Some people play in online fantasy and sports platforms for the love of the game, while others play for cash, but what if you could play and give back?
Win-Win is not your typical fantasy sports platform. Created by former NFL linebacker Mike T. Brown (also known as Mike Tauiliili), Win-Win is designed to connect sports fans to charities as opposed to the usual gambling wins. Eighty-seven percent of the entry fee goes directly to the player’s charity, and instead of cash, contestants win “epic experiences that money can’t buy.”
What makes up an "epic experience"? It's everything from an autographed football from the entire Eagles team to flying in a private jet to watch a major college football game. People have won with as little as a $5 donation. One fan donated $8 to Feed the Children and ended up on the San Francisco 49ers’ sidelines during a week 3 game against the Seattle Seahawks. Given the controversy surrounding the gambling aspects of most popular fantasy tournaments, the originality of Win-Win stands out. Forbes even called it the future of fantasy sports.
To make Win-Win work, Brown took a huge risk. After a shorter-than-expected NFL career, he decided to get into the tech industry. With no experience, no job and a newborn baby, he and his wife took a leap of faith and went out to California's Silicon Valley. He taught himself coding ahead of time and took a nine-week crash course at Drape University, where he finished first in his class. He then took an entry-level position at a start-up, but very quickly progressed through the ranks.
Brown didn’t have his Win-Win fantasy league yet, but his lightbulb moment came when he noticed how much his co-workers were into fantasy sports, not for the money but for the fun. After reaching out to former teammates and believing fully in his own idea, he hit the ground running. He worked on it steadily at nights and holidays, eventually leaving his job to go full time. His big break came a few months later when he pitched his idea onstage in front of Mark Cuban and ESPN at the fantasy-sports trade conference in Dallas. He ended up coming in at No. 1 for the most innovative sports business of 2016.
Always an A student, Brown credits his mother for his drive. He excelled academically in high school before ultimately deciding to attend Duke University on a scholarship. Early on, his mother encouraged him to focus on academics before everything else. He once got a C before his championship Little League game and she refused to let him play. He says that was one of his defining moments and set the example moving forward.
"That day, I decided I would never let academics stop me from playing … football, and that was only third grade. I took that mentality into middle school, high school and into college. I was able to maintain this double life of being the cool athlete and captain of the team, but I was also in the student council, president of the engineering club, with a 4.0 average. It became natural because I always knew what the priority was. My mom always drilled it into my head."
P.J. Rickards is an original video creator at The Root.