Lesley is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of FanDuel, a billion dollar fantasy sports betting company. In case you're not familiar, Lesley and her FanDuel co-founders (one of which was her husband) were left with nothing after their company's $465M acquisition. She realized that the only thing that kept her sane through this period was the strength of their relationships with each other, their team, partners, family and friends. That's when the idea for her next company, Relish, came about!
Launched in September of 2019, Relish is the first-ever truly customized relationship training app that makes it easy to build a happy, healthy, more connected relationship with your partner. The app uses machine learning to create a customized, scientifically-backed relationship improvement plan in the form of interactive lessons, quizzes and activities, with qualified, human relationship coaches on hand to support you when you need them.
Q: What's your background, and what are you working on?
I grew up in Scotland in the UK and emigrated with my husband and kids to the US four years ago and now live in New York. I co-founded and spent ten years building FanDuel, the largest sports betting company in the US, currently valued at around $20 billion. After I left FanDuel in 2017, I felt like I still had the stomach for one more startup! I wanted my next startup to be as impactful as FanDuel, but much more mission driven - it sounds very cliched but I literally wanted to the world a better place somehow. With that being said, in 2018, I launched Relish, a relationship coaching company and have been heads down ever since; growing and nurturing this next startup to be a leader in the space.
Q: What motivated you to get started with Relish?
I spent some time questioning what “success” really means, and what’s important in life. I had a dawning realization that the only thing that really matters in life is the quality of the relationships you have with the people around you. I had watched several people very close to me go through painful divorces and break-ups, and I had also personally experienced the pressure that external stress can put on a relationship (I co-founded FanDuel with my husband). At the same time, social media and technology was coming under scrutiny for the damage it was having on society, and I started exploring how technology could be used to strengthen, rather than damage relationships. That’s when I came up with the idea for Relish.
Q: How have you attracted users and grown Relish?
Relish is organically growing through word of mouth. Therapists recommend us to their clients, people recommend us to their friends. That’s the most powerful form of marketing there is.
Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
We charge an annual annual membership fee at $99.99/year for up to two users.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
My vision for Relish is that we change everyone’s script about relationships from “let’s fix something that’s broken” to “let’s figure out how we invest in us”. People will join Relish after they delete Hinge or another dating app, it’s a sign of commitment to each other, not a sign of a damaged relationship.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome?
Building FanDuel into a household brand with very little knowledge of sports, startups or marketing and no network to tap into was 100% the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. Obviously with Relish, as a second time entrepreneur, life is substantially easier, but that’s not to say it’s without its challenges. I think 2020 has been incredibly challenging for everyone in a personal way, and while the need for Relish is greater than ever now, my focus has really been on building a strong and resilient team who can not just weather the 2020 storm, but also the marathon that is building a VC-backed startup.
Q: Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Bringing on investors who are just as excited about the vision as you are, share your values, have expertise in the area and are in this for the long run, is incredibly helpful. Investors are more than just money and finding the right ones is critical to the long term success of not just your business, but also you as a founder and human being.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
I have so much advice, I could be here all day. This isn’t specific for female founders, mainly because I don’t really know what it’s like to be a male founder. The first thing is that you need to be 100% sure that you’re ready to make the commitment to building a startup. It’s not for the faint hearted. In my experience you’re either about to go bust or experiencing hypergrowth. Both are very stressful and consume your thoughts and life constantly. Learning ways to cope with that stress and uncertainty is important. Another piece of advice is to know that there is no silver bullet to success or growth (unless you started a remote video conferencing company in 2019!). Growth comes from a million little things that you get right. Also be prepared for failure - I’m often asked when I knew FanDuel would be a success, and people are always surprised that it was seven years in, after we’d raised over $80M and had our brand name emblazoned around an NBA court. That was the moment I finally allowed myself to believe that maybe, just maybe this would all work. And lastly, I’d say, pick someone who truly understands and embraces the entrepreneurial lifestyle as your life partner - asides from being able to talk through ideas and problems together, they will genuinely understand the pressures that you face as you go along your startup journey.