Daniel Zimmerman ’20 builds a better way to wager

There are traditions and cultural practices that have become sacred to people throughout our existence. Music, art and sports have all been the cornerstones of some of the most successful civilizations in history. One of these includes sports betting. The Ancient Romans used to bet on gladiators during the Colosseum fights, similar to how Americans have wagered on prominent baseball teams and players since the late 1800’s.  This practice allowed people throughout history to enjoy sports in an entirely new and heightened way by increasing their stake in the sports most beloved to them. While gambling and betting has been largely regulated in contemporary history, a Syracuse University graduate is introducing an entirely new way to interact with sports.

Daniel Zimmermann ‘20 holds a degree in Sports Management from the David B. Falk College of Sport & Human Dynamics with a minor in Information Management & Technology from the School of Information Studies. Zimmermann is also co-founder of Verse, a social media and peer to peer marketplace for bets based on the results of sports and other events. Powered by smart contracts on the blockchain, Verse users can place bets against other users on the platform.  It is a product that successfully mediates effective betting transactions between users without the need for a ‘house.’ The founders came up with ‘Verse’ after observing the attitude towards betting that college students adopted. “The way offline betting works right now is through a bookie, or peer to peer through Venmo,” says Zimmerman. “A bookie can just be someone with enough cash to pay out people’s winnings. Effectively, Verse allows users to be their own bookie, and allows anyone to facilitate wagers, allowing you to serve as a bookie on the platform if you so choose.” It is all in the in the spirit of friendly competition. 

Zimmermann grew up in London, where he went to an international high school. “In England betting was legal and there was a bet shop everywhere.  I came here and people had bookies and commercial gambling was largely illegal.” However, the restrictions were soon to be lifted. In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law, PASPA, that initially prohibited commercial sports betting in most states in the United States. With the law repealed, the Supreme Court gave the states the individual option to legalize commercial gambling and paved the way for an entirely new Industry, that of the online sports betting platforms. Zimmermann and his team soon took advantage of this ruling and started Verse in October of 2018. He partnered with his roommate David Rosen, and together they developed an alpha version of the product for initial testing starting this month.

The initial version of the app is focused on the core functionalities of the product, which required extensive development from the team. “My roommate actually stayed up coding for 12 hours a day for five days to develop the working prototype.” The core purpose of Verse is to provide an online platform for betting of any kind and reducing a central ‘bookie’ or a ‘house’ figure from the process. “You can send a bet to a friend or to an entire network. When they accept and bet in the opposite direction, Verse pairs you up and the bet is live.”

The app uses its own form of cryptocurrency to facilitate bets on the platform. This currency, called VerseCoin, are used to represent real monetary values and hold a 1-1 ratio with the U.S. Dollar. This effectively allows people to bet with the equivalent of real money. More than just sports betting, Zimmermann sees a bright future for the platform. “We intend to offer sports, politics and current affairs for betting.” Once the mechanics of betting are sorted, the platform will be able to support pop culture bets.

“Assuming Game of Thrones would still be on, users could bet on questions.  Is Jon Snow going be alive by the end of the season? Who will Sit on the Iron Throne? These are things you and your friends already talk about. Why not throw a friendly wager on the show to keep you engaged?” asks Zimmermann.

Over the next two years, Zimmerman and the team expect to initiate partnerships with brands like Microsoft and others for bets and expansion into E-Sports and Pool Betting. “As long as a result is electronically verifiable, users can bet on anything and we want to facilitate that.”

 Verse is the result of many brilliant minds and hard-working people. One of those brilliant minds is David Rosen who Zimmerman refers to as being one of the instrumental figures who helped develop the technology behind the platform.

Another resource that Zimmerman is thankful for is the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by TechStars. “The LaunchPad provides one-on-one tailor-made advice for different businesses, instead of the cookie cutter advices that other incubators provide,” he notes. At the LaunchPad, Zimmerman was able to gain advice from experienced individuals as well as lawyers, accountants and finance and regulatory experts on how to make the product viable and navigate the regulatory environment.

Just as watching sports, enjoying art, and listening to music has shaped the human experience, gambling has also arguably done the same.  With Verse, team is confident that this contemporary mode of interaction will revolutionize the friendly sport of wagering.

Story by Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow Krishna Pamidi Photo supplied