Shares of DraftKings soared as the sports-betting company became a publicly-traded stock Friday.
Its debut, under the ticker $DKNG on the Nasdaq, comes at an odd time for the company. With sports events all on hold, the platform's users are being encouraged to bet on other odds, like episodes of Survivor.
"It's definitely not what we expected in the backdrop of us going public," DraftKings co-founder and CEO Jason Robins told Cheddar ahead of the opening bell Friday.
Instead of taking the traditional IPO route, DraftKings went public through a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The blank check company Diamond Eagle, which had already been trading on the Nasdaq, closed the DraftKings acquisition Friday.
Robins said that when discussions of going public had begun last year before COVID-19 ever entered the public lexicon, the probability of a market downturn weighed into the decision to take DraftKings public through the SPAC.
"One of the reasons we chose this SPAC route was because of that," Robins said. "Mechanically, it's really been more like closing an M&A transaction."
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread, DraftKings had to adapt its operations significantly with the sports world grinding to a halt.
"That's definitely been a curveball for us," Robins said. "Pretty quickly, we pivoted to everything from really pushing e-sports… to pushing our online casino products."
DraftKings has also seen a jump in engagement with free-to-play games about cultural events, like the last Democratic debate or entertainment trends like Netflix's Tiger King.
But that doesn't mean sports fans haven't found a way to scratch their proverbial itch for sports via the platform. As the coronavirus outbreak weakens overseas, international sports that don't require physical contact are gaining traction.
"There's some alternative sports, like table tennis, that have really been taking off," Robins said. "Believe it or not, that's one of our most popular betting sports right now."
Robins says that a lot of the company's engineers are at home working on long-term projects that users won't get their hands on any time soon.
"What I hope is that investors are thinking about what DraftKings is going to build over the next several years, not the next several months," Robins said.