“Fearless and Flawless,” “Fearless and Flawless,” “Fearless and Flawless.” Like a broken record, these are the words that are constantly repeated in the head of former NFL linebacker, Mike Brown. As he rallied his troops as the captain of his high school football team at Alief Taylor High School in Houston, Texas, he chanted the three-word phrase. At Duke University, his opponents felt his words turned into physical power as he crushed them on the gridiron. Now, after lacing the cleats up for the Indianapolis Colts and hanging the pads after several years of professional football under his belt, a new chapter has begun. “Fearless and Flawless” is now applied on Silicon Valley through his one-of-a-kind sports gaming platform, Win-Win.
Some may ask, what’s the difference between Win-Win and any other fantasy league or site? Well, first of all, Win-Win is not a fantasy league. Although it began as a fantasy platform, Win-Win quickly juked its competitors and transformed itself into a platform that focused on once-in-a-lifetime experiences, while contributing to outstanding charitable causes via the athlete. Recognizing that a large portion of the billions that were being raked in by the many fantasy sports gaming companies of the world was because of the use of the likeness of athletes at the top of their game, while not compensating them, Brown sprung into action. Win-Win swiftly received substantial buy-in from a drove of NFL players and the gaming industry as a whole. Only two weeks after incorporating Win-Win, this level of support led to being named the “Most Innovative Fantasy Sports Business” by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FTSA) in 2016. Secondly, imagine your grand prize on steroids. So instead of pocketing a large amount of loot for winning your league, try flying in a private jet with the Arizona Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson on your way to roam the sidelines with him for the Alabama vs. LSU game to get the ultimate SEC football experience. Who can care for mere bragging rights among friends or co-workers, when Win-Win could land you at a post-game dinner with your favorite NBA Baller. These kinds unique experiences are what Win-Win create and use to differentiate itself from a sea of opponents that includes FanDuel, DraftKings, and many others that have caused sports fans to not even entertain the idea of anything fantasy due to being immersed in legal battles that have casted a grey cloud over the fantasy sports industry at large.
While these epic prizes are dope, the biggest and most important upside to participating in Win-Win’s platform is the opportunity to support charitable causes. How, you ask? With Brown’s football career providing him access to some of the world’s best to put the pads on, he creatively identified a way to pair fantasy gaming and charitable donative efforts. Leveraging his existing NFL relationships with the likes of Malcolm Jenkins, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Michael Bennett and others, he developed strategic partnerships for athletes to collaborate with Win-Win. This fit into his business model that requires an athlete to sponsor a fantasy tournament with a majority of the proceeds resulting from tournament entry fees that go toward the sponsoring athlete’s charity with Win-Win only retaining a small portion. Thereby, a charitable perk is ingrained in the gaming experience. So even when a participant does not win a unique experience, they have contributed to a charitable effort. With tournament formats such as Pick’Em, Over/Under/On, Squad Up, Battle Bracket, and others, a wide selection of games is at the disposal of any sports fan. All in all, it’s a Win-Win for everyone involved.
Although Brown is all smiles with the traction that Win-Win is gaining, Silicon Valley is no joke. With some of the best minds in innovation, startup creation, and venture capital investment, many dreams are hashed, and even more are chewed up and spat out faster than a Twista verse in the southern San Francisco Bay area of California. The learning curve is steep and time is limited for those who are adept in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (otherwise known as STEM). Knowing that, the two-time ACC All-American understood that an effort similar to climbing Mount Everest was required to tackle the tech behemoth. Initially thinking of studying to receive a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), and a career in tech being uncharted territory, he quickly shifted gears once he realized the prospect of tech and it securing his long-term success.
To his surprise, the idea of seriously pursuing a career tech came into play when a friend of his introduced the prospect of attending Draper University. Established in 2012 by the well-known billionaire venture capitalist, Tim Draper, an immediate intrigue settled in. After expressing interest in enrolling, and having Draper personally reach out via phone and offering a full scholarship, it was a no-brainer for Mike to take his talents to the west coast. What was initially frustrating, quickly turned into bottled up energy that had no option but to burst on the pacific coast. “At first, I was upset that I didn’t know much about tech. But after being blown away about after learning more, I got very excited about the opportunity and my decision to move out west.” At Draper, Brown dove headfirst into the nine-week startup boot camp and crash course aimed at business and entrepreneurship. Shortly after two months, dedicating his 2013 summer to his studies, and going through a rigorous tech pledge process, Brown was numero uno in his class. Talk about hitting the ground running and going for broke. If Silicon Valley didn’t see the 230-pound linebacker coming at them with a full head of steam, they were definitely sure of it after the program was drilled with a perfect form tackle.
