Joel Crites just wanted to catch a ballgame with his son. Like many in his generation, Joel has been a baseball fan his entire life and loves going to games and watching at home when he can’t get a ticket. On the other hand, his teenage son Koby represents an increasingly disinterested younger generation the sport is struggling to attract. When Koby expressed boredom and asked to leave a game early, Joel challenged his son to predict the outcome of each at-bat. That idea was the basis for what would eventually become Micro Fantasy in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I look around the stadium and see kids playing Angry Birds or watching Netflix on screens. They just couldn’t pay attention to the game,” said Crites, Founder & CEO of Micro Fantasy. “I thought, ‘Well, we need to find a way for this digital generation to enjoy the game through those devices they always plug into.’ I was able to keep my kid’s attention with a simple challenge and I had a lot of fun with him. That was the watershed moment where I thought, ‘Hey, there might be something here.’”
Crites, an accounting professional by day, batted the concept around with friends for nearly a year before plunging into the project. With support from a developer, he built a software that allows users to predict the outcome of individual baseball, basketball or football plays, with a special focus on baseball. The concept is fairly simple; lower-probability outcomes, such as a home run, are worth more points than a groundout. At the end of three innings, a winner is announced.
Micro Fantasy has worked with a number of different baseball and softball organizations and stadiums, including Ohio’s Akron Racers, Akron Rubberducks, Lake Erie Crushers, Lake County Captains and more. Operating on a business-to-business model, Micro Fantasy sells organizations on the idea that the app increases fan engagement while boosting attendance. They hope to enter the major league market in the near future.
The games are web-based and playable from any internet browser. Micro Fantasy apps are also available for free on the Android and iOS stores. The company has an application programming interface (API) agreement with Blue Star Sports through Pointstreak, a major stats platform that powers the app by updating the outcome of each play in real time. Spectators often download the app at the game and play right away.
Micro Fantasy received support from the Innovation Fund which helped the company develop its proprietary software and tweak its interface to make it more user-friendly. Crites and his team have pitched at SunDown Rundown, a competition affiliated with Braintree Business Development Center, a northeast Ohio regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier. Crites receives business mentorship from JumpStart, another regional partner of OTF.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would absolutely recommend building a tech startup in Ohio because of all the available support. This idea started so simply, and I just threw it around with some friends,” said Crites. “When I started to take it seriously, doors began opening given the tremendous resources in northeast Ohio. We’re succeeding because of that help, along with the low cost of living and access to really great talent. I am confident Micro Fantasy will continue to grow.”