I was fortunate enough to sit down with Dave VanEgmond, the current Head of Strategy and Corporate Development at Barstool Sports and the former EVP and Head of Strategy at FanDuel. Today, you will hear about how Dave started working in sports and about his time at FanDuel.
SBB: To start off, could you tell us a bit about how you got to where you are today, from college to your first job to now at Barstool?
DV: I went to Notre Dame, and I graduated in 2010. I was a finance major in the business school there. My area of academic strength was math, so I was a numbers guy, opposed to an English or science guy. I thought that my math skills would position me well for business. A lot of my friends and business school classmates were looking to break into careers in investment banking as a good training ground to ultimately position themselves for doing whatever you want to do in the business community for the longer term.
So after I graduated from Notre Dame, I went into investment banking at Barclays in New York. I did the analyst program there, ultimately was promoted, and after five years I thought I had learned a lot but wanted a new challenge. I left professional services to join FanDuel, which at the time was growing very fast and creating the daily fantasy sports market. I ended up working there for about four and a half years. I did a bunch of mergers and acquisitions for FanDuel and raised money from investors. I applied what I had learned from investment banking, and I essentially acted as an investment banker for a company.
After doing that for several years, we sold FanDuel to a public company in Europe. I wanted to find a new challenge, so I moved over to Barstool earlier this year in order to go back to a young and exciting sports media technology company and help them do some of the same things.
SBB: I think a lot of young people are interested in working in the sports business. Have you always been working toward a career in sports, or was it just something that you were excited to do when the opportunity presented itself?
DV: I was always passionate about sports. I was an athlete in high school. And I would say that I was on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of sports fan enthusiasm for the local and college teams that I cheered for growing up. So, yes, I always had a desire to get into the sports business someday. I think work feels less like work if you are passionate about what you are doing.
If you truly like the product that your company is putting out, it makes it easier to put in extra time and put your passion and energy into it. I used FanDuel’s product for a number of years before I started working there. When I decided to get into a sports technology company, I had read Barstool for years, followed them on social, and knew the company well. I was enthused by the content they were producing, which made my decision easier because I loved the businesses I was going to work in. I’ve always been really passionate about the sports industry and so it was just a natural fit in that sense.
SBB: Unlike many fields, it seems like the sports industry often has many younger executives, can you explain why you think this might be?
DV: I don’t know if its a phenomenon just for sports. But I think many really smart people are very enthusiastic about sports, and there are fewer traditional barriers and need for grey hair or executive seasoning. If you are really skilled, the sports industry is moving and innovating fast, so younger people can rise up more quickly.
SBB: So do you think a greater understanding of technology has helped you progress in the sports business?
DV: Definitely. I had a good base of knowledge about the tech industry from investment banking on the finance side and being able to apply that in industry and being a hard worker because of the passion I had for the businesses in sports has been incredibly helpful.
SBB: You talked about how FanDuel as your first job in the sports business, so I want to go back to that for a minute. What specifically did you do at FanDuel?
DV: I led corporate development and strategy there, which is a broad title and essentially means in-house investment banker. I worked on raising money from investors and acquiring several small companies that we integrated into the FanDuel ecosystem. Those were the main focuses of my job. We ultimately sold the company which was a hallmark transaction and was a culmination of several years of work to get to that point.
SBB: FanDuel was very early in the daily fantasy sports business and has made a big impact on fantasy sports as a whole. What do you see for the future of daily fantasy?
DV: I see it as one avenue of engaging with sports for real money. Fantasy is obviously a game of skill, where usually the same people in your fantasy league win fairly consistently because they spend more time, they do the research, and are good at it. Daily fantasy allows people to do that for real money on a regular basis. It is a bit of an entree into sports betting in that people start spending money on the fantasy lineup that they are building to try to win money in daily fantasy. Sports betting is more broadly regulated across the country in terms of legalization. In the future, I think some people who are playing daily fantasy today will naturally start engaging in sports betting when it is fully legalized.
SBB: What was the thing you most enjoyed about working at FanDuel?
DV: I think the people there and the business we were building. I’m enthusiastic about daily fantasy and still play. The people that I got to be in the trenches with, and help grow FanDuel with, really made my time there meaningful.
SBB: Thanks so much, Dave. I’m sure the readers will be very excited to hear about your experiences. In the second part of this interview, we will focus on your current job at Barstool.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.