playing a season-long fantasy football or baseball game and shortens it into just one day. It’s a completely new way of playing — fast and a lot of fun.

The company behind FanDuel is Hubdub Ltd. Originally based in Edinburgh, we’ve recently opened an office in New York in addition to our San Francisco base and now have a staff of 15 people and a turnover this year of over $2M.

Simone Brummelhuis: And your role?

Lesley Eccles: I am Co-Founder and Marketing Director. We do a lot of online advertising and social media campaigns and have established the partnerships with many of the large newspapers in the US.

Simone Brummelhuis: Why another round of financing?

Lesley Eccles: We raised $4M in a new round of funding in September this year led by Piton Capital in London and our existing investors, Pentech Ventures and the Scottish Investment Bank. We had raised $1.2M in January 2009 which we used to prove the initial concept and get to the point of product-market fit. Now we want to use this round to scale up the product and the team.

Simone Brummelhuis: How was it to go after funding again, what did you do different this round?

Lesley Eccles: When we went out for the first round in 2008, we had a different game, one which didn’t have such a clear business model. It was also a time of great uncertainty in the market — we actually pitched to Pentech the day that Lehmen Brothers went bust!

But they saw the potential in our team and knew that we would find a way to make the business model work.

When we went out the second time, we had a game which was making revenue, a proven distribution strategy and real product-market fit — the FanDuel players were hugely engaged in the product. If you can tick those three boxes, doors start to open more easily!

Simone Brummelhuis: Any learnings which you can tell other entrepreneurs to learn from?

Lesley Eccles: Most of the things that you do won’t work. It will feel like you’re running one marathon after another but never getting there. The biggest challenge is just to keep going, to keep having faith and to keep believing in your team and your product.

Having said that, if you truly believe that your business model or product is fundamentally flawed, do not be afraid to pivot and completely change your strategy or your product — just do it as quickly and as cleanly as possible.

Simone Brummelhuis: Which things do you know now, that you did not know when you started?

Lesley Eccles: The list is absolutely endless. I came into this business after a career in management consulting (and a career break to have a family) where you very rarely get to see something through to completion.

With a startup, you have to wear many hats — whether it’s setting up a PPC campaign, establishing an affiliate program or purchasing advertising, you have to do it all from scratch (with no experience!) — and see it through.

Simone Brummelhuis: European companies in US: any general learnings?

Lesley Eccles: It is possible but it’s difficult — and eventually you do need to have a presence in your market. Hubdub has five founders all from the UK, but now over half of our team is American and based over there.

Because we weren’t in the target market, it meant that we have spent a lot of time doing customer development — really understanding our customers and what they need — much more so than I would say is typical in a startup.

Often it is too easy for startup founders to have a cool idea that they would use themselves and they think that if they would use it, then everyone else is bound to use it.

Simone Brummelhuis: Biggest dream?

Lesley Eccles: My biggest dream is that daily fantasy sports becomes the de-facto standard way of playing fantasy sports for those 30 million players.

This post was originally published at TheNextWomen.

About the guest blogger: Simone Brummelhuis is Founder, CEO and Editor-in Chief of TheNextWomen, the First Women’s Internet Business Magazine and Community with a focus on startups and growing businesses, led, founded or invested in by women be it in the media, service, retail, communication or any other industry, with a tech or internet angle, from Silicon Valley to Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. A partner of Women 2.0, the NextWomen is behind concepts such as Kitchen Dinners.