There are plenty of reasons why startups pivot. For Bait founder Ian Peacock, it came after a harshly worded, all-caps letter from Venmo’s legal department.
Bait was a social betting app that let you wager with friends on sporting events, and use Venmo or Apple Pay to settle up after the game. Using the betting lines from Las Vegas and the ability to go head-to-head with friends, Bait was able to simulate a mobile sports betting experience that, by the letter of that law, was perfectly legal. Bait didn’t take a portion of the winnings, and the payouts weren’t mandatory (the loser doesn’t have to pay up, and no money was automatically taken out of any accounts). It was simply a handshake agreement between two friends to pay up after a bet.
The only problem was, Apple and Venmo didn’t like their names and services being used in the app, and both threatened legal action if the startup continued to do so.
So Peacock went back to the drawing board. After surveying a portion of the app’s roughly 2,000 users, Peacock found that many people weren’t even using the app to bet at all. They were using Bait to simulate the betting experience and learn how to make bets before using a betting site or taking a trip to Las Vegas, Peacock said.
With that in mind, he rebranded the app to Linedrive, a “virtual” sports betting app that uses real-time odds and spreads from major professional and college sports to show what it’s like to gamble on sports. Linedrive is a playground for users who are new to sports betting, Peacock said, and acts as a way for people to get familiar with gambling before making an actual bet.
“We realized people are intimidated by sports betting for one reason or another,” he said. “Most of it revolved around people just not knowing how to bet. Just how people can be intimidated by the stock market, they don’t want to invest money in things they aren’t familiar with.”
The app has a leaderboard that ranks users based on their net winnings, letting people compete with people from around the world. For the former Bait users who enjoyed the real money element of the app, Peacock said that can still be done, it just has to happen on the side and not via the Linedrive app.
To help the company grow, Peacock raised a $50,000 seed round. The app went live in the Apple App Store earlier this week.
Note: The name of Linedrive’s investor has been removed from this story at the request of the founder, citing a NDA.