Jeff Ma knows something about winning - he was a member of the infamous MIT blackjack team that won millions of dollars by developing a card counting system to beat the Las Vegas casinos. In fact, he was the basis for “Ben Campbell,” the lead character in the hit movie “21″. Now the ASSOCIATED PRESS (via YAHOO! SPORTS) is reporting that Ma has turned his attention to fantasy sports.
Ma and his partner have started Citizen Sports, and their first venture is a fantasy football league that can be managed through Facebook. Sports Illustrated, which has seen online competitors such as YAHOO!, ESPN and CBS SPORTSLINE turn fantasy league management into a lucrative business, have decided to throw their weight behind thisl. Will Citizen Sports have a Hollywood happy ending? It’s hard to say, but one thing is sure to be different from “21″: no amount of wins by your fantasy team will lead to you getting to sleep with Kate Bosworth.
Anyone who followed the recent, Scrabble-infuriating success of the Scrabulous program on Facebook knows that it is an incredibly popular and powerful social networking tool, and it would appear that Ma and Citizen Sports have struck on a solid concept by using it to manage fantasy sports leagues.
However, as any tech entrepreneur can tell you, the key to having a winning company is differentiation. And most fantasy players already have a preferred way to run their leagues. Citizen Sports needs to innovate in order to succeed. For example, if they could apply their big brains to have told me last season to avoid Shaun Alexander at all costs, and for God’s sake don’t draft him in the first round, they would have hit the gold mine.