This week we’ve managed to catch up with the two guys that come from different backgrounds, but manage to build SiGMA. We want to thank them for this interview. It is our honour to interview such professionals that gave 115% to make SiGMA happen. So, dear friends and readers, meet Eman Pulis and Dennis Dyhr-Hansen.
EEG: How did you meet each other and what was the idea that lead to SiGMA? And what is SiGMA really all about for you personally?
Our backgrounds are different but complementing at the same time. For the sake of SiGMA, they match perfectly! Whilst Eman has extensive experience in B2B as well as events management, Dennis is versatile with most reputable operators and affiliates.
For the past number of years we have been noticing the three distinct pillars within the industry – B2B, Operators and Affiliates – coming closer together. Today’s affiliate, for instance, is fast becoming a successful operator within months. With SiGMA we wanted to offer a 360° igaming showcase in Malta that reflects this trend.
EEG: As we know, SiGMA was a huge success in 2014 and it came as a surprise to the online gambling world. How does that feel? Has it taken you guys a huge effort to build it?
Quite frankly, feels great! It took a lot of hard work, but we believed in the concept, that it makes perfect sense to host an igaming show in Malta. The biggest challenge was to persuade exhibitors to trust our idea and take part on our first year. A lot of exhibitors did, in fact, trust our project. Others, for any reason, could not make it last year, but after seeing what we delivered, have already made commitments for this year. So we are looking at a SiGMA’15 which is roughly twice the size of last year’s.
EEG: I know that you haven’t made anything public yet about SiGMA 2015(venues, parties, etc.) but judging by last year’s lineup, it will probably be a huge attraction. Could you share 5% of this well-kept secret? Maybe a venue or a speaker?
We will soon let the proverbial cat out of the bag! We have a press conference and networking drinks planned for mid-April where the industry can meet up and find our more details about SiGMA15.
EEG: We also noticed a huge interest shown by the top-level operators, has that been a success for them? Is there a high number of feedback?
Indeed. We go that extra mile to ensure that the crème de la crème of the affiliate world attends SiGMA. We approach top affiliates and invite them over to Malta, expenses on us. We also have a number of competitions for new affiliates, were we will be giving out a number of flight tickets and VIP treats. SiGMA is organized by a different team of motivated individuals, which means that we have different leads, we know different affiliates. This, in itself, is a guarantee that operators won’t be meeting the same faces over and over again.
EEG: Referring to the affiliate side of the event. How can this crowd of professionals benefit of the knowledge that was and will be shared at SiGMA?
We invest a lot in getting the best SEO experts and most successful affiliates, including the likes of Ory Weihs of XLMedia, who is arguably the biggest, most successful affiliate to date, with his company public listed on the Stockholm Exchange.
Some speakers do not shy away from debating controversial topics, such as black hat SEO and sharing their insights about the latest trends. We had an outstanding lineup of speakers last year, which helped raise the profile of SiGMA. So we will double our efforts this year to being some new personalities.
EEG: In you words, Malta is host to some 300 gaming companies and strong workforce of 9,000, do you think that any Eastern European country has the potential to grow and become maybe a contender? We ask this question because we have seen a huge increase of interest shown in opening operations in Eastern European countries due lower salaries and highly skilled professionals.
The market is certainly becoming more competitive because regulators are fast catching up. Furthermore, lower salaries play a crucial role, especially for big companies, which gives Eastern European countries a competitive advantage. Ultimately, a company must carry out a meticulous SWOT analysis before relocating. Factors such as political stability, regulatory framework, taxation, talent pool, and quality of life come into play. In the case of Malta, both major political parties seem to have agreed to pull the gaming line in the same direction, giving big companies such as Betsson, the peace of mind they request. Malta also offers a tax regime of 5% based on a rebate scheme, which is very attractive for high earning companies. The EU state also offers a strong talent base, thanks also to the newly set up Malta Gaming Academy, which is set to produce more graduates in this field.
In summary, each company must look at the gaming industry from a holistic point of view in order to determine which state it will call ‘home’.
EEG: What do you about EEG? Could you give us your thoughts on our mission, the one to build a bridge between Western and Eastern European Gaming world?
