If Tom Brady had been a stock, he’d have been Apple in 1980.
That unfortunate NFL Combine photograph. Sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan. Then … Drew Bledsoe gets hurt, yada yada. Details.
The seven-time Super Bowl champion and three-time MVP would have made for a nice cashout when he retired for the second and presumably last time a few months ago. But alas, Mojo was still the germ of an idea for Lax Chandra, Marc Lore, and Vinit Bharara when Brady was drafted by the Patriots in 2000.
Well before Bryce Young and CJ Stroud are selected in the NFL Draft — as in right now — bettors in New Jersey can buy their stock at a price set by the Mojo algorithm, sell that commodity, or hold it like a long-term asset in hopes of a Brady result.
They won’t come as cheap as Brady surely would have.
And neither will Anthony Richardson. With the former Florida Gators quarterback over-matching the Combine testing protocols and electrifying social media this past weekend, his stock became the perfect analog for how Mojo — the self-proclaimed “first-ever licensed sports stock market” — works.
But what about Dorian Thompson-Robinson? Max Duggan? Hendon Hooker? Care to speculate?
“The draft is somewhere our differentiation really stands out,” said Chandra, Mojo’s vice president, “the fact that you can get in on these players not only early, but then also you’re kind of effectively betting on the draft, right?
“Because where they get drafted, how it ends up, is an indicator of how good they’re going to be.”
Gaming Today spoke with Chandra about his company’s gaming platform.
Betting on the Player
Gaming Today: How does mojo determine player value?
Lax Chandra: We have data scientists that have basically modeled the careers of each of the athletes. And we’ve gone back, at least for NFL, we’ve gone back, I think 20 years looking at every single play, every single game, and every single career. And the team has modeled out what our current players would do based on that.
So we have the data science team that basically builds out these models, and then we have a trading team that is overseeing the models. In live-action and in-play. And what ends up happening is there’s a lot of give and take between the modeling and the humans.
But generally speaking, we use the humans to improve the models. And then during the game, what’s happening during an NFL game or during an NBA game, what’s happening very completely algorithmically is every single play is being ingested, and then we are on the fly. Our models are looking at how that play is now affecting the future of that player’s career.
And so that is happening on a very automated basis.
Gaming Today: Is ‘Liquid Props’ basically in-game betting?
Chandra: Right. So the Liquid Props currently are structured as an in-game bet. We can also structure it and we probably will be thinking about doing some Liquid Props across a longer period of time.
You have a career bet, which is the longest kind of view of a bet. And then you have a Liquid Prop that is looking at it like literally play-by-play and measuring it for that one single event, or a single half, or a single quarter, or a tournament, or an NBA playoff.
Gaming Today: How much do single-game performances impact career stock?
Chandra: If somebody has — depending on who the player is — a four-interception game, and let’s say it’s Zack Wilson, that’s going to significantly affect that player’s career. If it’s Tom Brady, it’s not going to affect it as much, right? It’s definitely more muted.
But there’s actually way more volatility than you would think, especially for the younger players, but even for the older players to some degree. Things are happening. The fact that he had four touchdowns or four interceptions is an outlier for that game, and it does affect that projection not only for that game, but for the future.
And then what we end up doing is for the older players, the more veteran players, we have multipliers. That can basically accentuate the percentage movements for any single player. So that could make a big difference.
Gaming Today: Why are you regulated like a sportsbook instead of like DFS?
Chandra: We only operate in New Jersey from a betting perspective.
There’s different opinions, legal opinions about what’s what. I think the way that we look at it is we wanted to take a route where it was the safest route for basically both the company and our customers. There’s regulations that make sure that our customers are protected. We have some people who are betting $5,000 a shot on a player, and in order to accomplish that, I think they need security and trust in what we’re doing. We think the regulations help validate and also the regulations actually ensure that that money is safe.
So we think from a long-term view, it’s better for the customer, and we think it’s safer for the company going forward because these regulations may change over time in terms of how some of these other [DFS] companies are doing things. And fundamentally it allows us to offer the most amount of options for our customers over time. So we couldn’t do the Liquid Props the way we’re doing them right now if we were doing DFS. We’d have to do some sort of parlay kind of thing. And this allows us to basically offer everything eventually.
Gaming Today: What’s the national expansion plan for Mojo as an athlete stock market?
Chandra: We have market access agreements in multiple other states.
We’ll be looking to expand our offerings to these states in the future and probably later this year, I think, is when we’re going to start that process.
Right now we’re refining the product. We’re improving the number of options that we have for the customer. And we kind of feel like we do that first before we move into another state.
Gaming Today: What states will Mojo enter in 2023?
Chandra: Colorado is definitely going to be our next. It’s definitely on the roadmap for the next state.
