Why you should care

Because fantasy football is so yesterday — and Valleyball is all about the future.

I’m bad at fantasy football. I joined an online league with friends a few years ago — and came in last. But I’m not the only person who’s challenged when it comes to predicting how our pigskin-throwing idols will perform on the field. And for us, there’s a new sort of fantasy game that puts us in the shoes of a Silicon Valley investor.

Valleyball is a Bay Area-based on online game that lets you predict the current and future valuations of companies. Which will be the “unicorn” companies that surpass a $1 billion valuation? Which is going to be a flop? The cool thing is you don’t need to be a Wall Street whiz or have the deep pockets of name-your-favorite-VC to take a stand on companies like SoundCloud, Pinterest, Apple or Ello. Valleyball’s founder, Buster Benson, says he created the game to take what people (especially in Silicon Valley) are talking about in casual conversations and turn it into something a bit more public.

Valleyball is the average person’s chance to tap into the Silicon Valley culture of high-tech and hot startups.

On the site, you start by choosing among more than 278,000 companies; then you guess the company’s valuation today and what you think it’ll be in one year on a sliding scale. (Disclosure: OZY Media is included.) Your guesses are recorded and associated with your Twitter account. Anyone looking for instant gratification won’t find it: You have to wait a full year to find out whose guess ends up being closest to the actual valuation. Valleyball just launched in August, so it’s still in the very early stages and there’s nothing terribly glitzy about its interface. But like the companies it tracks, this game could be the start of something big.

With so much buzz about booming startups, IPOs and 25-year-old billionaires, Valleyball is the average person’s chance to tap into the Silicon Valley culture of high-tech and hot startups. There’s no real money at stake in this game, but Benson says Valleyball is based more on reputation — once players submit a guess, they can see everyone else’s guesses — which he believes is “a bit more weighty than just losing some money.”

Players who excel at this game might be apt to become angel investors, partner associates at venture capital firms or startup founders, according to Benson. In a year’s time, we just might see some hidden talents emerging from the Valleyball ranks. The game might also appeal to folks who are already keeping up with sites like Product Hunt or Techmeme, Benson suggests. Sand Hill Exchange and Estimize are similar sites in that they crowdsource people’s predictions about startups or earnings.

Benson is no stranger to the tech world: He’s a product manager at Twitter, and Valleyball is, for now, his weekend project. He told OZY he’s drawn to the idea of being able to predict which companies are going to be great, while also signaling early on those companies that might be overhyped. Right now, the companies attracting the most guesses in terms of future valuation are Product Hunt, Uber, Yo, Snapchat, Slack and Tesla Motors. As for his own employer (which is included in the game), Benson is “optimistic about Twitter’s future.”

You can still be among the first few thousand users if you start guessing, er, calculating your estimates today. Call it nerdy, but Valleyball could be the most lucrative game you’ve ever played. With so much demand for shrewd minds that can pick out the next billion-dollar unicorn company, taking a spin as a fantasy VC player might turn into the real thing someday.

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