We think this not only a wonderful idea, but one that is needed and should enjoy the backing of many. As salaries continue to rise all across East Europe, the demand for quality gaming will increase, making East Europe a more attractive market to tap into. You focus on getting news, legal updates by region as well as affiliate programs for both East and West Europe. This is really beneficial to affiliates who want to tap a specific market.
EEG: Ok, here comes the fun part. What is your favorite food and if you would have to pick a country in Eastern Europe to travel to, where would you go?
Has to be Danish food for Dennis; fried, uncured bacon with parsley sauce, and Maltese food for Eman; rabbit stew. We do love the occasional borsch too! I (Eman) am currently spending some time in Riga, Latvia, which means I get to travel to neighboring cities and enjoy the charms of East Europe. Let me tell you one thing; East Europe has a lot – a real lot – to offer! I enjoyed the cold winter season, which was pretty mild this year – no rain, no winds, no below 20 temperatures, no heavy snowfalls, which meant you could walk outside hassle free. Then, the architecture, the clean city center and Old Town, the good quality restaurants and impeccable service, the theatre, opera and live music concerts, the hockey matches… all within walking distance! The list is endless! I even got to try bobsleigh in Sigulda and shoot various types of Kalashnikovs at a shooting range in Riga!
Riga is a charming place to live in and also network with big companies such as Evolution Gaming, EcoPayz, xCFD, OlyBet from Olympic Casino – which is soon opening a land based in Malta) and others.
And as a closing question, which is not really a question, more like an opportunity to spread the word, fire away … advertise your event.
Thank you for the opportunity. Following SiGMA14, we identified six main reasons why anyone in the gaming industry should consider SiGMA.
- INDUSTRY TREND: The three distinct pillars within the industry – B2B, Operators and Affiliates – are coming closer together. Today’s affiliate, for instance, is fast becoming a successful operator within months. SiGMA is the only 360° igaming showcase in Malta that reflects this trend.
- TRUST: Virtually all our exhibitors from 2014 will exhibit again in 2015. SiGMA also won the trust of many exhibitors who did not take part in 2014.
- LOCATION: Different format. Different organisers. Different crowd. Different affiliates. Different deals. We can guarantee both quality and quantity with 1 Expo – 4 Conferences – 40+ Affiliate Programs – 60+ speakers – 100+ Exhibitors – 3,000+ participants.
- KNOWLEDGE: Following feedback, SiGMA15 will feature four conferences: Conference 1 – Regulatory Briefing; Conference 2 – Payments & Financial Technology; Conference 3 – Affiliates & SEO Trends; Conference 4 – Gamification
- VALUE: A free admission policy for affiliates and a low entry fee for all other participants is indicative of a solid turnout. Not bad for a show that enjoys worldwide coverage thanks to an exhaustive list of media partners.
- NETWORKING: Great Weather in November calls for free, open air networking events close to the venue itself. SiGMA15 will include networking pre-registration drinks, networking poker tournament, conference open bar drinks, closing party.
Here are some of last years photos from the exhibition.
Why BLUE MIND brings calm and distruptive thinking to the gambling industry?
In the ever evolving and fast-growing gambling industry, not only C-level but all employees are overexposed to visual and mind stress, facing challenging projects in a short time, suffering the overstimulation caused by desktop screens and multiple screens. So, how to mitigate the frantic days while working in the gambling industry? BtoBet chose to have its head office in Malta not only for the favorable gambling legislation, but also for the therapeutic power of water which, when in close proximity, has been proven to transmit calm and connectivity between people, to increase innovation and insight. Living and working in Malta, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, is undoubtedly a big plus.
Since ancient times, humans have ascribed healing and transformational properties to water. In early Rome, baths were an important part of cultural life, a place where citizens went to find relaxation and to connect with others in a calming setting. Rivers have long been seen as sacred places, and in a number of different spiritual contexts, water has symbolized rebirth, spiritual cleansing and salvation.
Today, we still turn to water for a sense of calm and clarity. Our affinity to water is even reflected in the near-universal attraction to the colour blue. The marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols believes that we all have a “blue mind”; water can heal the mind and the body, and helps to tap into a calmer and creative state of being.
