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Tyler Carlin of Jock MKT: “Stay on it”

Jason Robins told me to “stay on it.” The context behind that was really to stay focused and not give up. That is what I needed to hear at the time, because it’s easy to get distracted on a journey that is rarely linear. While advancing to that next significant goal, I remained focused on […]

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Jason Robins told me to “stay on it.” The context behind that was really to stay focused and not give up. That is what I needed to hear at the time, because it’s easy to get distracted on a journey that is rarely linear. While advancing to that next significant goal, I remained focused on achievable tasks that make an impact and were within my control. Those smaller wins eventually added up to bigger victories.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tyler Carlin.

Tyler Carlin is the co-founder of Jock MKT, a new mobile platform that lets players trade shares of their favorite professional athletes for real money. As a graduate of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Carlin assembled a team of engineers to transform sports into a stock exchange through a daily fantasy model, and their app is currently active in 34 states. Tyler and the Jock MKT team launched their peer-to-peer cash markets in early September for the NFL, NBA, and PGA Tour.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Jock MKT combines several of my interests; I’ve always loved sports, and I remember buying my first few shares of stock back when I was 10 years old. Since my undergrad at Fairfield University, I had a desire to pursue something entrepreneurial. While I started my career in the economic consulting world, I went to MIT Sloan with the goal of starting a company.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

The “stock market for sports’’ is a concept that no one has been able to execute at scale in the U.S. or Canada. It’s tricky because it needs to have the right balance of enjoyment, solid fundamentals, and also fit within current legislation. We feel we’ve successfully accomplished those things through Jock MKT.

With Jock MKT, we’ve built both the underlying exchange and the consumer-facing app. The analogy is that we essentially combined Nasdaq’s trading technology with a Robinhood or E*Trade app, but built it for sports. Jock MKT took a lot of creativity to build both sides within the rules. As a result, our model and algorithm allow players to trade shares of athletes in a peer-to-peer marketplace, in real-time, for real money while NFL, NBA, and PGA Tour events are happening.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I do have a story that is funny in the ironic sense. I previously thought good ideas were meant to be kept secret. Bill Aulet, who runs the entrepreneurship program at Sloan, teaches the complete opposite — ideas are easy; execution is the hard part.

I quickly realized there’s very little downside to sharing an idea. You never know who will listen and provide that critical piece of feedback. It can lead to some awkward pitches in the beginning, but I think that’s all part of the process. You also get better at telling your story and networking with qualified people who are more likely to help make your idea a reality.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Isaiah Kacyvenski. It may be atypical to have your first investor double as a mentor, but we wouldn’t be where we are without him. He’s from the same town in upstate New York where I grew up. I knew of him because it’s a blue-collar area and doesn’t produce many NFL linebackers. I didn’t meet him until a few years ago when a classmate of mine interned for Isaiah.

I followed up with Isaiah on LinkedIn with an idea loosely resembling what Jock MKT is today, and he’s been helpful ever since. Beyond constructive feedback and encouragement, Isaiah helps with key introductions. He’s actually the person that originally connected me with DraftKings CEO Jason Robins, who has also been extremely generous with his time, advice, and connections.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

In the tech world, disruption typically carries a positive connotation because it’s associated with innovation and market creation. However, I think it’s also about pushing boundaries; sometimes on what is possible technologically, and other times on what is permissible legislatively.

When a company is finding that line, I think that’s when you run a higher likelihood of encountering the ‘not so positive’ side of things. We saw that in the early days of daily fantasy sports, with employees winning some large prize pools. Overall, a new industry was created, consumer protections were enacted, and fantasy sports helped pave the way for legalized sports betting in the U.S. today.

On the flip side, legislation can sometimes prove to be a challenge when lawmakers prematurely establish the grounds for new markets. We’re seeing that now with sports betting, where some states are limiting the number of licenses or operators allowed within their state. In a few cases, states have kept it to a single operator. I cannot see how that’s good for competition, innovation, or the consumer. It feels comparable to driver medallions and taxi companies. I think eventually, we’ll see the equivalent to an Uber that comes along and disrupts the entire industry based on consumer behavior and demand.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Jason Robins told me to “stay on it.” The context behind that was really to stay focused and not give up. That is what I needed to hear at the time, because it’s easy to get distracted on a journey that is rarely linear. While advancing to that next significant goal, I remained focused on achievable tasks that make an impact and were within my control. Those smaller wins eventually added up to bigger victories.

Anyone that’s driven the streets of Boston, where I’ve lived since 2007, probably understands the path between two points is not always a straight line. But it helps to know where you’re going.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Things are just getting started for us. More sports, more formats, and we have a ton of other exciting things in the pipeline ahead of the next NFL season. At the end of the day though, one of our goals is for Jock MKT to be synonymous when people think “stock market for sports.”

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I loved Shoe Dog, which is about Nike’s founding story, written as a narrative by founder Phil Knight. I think traditional business books too often make things sound overly formulaic. Or if you listen to the media, you may mistake every business as an overnight success. Neither was the case with Nike. I feel like his story was more about perseverance and determination. It’s a lesson that when you’re doing something you enjoy, you are able to overcome those hurdles until you hit a significant inflection point.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My old boss used to love responding to people, “There is no try, only do,” anytime someone said they’d “try” to do something. It’s a little nerdy because it’s a Yoda quote. But it’s now seared in my brain and serves as a good reminder that things are only worth doing if you’re willing to commit 100%.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think making the stock market more relatable to the average sports fan is a good start. The New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq becomes a lot less intimidating once people realize tracking sports stats and analyzing fantasy projections is similar to analyzing stocks and IPOs. If we can help translate the concepts and generalize the format, it may lead to more educated investors.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow Jock MKT on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Or download the app on iOS and Android devices.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you cotinued success on your great work!

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