Making a bet on himself

An alumni story, featuring Jai Maw, BBA ‘14

At the age of 17, while still living in England, Jai Maw, BBA ’14, overheard teammates a year ahead of him discuss the opportunity to continue playing soccer at the college level in the United States. The idea was a revelation to him: He‘d never previously realized that playing soccer while attending college could be a viable option.

Maw had grown up in the United Kingdom and fallen in love with football, or “soccer,” as we say in the U.S., at a young age. As he neared his graduation, he had plans to attend one of the premier higher education schools in England to study law. But after further discussion with some of his teammates and researching the opportunities that American universities could provide, he discovered that he could attend a school in the U.S. with minimal expense and continue his soccer and educational journey by taking advantage of the financial relief that scholarships could provide.

And with that, Maw embarked on the journey to pursue athletics through a university in America! He and a fellow teammate asserted themselves by actively reaching out to coaches and playing in exhibition matches where recruiters and coaches would be watching.  The approach paid off: He was fortunate to receive 15 offers from colleges and universities — including one from the soccer coach at Davenport University.

“The reason I chose Davenport was because the net cost was the absolute lowest,” says Maw. “With my upbringing, cost was a very important factor.”

After accepting the offer to play with the Panthers in 2010, Maw led the team as captain from his freshman through senior year. Through those years, his team saw a coaching change, WHAC regular season and tournament championships, and an outstanding 86 career wins and multiple seasons with zero losses. Between his first and second year, Maw took two online classes and was able to return to England from time to time to be with family and friends. For each remaining summer of his college career, he played for a semiprofessional soccer team in St. Louis. And while juggling a full class load, a semiprofessional soccer career, and captaining the Davenport University team, he met his now-wife, Jessica Maw, BSN ‘14.

Through his four years at Davenport and his experiences playing with the semi-pro team in the off-season, Maw realized that playing professional soccer was no longer his goal — instead, exposing himself to available opportunities in the business world had become his focus. He interned, worked, and found mentors while maintaining his responsibilities as a student-athlete. One mentor, in particular, had a significant impact on his future — his now co-founder, Jeremy Jakary, who mentored Maw throughout his college career and hired him in his first sales position.

 “I would go to the student center after every practice, every single day, and make sales calls for [Jeremy’s] business,” remembers Maw. “It was an amazing sales experience. It opened my eyes to what was possible.”

Maw proved to be a natural salesperson. Upon graduation, with a wealth of experience, he accepted a role with Judson Group, based in Grand Rapids, as an executive search consultant. While there, he consistently exceeded goals and was a top performer by the age of 24. He sought advice from his mentor, who encouraged him to find experience in larger Fortune 500 companies. With this goal in mind, he joined Gartner in 2018. In the same month, he and Jakary started Betting Hero. They both still had successful full-time jobs.

 “For the first 12 months of Betting Hero’s existence, we were flying to New Jersey every Friday,” Maw recalls. “ Then we’d fly home at 1 a.m. on Sunday to be back in time for our early morning sales calls at the ‘day jobs.’”

By this time, Maw was married and had three children, and his business partner had four. “We were full-time employees, dads, and then business partners with this side hustle. People thought we were crazy — and I guess we were!”

Crazy they may have been, but also very successful.  Betting Hero is now the leading customer acquisition, retention, and development company in the iGaming industry, which is primarily made up of Sports Betting and iCasino verticals. The company helps companies like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM acquire new customers through in-person activation events, retain customers through its in-house research division, and develop those customers through its concierge division. One of the core values of Betting Hero is ensuring that customers continue to enjoy the experience responsibly. Betting Hero employees are mindful and trained to be aware of potentially irresponsible gamblers. When they identify such customers, they provide safe gambling resources and divert the customer away from the risk. Maw says, “We are in the business of creating a sustainable, responsible industry. In order to do that, we have to work closely with the customers.”

Through Betting Hero, Maw and Jakary have activated over 400,000 customers since 2018. Once they’d generated their first $1 million in revenue through Betting Hero, the co-founders took the leap and made the company their sole focus. And the company grew rapidly. After its first year, Betting Hero saw $2 million in growth, then $10 million in its third year, and now, it sits just shy of $20 million in revenue. Maw and Jackary started as two employees and a handful of contractors, and now, the company employs 30 full-time employees and works with more than 400 contractors nationwide. The company provides services in 15 different states and is trusted by some of the biggest casinos to represent their brands, including FanDuel, DraftKings, Barstool, and BetMGM.

In November 2021, Maw and his partner sold the business but remained involved. They were excited to see how it would grow under management by a company that could provide the resources and experience they didn’t yet have.

Now nearly two years later, they are reflecting on the success of the company. Looking to the future, Maw is excited about new personal and professional opportunities. He says he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and four daughters (ages 6, 5, 3, and 1), and spending some time visiting family back in England. Creating a new start-up, continuing his education, and moving are all options swirling through his mind, but he says he’s not sure in what order to do any of it yet.

In addition to his entrepreneurial success, Maw also stays connected with Davenport University students as an Alumni Board of Directors member and engages in classroom speaking opportunities regularly. When asked what advice he’d give a budding entrepreneur, he simply says, “Find your motivator.” Maw finds his motivation in proving people wrong. “I will look for someone who doesn’t believe in me, and I’ll use that as motivation.” He is quick to add that every individual’s motivations are different, but says that if you can figure out what motivates you to be successful in all aspects of your life, you’ll do well to harness that motivation.

Visit Davenport’s alumni page to learn more.


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