Cullen Kavanaugh ’22 is placing his bet on Spread

Person in front of a computer screen

It’s often said that necessity is the mother of invention. Progress is shaped by identifying problems or responding to crises and developing new technology or systems to adequately address them. But while necessity may give birth to invention, what sustains it and breathes life into it is passion. No company would ever be founded, and no product patented without the long hours of work and sacrifice driven by love for what you’re creating.

Cullen Kavanaugh ’22, studying finance and real estate in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management is the perfect example of the businesses and ingenuity that can come from personal love for a topic and the process of creating a solution. To say that Kavanaugh is a sports fan is an understatement. It’s what he and his friends’ bond over and find thrill in the hours spent immersed watching a riveting game or betting each other on the success of teams and players.

When COVID-19 hit and college students found themselves at their homes all around the country, separated from the academic community and friendships, Kavanaugh and his friends lost their shared time and excitement over one of their favorite activities: betting each other over the games. Separated by distance, their only alternative was to bet on online platforms similar to casinos, losing the socialization and closeness the found in the activity.

Driven by finding an alternative to the current ineffective models of online sports wagering, Kavanaugh decided to found his own company for sports betting. Together with a few of his close friends who all met at the end of their freshman year in their fraternity he formed the company Spread: a peer-to-peer wagering platform.

“We found a problem over quarantine with the sports betting world and wanted to find a way to create something unique,” Kavanaugh said.

Spread aimed to solve three main problems within sports betting: lack of socialization, percentage cuts of winnings from online platforms, and lack of customization of bets. Their peer-to-peer wagering platform eliminates any fees and creates a social platform for people to bet with each other and customize as they wish.

Spread’s well-rounded team contributes largely to the growth and soon launch of their business. Daniel Slate, studying public policy in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, is the head of operations.  Daniel Stern, studying sports management in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics is the head of marketing. Quinn Francis, studying accounting in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management is the head of finance. 

Their current path to market is beginning to take shape as states are beginning to legalize on-line gambling.  Until now, the heavy regulations around sports betting have made it difficult for the team to build their business, but Spread is getting started by working to improve people’s perceptions on sports betting.

“We aim to change the taboo behind sports betting and make it more friendly and fun,” Kavanaugh said of the team’s hope for shifting sports betting culture.

What has sustained the team’s drive to launch Spread through hard work and navigating a heavily regulated field is their own love for sports and what they’re creating.

“We live and breathe sports. I love what I do.  I work 8 hours a day at this and never get bored or tired,“ Kavanaugh said of his passion for sports.

To pour your energy and time into creation of a business is nothing less than exhausting and demanding. Particularly in a field where current laws are not allowing a launch or success, the effort demanded is intense. Yet passion for what you do is a boundless energy that motivates individuals to throw their whole selves into creation of what they love. Kavanaugh and Spread is the perfect example of what we can create if we too focus our energies on what we love.

By Claire Howard ’23, LaunchPad Global Media Fellow