Every so often, we chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today’s guest, investment banker Chris Adams ‘15, economics, is putting his interests in business and sports to work with his new venture, SharpRank. We caught up with Adams, who recently appeared on an “Inside Scoop Panel” offered by the UMBC Career Center, to learn more about the world of cross-sport performance ranking.
NAME: Chris Adams
GRAD YEAR: 2015
Q: Tell us a little about SharpRank. How did you get interested in this type of work?
A: There is always opportunity that comes out of difficult times. My business partners and I saw such opportunity in the emerging, ever-evolving landscape of sports betting. While listening to sports radio and podcasts, we would hear experts (or “Sharps”) claim to have incredible records at picking games successfully. We started thinking the general public is largely held in the dark with respect to this industry (sports betting); experts are self-proclaimed. Attributes of efficient markets are transparency and “full information,” and this particular industry was seemingly lacking both. While the sports world was completely shut down for six months we went to work creating an algorithm that incorporates metrics like accuracy, consistency, longevity, etc., to produce a “Madden” type ratings system to rate these “Sharps” that is both easy to understand and effective at performance ranking, The scores are normalized so the public can compare “Sharps” who focus on different sports on a level playing field; much like Morningstar does for funds and other securities. SharpRank was created to provide transparency for the general public in a traditional murky market. The sports gambling industry is booming and our team operates under the premise that “when there is a gold rush, don’t go digging, sell shovels.” Because of this we are now a part of the ecosystem and constantly growing/evolving.
Q: Were there any classes or professors at UMBC who really helped you or inspired you along the way?
A: I came to UMBC somewhat non-traditionally. I had helped start a business after high school and so upon entering UMBC, I knew exactly what I wanted to learn and study and where to focus my attention: statistics, game theory, economic theory, etc. Having said that, I was fortunate enough to expand my horizons and take the “What is an American” class with Professor [Kimberly] Moffitt, who challenged my views and stances. She has proven to be an incredible friend and sounding board to this day – despite still not agreeing on Disney’s values. Additionally, my independent project with Professor [R. Scott] Farrow on two-sided markets helped build the framework for the platform we use at SharpRank. Dr. [Freeman] Harbowski has been and continues to be one of the most influential leaders I have had the privilege of interacting with. He took the time to meet with me in person multiple times during my time at UMBC and remains a strong support and influencer.
Q: What’s the toughest lesson you’ve learned along the way as a new entrepreneur?
A: Time management and delegation. Over the past two years I have gotten engaged and married. Last year, my wife and I bought our first home and this January we are expecting our first child! Academically I completed my MBA at UVA Darden School of Business and professionally, I work with an incredible team in investment banking full time, at Evergreen Advisors Capital. In the off hours (between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.) we founded SharpRank. Needless to say, time management is a skill that I have sharpened over the past few years so that I am able to participate in all the activities that I am passionate about. Additionally, I cannot be good at everything, and that is okay. Delegation is difficult but necessary when time is the constraint. At SharpRank we have built a team that allows each of us to focus on our strengths and delegate our weaknesses. The team is incredibly diverse in background and skill set – ranging from Top Gun instructor to financial planner and everything in between. Our advisory board consists of 7 team members with experience in legal, start-ups, funding, etc. We lean on them for guidance in areas our team is not as familiar. What we have found is, time management and delegation are functions of effective communication, efficiency, and trust.
Q: What advice would you give a current UMBC student interested in starting their own business?
A: Just do it! Find a passion and chase it down. Belief in the mission and passion are critical. Seventy percent of businesses fail within the first year, but the devil is in the details with statistics and in this case, be the minority. Be the example for the next generation of entrepreneurs to turn to and when that time comes openly accept that invitation to help. Harbor an environment of supporters/team members who have aligned values and will ask the tough questions. If it does not work, the photo negative is as important as the end photo; SharpRank is not the first idea my partners and I have attempted. View challenges as opportunities and do not let perfection get in the way of progress. Action, action, action. If you are interested in learning more or are interested in joining the team please reach out, firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always looking for talent.
Header photo courtesy of Adams.