In this regard, Sabrina Solda’ CMO of BtoBet expressed her vision about “blue mind”.
To discover more, read the entire blog here:
“Finding the blue mind is important to improve the quality of our lives. It brings 3 main benefits to human beings: first of all, contact with water allows us to give our brains a rest from our everyday stressing life, constantly bombarded with sensory stimuli, whether from our devices, home, office and expos. This is especially true in our hectic sportsbook and gambling industry. How many of you are feeling the same? Monitoring player’s actions, betting odds, accepting risks, fixing player’s requests, watching new gaming content, being in conferences surrounded by the sound of slots and visual overstimulation, not to mention the virtual reality games.”
She personally admitted: “When my brain definitely needs downtime, being surrounded by water gives my brain and my senses a rest from overstimulation. The sound of water is far simpler than the sound of voices or the sound of music or the sound of a city. And the visual input is simplified, too.”
Sabrina added: “Secondly, when you have that simplified, quieter ‘blue’ space, your brain is better at a different set of processes, in fact water can induce a meditative state. Though we may not be conscious of it, water could be inducing a mildly meditative state of calm focus and gentle awareness. In fact, being in a mindful state — in which the brain is relaxed but focused —the mind and body benefits include lower stress levels, relief from mild anxiety, pain and depression, improved mental clarity and focus, and better sleep quality. The third benefit of the proximity to water is that it can inspire us to be more compassionate and connected with the rest of the world around us and more creative. In the restful, contemplative state associated with observing or interacting with water, it’s common to experience feelings of awe which creates a strong connection to something beyond ourselves, to the vastness of nature. This feeling of awe can increase our capacity for connection and empathy.”
Sabrina also underlined:
“If you are not as lucky as I am, that I chose and managed to live and work by the sea, do not despair! Also hopping in the shower can be a great way to trigger ideas when our brains are in a creative rut. In our always-busy, screen-saturated lives, we don’t give our minds much of a chance to rest and wander freely. We need to activate a default network to let the best insights and ideas come up instead of leaving them stuck while sitting at our computers, desperately searching for the solution. Unquestionably, since I have been living in Malta, my BLUE MIND DEVELOPED, quickly and constantly.”
Commenting on her decision to live in Malta, she concluded:
“Walking by the sea to go to BtoBet headquarters every morning, and contemplating the blue colour of the magnificent Mediterranean Sea, brings me the “Eureka” moment — the insight or solution “feels like it drops out of the sea and into my head.”
BtoBet is a pioneer in new technologies for iGaming operators and the betting industry by using technological intelligence as its main base for its products. It offers unique, customisable, secure and flexible cloud based systems delivering unprecedented capabilities to drive sportsbook and iGaming business. BtoBet has offices in Macedonia, Italy and Malta. The Technical team of the company is in Skopie and has an ever-growing team of developers. BtoBet’s dynamic Sportsbook team operates from Rome, whilst Malta hosts the commercial and marketing centre.
Ebbe Groes: Interview for EEGaming
EEGaming: First, let me thank you for doing this interview. It means a lot to have such a highly ranked professional’s interview among our list of persons we have interviewed during our period of existence. I know the year is not over yet, however looking back at 2016, what were the key developments for you and EveryMatrix?
Ebbe Groes: You’re most welcome, I am happy to respond to your questions and to be able to reflect upon our company’s evolution.
From a commercial point of view, from the start of the year our number of clients grew by more than 30 new and established operators, which is a sign that we can serve large operators on the market with the same success.
We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to re-write all our main products; the sports, casino and payments solutions are almost ready to showcase and some of the new modules are already live. Rewriting a large complex application is very time-consuming and can be a bit frustrating at times since you have to maintain the old application as well. 2016 was a year like that, but we’re now close to completion, gearing up sales and seeing the results starting to appear commercially as well. I’m a firm believer in continuous re-investment into software and pretty proud of where we’re going at the moment.
Some early results? Well, our sportsbook solution is now able to deliver more than 25,000 live events per month. Our casino product has kept its top position in the industry as the best casino platform with 4,000 games and constantly new features added.
