I’ve enjoyed reading the profiles of 7CTOs members and their companies, and appreciate now getting the chance to write about mine. My name is Evaldas Alexander, but everyone calls me Das. You should too.
I’m actually the CTO of two companies — RankPay and Playerline. Both are part of a larger holding company called Simplexity Ventures, which is owned by Shawn Bishop and James Stothard. Shawn is the founder of both RankPay and Playerline, and I owe him a lot. He hired me as a developer early on, writing code. He gave me a slew of opportunities and when I proved myself rewarded me with additional responsibilities and titles until I reached CTO.
Out of the two companies, RankPay is the significantly larger business, with Playerline the passion project, so we’ll get to that a little later.
RankPay was launched in 2007 as the first pay-for-performance SEO service. It’s what we continue to do, and even as we’ve broadened the brand’s offering, it remains our main business.
We have more than 1,000 customers, and an optimized process that handles all of it, so there is only the need for limited staff — I’m the main developer, we have a few customer support people, and there are a couple other developers and fluctuating freelancers as well.
We get paid not on the number of page views, but the ranking on Google and Yahoo (which uses Microsoft’s Bing search). There is a pricing matrix for customers, where we are rewarded by pushing their result to the third page, or second, or first. We find where the client is ranked monthly and bill them accordingly, for monthly recurring revenue.
For this to work for both clients and RankPay, we collaborate very closely with clients to make sure we understand exactly who they are going after — what the best keywords in their category, that sort of thing.
It works best if it knows exactly who you are going after — what the keywords are, etc.
The other company, which is smaller but sexier because it’s a B2C play involving fantasy sports, is called Playerline, and it’s a passion project developed by Shawn the founder. Shawn is a serial entrepreneur, and he definitely likes to do more than one thing. As RankPay was gaining traction, he decided doing more than one thing meant involving something he was really passionate about, which was fantasy sports.
Actually, Playerline has had a couple life cycles and was originally the very first Daily Fantasy Sports site back in 2003 (think FanDuel and DraftKings). Shawn actually hit ‘pause’ on Playerline to build out RankPay. But that could be a completely different post for sure.
Today, Playerline is an aggregate news source for the four most popular fantasy sports: Football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey. We help users build community around the information we push at them through commenting capabilities and, more recently, setting their own lines on games through crowdsourcing picks and predictions.
Basically, when iPhone App Store came out in 2009, Shawn saw an opportunity to create a single destination for people to go for information that would help their fantasy football experience. It really was a passion project that blossomed into something larger.
We’re not really much into monetizing it yet, though there is some advertising. Mostly we’re building the communities, working on a few new applications. We are currently working on releasing Playerline Pro which will include a pay subscription and have no advertising, push notifications for followed players, and additional content.
Originally, I’m from Lithuania. I got admitted to a law school in one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe, but realized that my passion laid in programming and IT in general. That led to a dramatic change in my life which was switching to studying management information systems and supporting myself by selling and running bespoke web projects. Along the way, I self-taught myself programming, which made me better at managing IT projects.
Second dramatic change was leaving Europe and moving to southern california in 2006, driven mainly by the desire to live in America’s finest city. I met Shawn shortly after I arrived when I heard he was looking for a developer. My background in project management was a plus, because as a developer I was aware of what needed to be done — I could think about how to interact, focus much more on testing, user feedback, making sure it’s working as it should. Even though I didn’t start as a developer at the beginning of my career, I’m glad I have that background for my experience, and would recommend a diversity of education and experience for anybody.
Currently, I live in Lakeside, with my wife and two young daughters. My in-laws live down the street, which is a great help. Family is very important.
I will say — managing two companies is not easy. One thing that makes it kind of unusual and sometimes challenging is that we have a distributed team. Our headquarters is in San Diego, but not many of our employees are in the office. Our back-end developers are in Seattle, we’ve got our Android guy in Thailand, and so on. It can be a bit of a challenge to keep everyone feeling they are part of the team. We use Skype, Slack and Pingboard to keep everybody in the loop.
Despite the timezone weirdness and human logistical complexities, in general I feel our system works well. It’s good to have people working when we’re not around, and vice versa. The one thing we do require, however, is that everybody have great English skills. We’ve learned that problems with communicating ideas coherently amongst ourselves will end badly.
Since we are running two companies, our Agile Sprints start on different days of the week, so you’re not requiring both at the same time from our talent. If you’re a CTO trying to run two separate companies, I couldn’t recommend that more highly, LOL.
For the most part we keep our team separate, Me, Shawn and our marketing guy Rob are the only ones involved in both companies.
So that’s what I’m up to. I welcome your outreach if you have any questions, or if you’d just like to say hello. I’m a big supporter of what 7CTOs is doing to broaden our human experience as well as our technology know-how.