There's an app for that: Miami alumnus changing the way we give

By Shavon Anderson, university news and communications

DraftMates CEO Matt Golis (Miami '95) (Photo by Matt Golis via LinkedIn)

There’s nothing like a deep-seated sports rivalry to generate excitement.

(Just ask a Browns or Bengals fan.)

These longstanding traditions of team loyalty and trash-talking are exactly what CEO Matt Golis (Miami ’95) hopes will drive the push in turning sports competition on its head. In less than a year, Golis’ DraftMates fantasy sports app has gained momentum from fans vying to win and ultimately funnel funding to their favorite nonprofits.

“DraftMates as a platform has evolved to become more like GoFundMe with a gaming element to drive engagement,” said Golis.

Here’s how it works.

Players pay an entry fee for the week. At the end of the contest, 85 percent of the money goes straight to the winner’s chosen nonprofit. The other 15 percent is used by DraftMates for platform fees and payment processing costs. No players earn direct cash, and the company only works with registered 501(c)(3) organizations.

Golis got the idea in late 2017, while based in California.

“Instead of playing for cash (and losing 80 percent of the time as is common with Daily Fantasy Sports), the user could play for bragging rights or to support a nonprofit,” he said.

Over the span of a few months, Golis engaged with a San Francisco-based app design firm to begin wireframing the app’s layout and develop product design. Then, he brought his alma mater on board.

Connect. Compete. Give. Impact.

That’s the tagline for DraftMates, and it was developed in Oxford by students in a capstone course at the Miami University Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies (AIMS). AIMS is a cross-disciplinary institute providing students an immersive experience in areas like computational art, rapid prototyping and gaming.

Golis and AIMS have a long history. He supports scholarships and sponsorship for programs, and he worked directly with the San Francisco Digital Innovation (SFDI) program, hosting students and hiring them as interns.

During DraftMates’ progress, AIMS had a hand in everything from social media strategy to helping design a marketing landing page and providing feedback on the gameplay while the app was still in development. 

Riley Hays '20, Tyler Roop '21, Matt Samuelson '18 (coach), Haitham Algbory '19 (coach), Alex Thompson '20, Jacey Miller '20 (Photo by Matt Samuelson)

Chicago native Matt Samuelson (Miami ’18) is one of DraftMates’ first employees, accepting an offer as a social media marketer after participating in its development as a student.

“I actually connected with Matt in San Francisco as a part of the SFDI program,” Samuelson said. “We met on three different occasions, including the final presentation we gave to alumni guests.”

AIMS houses the varsity esports program, which Samuelson co-founded and served in multiple roles, including as a student director and coach, and analyst/sub for the League of Legends team that recently took second place in a national championship.

The recent graduate credits opportunities through AIMS as major factors in making him more industry marketable.

“That's honestly what landed me this job,” he said. “Not only that, but I felt like I was well-equipped for the professional world after [SFDI], and if I wanted to end up in San Francisco, I believe I could've ended up with a job offer out there.”

“I could not have scripted this better”

Glenn Platt: C. Michael Armstrong chair, professor of marketing, director of the Interactive Media Studies Program and AIMS (Photo by Shavon Anderson)

Just to recap: Golis graduated from Miami, signed on as an AIMS adviser, helped finance AIMS programs, launched a successful career on the west coast while bringing in Miami students as interns, created his own platform, came back to Miami for development and then hired students after it launched.

“This is exactly the kind of alumni engagement that works,” said Glenn Platt, the C. Michael Armstrong Chair in Interactive Media and director of AIMS. “That’s what the future of higher education is all about.”

Platt says many program graduates are earning multimillion-dollar funding for startups, serving as CEOs and submerged in the complicated digital sphere that is the future. He says few of them have done what Golis has, connecting with the capstone course.

“To actually work on something that has to go live, real, that changes the game,” Platt said about the opportunity his students had with Golis.

Platt isn’t necessarily surprised where AIMS graduates have ended up. Looking back at the program’s alumni, you’ll likely see their names in high places.

“We have students who graduated just a few years ago, who’ve been nominated for Emmy awards,” he said, “[Students] who have won the golden Lion, sort of the Academy Awards of marketing.”

Platt is however, “pleasantly proud” talking about the kids he’s seen grow at Miami and flourish postgraduation.

Coming home, giving back

In August, Golis and his family relocated back to Ohio after spending nearly two decades on the west coast. He’ll manage DraftMates operations from downtown Columbus. 

Not by accident, the first group seeing money from DraftMates’ launch is AIMS. The initial contest on the platform runs through the month of September, and once its complete, Platt says DraftMates is set to write a check to Miami University for a scholarship fund.

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Kicked off what’s sure to be a great semester in The City this week! 🌁 #miamioh #miamiohsfdi #sanfrancisco

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DraftMates is already available for the NFL season. Throughout 2019, Golis plans to release NBA, Esports, PGA golf, MLB, NHL and more. The app is available on the App Store and Google Play.

To join the AIMS contest, click on this link on your mobile phone.