Benjie Cherniak on how he IDs start-ups he wants to get involved with

OddsJam ZeroFlucs Benjie Cherniak
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After 14 years working with Don Best, Benjie Cherniak left the company intent on taking a break.

“My intention back then was to take some time, rent a place in Miami, and, chill a little bit,” he said.

The industry had different plans.

With so much experience, expertise, and industry connections, Cherniak inevitably found himself having conversations that drew him back into the fold.

“I just began on a friendly basis, having a number of those conversations, which led to me to assisting some companies, be it advisory, investment, or both. And that just kind of snowballed.”

Now, Cherniak finds himself working as a strategic advisor for a number of different groups, including OddsJam and ZeroFlucs. OddsJam is an odds comparison tool for bettors that offers resources to line shop, calculate odds, and track their bets. ZeroFlucs is a B2B product for sports betting platforms that can help create new and unique markets to offer on their app.

The elevator pitch is vital for start-up success

On their face, these are very two different ventures, but there was something about each of them that grabbed Cherniak’s attention. That started with a strong, fast sales pitch.

“There are only so many hours in a day, and only so many hours that I want to dedicate to looking at new ideas. So it starts with someone getting your attention based on the two-minute pitch of what they’re doing,” Cherniak said.

Even if a company has a great plan, Cherniak also only wants to be involved if there is something he can add to the equation.

“I think that’s a big thing for me as I begin assessing companies, where can I add value? Where can I add expertise without there being too much overlap on other projects that I’m working on? What are companies where my insights can help move the needle in some capacity? With companies like OddsJam and ZeroFlucs, the appeal to me was not just what they were doing, not just what types of individuals they are and how sharp they are, not just how really dynamic and useful I feel their products will be in solving problems within our industry, but I also feel that in both instances my experience in the industry and my insights and network could add value to them,” he said.

In the instance of OddsJam and ZeroFlucs, Cherniak is, in some ways, working on opposite sides of the same coin. Both companies dabble in the space of betting markets and market efficiencies, but one is geared towards aiding consumers, while the other is a business solution for sportsbook platforms.

Cherniak, like others, see micro-markets as a growth area

Both will inevitably venture into the hot topic of the moment: micro-markets. Cherniak, like many others, has his eyes on how the industry is attacking the topic.

“We’re seeing that micro-market user experience and where that fits in the pricing realm with a number of the companies that are already prominent in that space. I think that there’s up and comers, you look at a company like Kero Sports, and I think that there’s a huge opportunity for companies such as that to help define a user experience that’s going to be geared more to that next generation of bettors,” Cherniak said. “I think that a lot of this, when I think about it, is where are the next generation of bettors? What types of products are they clamoring and how do they view the existing sports book experience? And how do they want to view sports and be engaged by it?”

Thinking ahead to the next generation is something at the front of Cherniak’s mind when assessing investment and advising opportunities as well as looking at the direction the industry is going.

“There are a lot of products out there that will be geared to a combination of sharp bettors as well as that next generation of casual bettors, and I think the key within all this is that sports book really isn’t a one size fits all. There’s going to be room for innovation that moves us away from a one-size-fits-all experience to segments within that, whether it’s financial trading, market making, or whether it’s a more casual user experience geared more to engagements and micro-markets.”

The number of sharp bettors will grow with the US market

This fluctuating idea of a bettor also extends to how Cherniak thinks the market should approach sharps. With years of experience at Don Best, he understands that the sharps of 20 years ago are not necessarily the same as the sharps of today. Moreover, he believes the sheer number of sharps will continue to grow along with the US sports betting industry. Many of his own choices in the industry reflect this awareness of how important the “sharps” are.

“A sharp is always going to want to have multiple options and usually have a good sense and pulse of what’s happening within the market as a whole. [They want] to be able to do some comparative shopping to create edges and find our opportunities and things of that sort. The sheer number of sharps as sports betting continues to penetrate the US landscape will continue to grow as consumers become more educated as to what the opportunities are to migrate from purely recreational to viewing sports betting as an opportunity financially.”

With sharps growing by the day, investments now in products like OddsJam, which help bettors price their plays, and ZeroFlucs, which helps sportsbooks expand their markets to better cater to sharps, will pay off down the line according to Cherniak.

Will he rest when that day comes though?

“I love working with that next generation of thought leaders and entrepreneurs that will help shape our industry, but at some point, I may jump into something more comprehensive myself as well. Who knows?”