Many may think Win-Win was conceived through an elaborate plan involving some of the most esteemed philanthropic minds. Not the case. It was pretty simple from Brown’s standpoint once he had an “AHA!” moment. After being asked to participate in a fantasy football league during an internship of his, he asked “so what is this for?” since he ironically never picked up on the fantasy hype despite being the subject of fantasy during his time as pro. His colleague responded with the answer of “bragging rights.” In that instant, the light bulb went off. The idea of making use of fantasy funds for the greater good of society and charitable efforts rather than to verbally joust and chest pound among co-workers was at the top of mind. From that point and a little more than 9-months dedicated towards product launch, Brown served as the head doctor to deliver baby Win-Win into the world of unique sports experiences.
An obvious outlier, Brown embarks on his quest to shake up the fantasy gaming industry that rakes in more than $25 billion an annual basis. Although the former ACC defensive freshman of the year is rather accomplished at this point in his life, that did not come without the obstacle course of negativity that any kid from an urban city would face. The city of Houston caused football standout to quickly assess his future, as he reached a crossroads in the life decisions that he was making. With one foot rooted in immaturity and decisions that were not conducive to his long-term success, and another foot firmly planted in achievement as an exceptional student-athlete with a strong future ahead of him, Brown reached a fork in the road in one defining moment that he can speak on to this day with excellent clarity. Essentially, it was his Tre moment from the movie “Boyz in the Hood,” where he gets out of the car to escape a continued negative lifestyle, as Doughboy and his boys seek to avenge the death of Ricky.
The pivotal turning point came when he originally agreed to rob a local store with his friends, but was the first to opt out after realizing the possible consequences that would have come of his juvenile misstep. Upon doing so, his friends took the same action. This inaction allowed the young kid from the H to see the silver lining in the whole situation, as he and his friends just decided to go play basketball instead and continue their day uninterrupted. Moral of the story: Nobody was shot, nobody was harmed, nobody had property taken from them, nobody was arrested, families were still intact, and instead of being turned into an adult in an instant by the judicial system, a group of teenagers got to be just that for the remainder of the day. As retrospective thought set in, the then 16-year-olds eyes were opened up to the positive impact that he can have on himself and those around him. In a small, yet profound, chain of events, he immediately understood that others viewed him as a leader, and realized his potential power to effectively guide social change. So despite still being in the hood, his newfound transformation was irreversible, as he told himself “that’s kind of cool to know that I have some level of influence to not do negative things, and that I have the power to take a stand and people will follow.”
Understanding that these types of pressures plague inner-city kids across the nation to this day, the early graduate from Duke ultimately seeks to have Win-Win serve as a vehicle to educate and encourage today’s youth on the career potential that exists within the tech industry. With a well-documented lack of diversity within the technological field, promoting a career in tech, along with strong emphasis towards the 18 and under crowd to pursue entrepreneurial path, are at the forefront of Brown’s long-term strategy to take an active stake in the dreams of others. “Looking five to ten years in the future, I see Win-Win building bridges, creating access for others through investment opportunities. My goal is to be in a position where my family is set, but I can also invest in young brothers and sisters that are trying to make something happen with their own ideas and being in a position to fund those dreams,” said the Founder of Win-Win on reinvesting educational and financial resources into minority-based communities.
Heavily supported by the NFL community, along with the sporting community as a whole, it’s clear that Win-Win is an easy concept to buy into and provides a value-add for everyone involved. Growing attention and industry accomplishments being achieved at the speed of light is only the tip of the iceberg looking ahead. As a part of Silicon Valley’s premiere 500 Startup accelerator, which is a four month program known to give startups a shot in the arm that develop them into legitimate startup powerhouses, do not be surprised if incredibly rapid growth is exhibited by Win-Win in the near future. Honed in on expansion efforts to include retired athletes, entertainers, sports influencers, and some of the finest tastemakers, it would be a poor decision to bet against this winning recipe. With these kinds of experience packages never seen before, Brown’s response to the influence behind such ideas was simply “To just crush it.” It’s that kind of attitude and trailblazing mindset that is putting everyone on notice. So memorandum to the gaming world, be prepared for Mike Brown to say “hello” and then some. And by “hello,” know that the gaming world’s door to is going to be kicked down.