Juniors build entrepreneurial fantasy on fantasy sports

by Elizabeth Anderson (FCRH ’13)

For most college students, fantasy sports is a hobby that gets squeezed somewhere in between studying for midterm exams and grabbing a late-night slice of pizza. But for Joseph Rapolla (FCRH ’13) and Dominick Capolarello (GSB ’13), co-founders of the Internet start-up Who Needs Reality, it is the foundation of their business. A resource for fans who play and bet on fantasy sports, Who Needs Reality provides betting and fantasy advice by analyzing player and team performance.

The business idea developed after Joe spent a summer as an intern at Bleacher Report. He craved a stage on which to take sports writing in his own creative direction, and he saw a market in the world of fantasy sports — an area in which he already was interested and knowledgeable. He soon teamed up with Dom to launch Who Needs Reality, which is more than an average sports blog — it is a fully legal, registered business.

Fantasy sports is a significant enough pastime in the United States that major online players like Yahoo! are in the game.

Both Joe and Dom emphasize that Who Needs Reality is not a sports-news outlet, like ESPN. Rather than recapping what has already happened in the sports world, they look ahead. A typical week begins with Joe and co-editor Michael Cattermole (FCRH ’13) sitting down and looking at the upcoming week: what big games are coming up, which players have been trending topics on the Internet, and so on. The pace of sports news keeps the business on its toes: When J.R. Smith was traded to the Knicks, for example, the editors had mere hours to publish an article detailing the trade’s fantasy implications. This responsibility tends to fall to Joe, as the head writer, and it is against these tight deadlines that he excels. While he has taken on more of a managerial role in the business, Joe still has his roots as a writer. He appreciates that Who Needs Reality allows him to delve into both of his passions.

More than 20 fellow employees and interns support Joe, who manages the site’s content, and Dom, who runs the operations. By delegating assignments, Joe and Dom have kept Who Needs Reality manageable despite its continued growth. They say that unlike sites such as Facebook and Twitter, which blew up overnight into billion-dollar properties, Who Needs Reality will build its viewer base over time, through consistent content, hard work and dedication.

Who Needs Reality’s services, provided in real time and online, might one day replace the data and advice provided in print publications like this one.

Who Needs Reality is almost a full-time job for its founders, taking up 30 to 40 hours a week on top of their full Fordham course loads. Yet Joe and Dom take full advantage of the fact that they are still in college, and use that to advance the business. Through friends and family, they have created a network of students from other schools who act as site representatives, pitching Who Needs Reality on their campuses and opening up whole new markets. Joe and Dom also rely on their Fordham professors for advice and use the university’s CareerLink service to reach out to potential interns.

Who Needs Reality has grown far beyond Rose Hill’s gates. Most of the site’s 22 writing and management interns are not Fordham students; they are undergrads at Marist and St. Johns, as well as graduate students and post-graduates. While it may seem strange to think of two Fordham juniors as supervising their peers or elders, Joe and Dom take their roles as mentors very seriously. Many of their interns are aspiring sports writers, or are communications, English or journalism majors at their respective colleges. Through frequent writing assignments and constructive feedback, Joe and Michael Cattermole foster their interns’ skills, helping them to create a valuable portfolio of articles.

Looking ahead, Joe and Dom hope Who Needs Reality will continue to thrive. The business only launched in November 2011, and it already sees an average of 3,000 page views per month — quite an accomplishment, considering that it usually takes 18 months for a site like this to truly take off. Joe and Dom are marketing themselves right now by social media and word of mouth, and they hope the future will bring more formalized promotion and the growth that can bring. Given how far the sports fantasy market extends beyond college campuses, Who Needs Reality’s services could be in high demand.

Joe and Dom have become entrepreneurs at an age that may surprise some people, but Dom insists that the only thing that sets him and Joe — as well as Who Needs Reality’s key staff leaders, Michael Cattermole, Anthony Bridda (GSB ’13) and Paul Caruselle (GSB ’13) — apart from their peers is that they simply took the next step. “Most kids have a lot of big ideas, and I’m sure [those ideas] would work if they implemented them,” he said. “Joe and I really said, ‘OK, we are going to take it to the next level.’” Clearly, their dedication to their idea has paid off.

 

If you are interested in working for Who Needs Reality or would like to find out more about the business, please contact Dominick Capolarello at dom@whoneedsreality.com

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