Inside the Mojo Company
Gaming Today: What’s the Mojo origin story?
Chandra: The genesis of the company was actually kind of born more than 20 years ago, before the first dot-com bust.
Three of us, Marc Lore, Vinit Bharara is the CEO, and myself started a company called ThePit.com where you could invest in players. And at that time, gambling was definitely not legal. So we used graded sports cards as a proxy for the player. And this was basically, I think at that time, the inclination.
The intuition of a sports fan is, I think, this player’s going to be good, right? And I want to invest in this player. We were doing it. We bought Ken Griffey, Jr. cards and other, many, many other cards during that time. What we want to do is you want to bet on the player.
So we started that in 2000, and we sold it to the Topps Company right before 9/11. And we all kind of went … not different ways, stayed friends, but we all kind of stayed doing kind of different things in our career.
Vinny and Marc, very, very successful entrepreneurial careers. And Marc went to Vinny about three years ago now, maybe two and a half years ago, and said, ‘Hey, you remember the idea that we had, that was probably the biggest idea we’ve had? Now the regulations allow us to actually do this correctly instead of tying into a sports card.
Sports gambling is big. But DFS has proven that there’s more interest in players.
The sports card industry is booming. Let’s, let’s get back into this.’
And I think now, going now into 2023, what we think is, this is a differentiated product with a career which allows us to kind of have a differentiated offering.
How did the diverse ownership/investor group form?
Chandra: I think starts with Marc Lore. Marc and Alex [Rodriguez] have been doing many things together. Obviously, Alex on the sports side and on the relationship side, he has access to everybody. To start this you bring in Vinny who had a company with Marc that they sold to Amazon and then he went into the media business. So Vinny’s now the CEO, and then between Marc, Alex, and Vinny’s contacts, they brought in a team.
Bart Stein is the COO. He worked with Marc in the past. Incredible on the product side. So now we have this base team, and then Marc and Vinny and Alex and Bart all have access to the best venture capital companies out there. And they brought them in very excited about the idea. It’s a growing space. And then, most importantly, that group can build a team to make this happen. And execute. And I think our team is really incredible.
Gaming Today: How big is the Mojo war chest as the company readies to expand its athlete stock market?
Chandra: We’ve raised over $100 million. We have quite a bit of that left. I think we have enough capital going forward. And then obviously at some point you’re going to have to raise capital. This is a resource-intensive industry, especially as you go add states, and as you add products and you have the regulatory side of things.
So I think one thing that we do have is we have access to capital more so than other companies in our space. And I think one of the reasons why we’re able to raise $100 million is because of that. And that’s proof of that.
Who are Mojo’s Customers?
Gaming Today: What’s Mojo’s user base?
Chandra: Thousands of thousands of users and growing. I think we started a couple of weeks after the  NFL season and the retention is really, really strong.
I think, partly because of this differentiated product and then as we start adding new products to it, we’re seeing conversion into those new products at a pretty significant kind of level. So it’s been really good. It’s obviously very hard to market in one state. That’s a difficult task. But I think we’ve been kind of buoyed by the fact that it’s working.
Gaming Today: Are Mojo users acting like day traders or sports bettors?
Chandra: It’s both. I think we have definitely a group of customers that are not big sports gamblers, but are sports fans who are financially kind of literate.
And then we have sports gamblers. They tend to maybe operate a little bit more short-term. But we definitely have sports gamblers as well who are on the other platforms. And this is a different way to place a wager on a player.
Some people could kind of hedge their other bets in a way. It’s like a different view. I do think instinctively, intuitively a user — again, this is talking more about the career event — a sports fan is more inclined to think about whether or not this player is good or bad.
Gaming Today: Was [San Francisco 49ers QB Brock] Purdy a case study in player-as-penny-stock?
Chandra: The thing about the NFL that’s really unique is that future opportunity is exceptionally volatile. The players’ careers are relatively short anyway. And injuries slash how well they’re playing, what their contract is, how much the team is invested, whether it be a trade or anything. It really impacts how long they’re going to play and how well they’re going to play.
Quarterbacks are exceptionally volatile. Is Tom Brady going to play next year? Is Aaron Rodgers going to play next year? Is Brock Purdy going to be the starter next year? Is Zach Wilson going to get a second chance? Is Baker Mayfield going to be basically journeyman backup, high-end backup?
There’s so much that plays into the opportunity that you get this incredible, incredible volatility, and it’s incredible fun to basically kind of place your bets where you think that’s going to go. And like I said, you could kind of do that not only on longer-term views, but you can also do that on shorter-term views, which is, ‘Oh, I think this matchup is gonna be really, really good for this player.’ Or, ‘I think this may be getting injured, is a little bit banged up. So it plays really long-term and short-term in a really incredible way.”