It’s a safe bet to say that if you’re older than 25, Besst will make you feel very old. Besst, created by two college students, Spencer Gordon-Sand and Linda Chen, is a new betting app that seeks to give you all the exhilaration of betting, but on your “social standing” instead of actual money. Their website, besst.io, is peppered with unexpected sentences like “Betting with friends isn’t fun when you face a choice between gambling (awkward) or wagering nothing (boring)”, and “prove you’re the f**king besst!”.
So how does it work?
The gamified social media platform, which will run on Android and iOS, would allow you to lay bets on pretty much anything happening in the world or between your friends, from the results of the Cubs’ game (including live bets placed during eSports streams), to how many sandwiches your friend can eat in an hour, to correctly guessing the end of the movie Black Panther. You and your friends can see what bets you and others made, and you wager “embarrassing Facebook posts” on the results, in addition to having your friends and the rest of the network view the outcome of your bet, and vote and comment on bets they placed with their friends.
Lay bets on anything with friends – without using money
So on Besst, which is currently in beta, your social media feed comprises a list of posts detailing ongoing bets, upcoming bets and completed bets, their results, and what your network thought of each others’ bets. You can also form groups with friends and community members, and winning or losing a series of bets moves you up and down in your social media rankings on leaderboards native to the app. Since the whole experience involves no money, the app does not aim to match the casino or traditional online gambling experience. The payout on Besst is the pure thrill of betting and winning, and having all your friends know that you did.
The concept is premised on three ideas: that betting on money can get uncomfortable between friends, betting with no stakes isn’t interesting, and that a sufficient number of people who like the exhilaration of betting would put enough worth on how people see them in social circles to use this app.
Intriguingly, Besst also claims that it can help self-improvement through betting, as “formalization and social accountability of goals improves achievement,” a suddenly sombre and laden claim made on otherwise remarkably light and fun website.
The app also lets you connect with your Facebook, Google and other social media accounts, allowing you to share your results, and challenge people in your existing networks (also necessitating that they get on the app).
Who is Besst?
The betting app’s About page informs you that the co-founders, college sophomores Spencer Gordon-Sand and Linda Chen, grew up together, considered each other “mortal enemies until high school” because of a “dispute over Pokemon trading cards in 2nd grade,” after which they decided to “put aside their differences and ended up becoming best friends.”
CEO and former Team USA fencer Spencer Gordon-Sand is currently an Economics student at the University of Chicago, while Boston College sophomore and Besst CTO Linda Chen has previously interned at JP Morgan Chase, and is the founder of student-oriented app, Mac Daddy, that helps students on campuses meet for meals.
Despite, or perhaps because, of their unmistakably youthful vibe and target audience, the app, launched in May 2018, has already caught the interest of Forbes (one of the chosen 50 out of 3000 applicants who were selected to present their idea at the Forbes 30 under 30 summit at Boston in late September and early October), Builtin Chicago (who in November named them one of the 5 recently launched Chicago startups you need to know), and entrepreneurship journal Chicago Inno, which named co-founder Spencer one of Chicago’s 25 Under 25 to look out for.
Besst’s team is a mix of young and experienced professionals. It’s Head of Product is veteran app developer Dan Hahm, who’s worked for Fortune 500 companies like McDonalds, in addition to holding senior positions at several startups, while other roles, like their Heads of Marketing and Business Development, are held by youngsters, still in or fresh out of university.
Given the nature of the platform and its target audience, Gordon-Sand has said that, outside of app development, he feels younger students and professionals would be better equipped to gauge Besst’s market and address its particular needs. “Not only am I more comfortable with less experience on this side, but, being younger actually gives them an advantage.”
Besst claims to have had 1000 users sign up to test its beta product, while Crunchbase reports that it currently has about 2200 monthly visitors. It’s received $20,000 in pre-seed funding, mostly from Gordon-Sand’s friends and family, and is also non-monetarily supported by the University of Chicago, the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the startup incubator TechNexus.
Besst’s business plan is to make money by selling advertisements on the site, and predict that like many student entrepreneurship projects, they’ll monetise a bit later than others. “The thing is that they only care about your user base when you hit a certain threshold and can separate your user base based on interest,” Gordon-Sand told the Chicago Maroon.
About the future, Gordon-Sand sounds focused and confident when he says, “We’re at a point now where we’re ready for and in need of the next round of funding and exposure.” But given the initial interest it has already sparked from entrepreneurship institutes and magazines, perhaps it isn’t a bad bet that the company’s got a bright enough future.
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