The Hessert Brothers: And They're Off

By Sally Anne Flecker | Fall 2014

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Walter ('07), Tom (MGTE '07) and Bill (Economics '04) Hessert

Several years ago, three of the Brothers Hessert happened to be at Notre Dame for the graduation of another brother. The three found themselves sitting on the far side of the lake, talking about business ideas and thinking how nice it would be for them all to come back to New York and work together. They had some experience with starting companies. Bill, for instance, had started a driveway sealing company in high school. Tom made and sold Charlie’s Army and Charlie’s Angels T-shirts to the tune of $100,000 in revenue when Charlie Weis was coach. The boys had some chops.

Bill had been working at the University of Chicago with Freakonomics author Steven Levitt, researching the horse-racing industry. “I knew it was the only legal way to bet online in most of the United States,” he says. “I thought it would be a great business to pursue.” Before long, they had started a parent company, the cleverly named Giddy Apps, to serve as a game studio for legal online gambling. Their first game, Derby Jackpot, launched in February 2013.

“We design games that make it really easy and fun and social to place wagers on live horse races around the country—even if you have never done it before,” says Walter. “The idea was to make it just as easy to bet on horseracing as it was to play FarmVille or Angry Birds.” In fact, their target customer is someone who plays social games and has never bet on a horse before.

“We show live video of races,” says Bill. “The money bet through our game is sent directly to the pools at the track. Derby Jackpot is like a gas station that sells lottery tickets.”

Tom is more than satisfied with their first game out of the gate. “Our goal is to build the biggest online gaming brand in the United States,” he says. “I was an entrepreneurship major. So I’m very excited every time I get to say I’m an entrepreneur.”