This is an article based on an interview I carried out in August ’08 with one of the founders of Hubdub – the news prediction game. It’s an interesting mix between something like Digg and fantasy football, and could become an increasingly popular way of engaging with the news. The interview appears courtesy of cmypitch.com and the start-up profiles page, where there are plenty more reviews of hot new, mostly UK and techy, start-up companies.
Securing VC funding last November before launching the public beta (test) phase on June 20th this year , Hubdub is essentially a community that takes on board the success of news-sharing sites such asdigg.com but adds the addictive element of prediction and gambling – for virtual money and league positioning.
In CEO and founder Nigel Eccles words ‘It’s a prediction and forecasting platform. It’s all about creating predictions with your friends. The mission is to have predictions on any topic of public interest.’ So, the fun is to make predictions with friends and see how it turns out a couple of weeks down the line (or whenever the time-frame is up), while there are also those using the forecasts as a useful tool to follow news stories. If you think David Miliband is a sure-thing for next Prime Minister of Great Britain, you can make the prediction and get friends and others to make theirs – with the low odds on you being correct, if it actually happens when the deadline is up, you’ll earn a virtual packet and shoot to the top of the league.
Eccles explains how the idea came to him: ‘I used to work forslotter.com (a gambling website) and so I was always familiar with the technology. We’d always use betting odds for things, such as Big Brother, but I realised most people don’t understand them. I thought here’s a way to simplify them… I was following the start of the London mayoral elections last year, and thought this would be a great way (giving percentage likelihoods). Plus, I’m really into news… You could read thousands of articles to try and know the outcome on something, or just come to the site to see what’s most likely.’
So why is it based in Edinburgh but focused on the US? ‘I’ve always loved US politics, but that isn’t the only reason – you kind of have to be in one or the other– US users aren’t interested in football, and it is a bigger market . Although in saying that we have an active premiership prediction area, and 10% of our users are UK based.’
And where is the money coming from, you may ask? For the last few months, they’ve been focused on user ‘engagement’ and distribution (not least through strong search engine optimisation), not marketing or revenue. But Eccles says there is a clear plan: ‘While advertising is an opportunity, we’re excited about market data and we’re building a revenue model around that. The forecasts are actually quite accurate – so for businesses it could be very valuable.’ Whether that happens, an accurate prediction is certainly needed to find out. In the meantime though,cmypitch.com predicts it will grow.