2016 also brought the biggest brand yet signed by EveryMatrix, one I hope to announce before ICE. But stay tuned! We’ve expanded our sales team, both with product specialists within casino and sports, and with a new Commercial Director. We made great efforts to bring account managers closer to sales team members and make sure things move faster for our clients.
EEGaming: Are the current laws and regulations which have been implemented and somehow forced on software providers helping business or are they slowing it down?
Ebbe Groes: First thing to notice is that legislations differ quite a lot, both in terms of financial and technical requirements. There’s an obvious and legitimate desire to create tax revenues from our sector which we should respect – along with desires to improve players’ protection. So overall we welcome this development. It will overall help grow the market and ensure a level playing field.
I am also happy and appreciative for some of the technical requirements imposed upon us from various regulators as they can serve to reduce fraud, chargebacks and other maladies of our industry.
This doesn’t mean that things can’t be improved and my largest concerns would be the failure to properly protect license holders against competition from non-licensed providers and the occasional countries putting up massive back taxes or entry fees, essentially pushing some companies towards remaining in the grey zone.
EEGaming: A company of the size of EveryMatrix can’t stand still for too long, it must bring new technology and innovations. What are the little secrets that help EveryMatrix in innovating yet again?
Ebbe Groes: It’s not only that we can’t stand still for too long, but we cannot afford to do that.
In the online gaming industry change is constant and every major player is aware that technology and innovation are necessary elements for any company that wants to advance.
Our approach to technological innovation has been influenced by our clients’ demands and requirements, so using the latest technology in bringing the best products into the market comes as a natural element in delivering better services for players.
So, that would be our little secret: Listen to your clients and recognize the great suggestions that will help proper further growth. This way, the right kind of demanding client can help you for years to come and one should actively seek such clients, even at the expense of others that might bring higher revenues in the short term.
While big parts of our product development are fueled by visionary product developers in EveryMatrix, I can point to a couple of areas from our last couple of years that would not have been nearly as good without demanding and knowledgeable clients.
One is the huge role of API driven development. We’re today probably the most advanced provider in the world when it comes to what you can build yourself around an EveryMatrix solution. We can split up the products and modules allowing clients to add, in-house or from others, exactly what they need, typically around user experience with front end and CRM as the key areas.
The other is our Asian-focused agent management system, which keeps being improved at a quite impressive speed on the back of client requests.
EEGaming: Are there any standards that you follow in order to access new markets?
Ebbe Groes: In general, we’re blessed with being quite flexible in our approach, being privately held, able to invest when we wish without having to keep to certain profit targets, and owned by management.
When it comes to new markets, be it in terms of products or geographies, we seek to only enter when we believe that we can make a difference and be a key player. This is one reason we’re not targeting Africa and the Americas in 2016 and probably 2017 as well. Doing Europe and Asia is quite sufficient. Each area comes with its own demands and we can’t be the best everywhere, yet.
EEGaming: What about expansion? There is definitely a plan for that, but tell us, what are the important steps and what are the things that need to be avoided?
Ebbe Groes: We’ve by and large grown organically. Fast but without (large) mergers and acquisitions. This gives a quite harmonious organization, a staff that I’m proud of working with and whom I truly feel buy into our company’s vision and goals.
Still, as we’ve grown it’s become harder to maintain the entrepreneurial spirit of the past. Key people don’t scale, including myself and my co-founder Stian Hornsletten, and that forces more thinking into organization. Of course, hiring smartly into middle management is one way but we believe it is not enough.
In 2016 we took the quite radical decision to aim for splitting up our company in virtual sub-companies, each with their own management team. So, a CEO, CTO, COO, head of sales, account manager, support for our sports product, OddsMatrix. This management team can focus fully on their product, technically, operationally, commercially, aiming to make it – stand alone – the best it can be, taking control and competing against the best in the business. We did the same for Casino, for Payments and the other solutions.
It’s still early, but overall I feel it was a move that is paying off handsomely – and will do so even more as we progress and gain experience with this. I think the only other alternative would have been to give up some of the business areas and focus purely on one or two products, as for instance Evolution and Kambi are doing.
I believe this split into verticals is what will allow us to yet again double and re-double our size, both in terms of revenues and even to handle well the continuous growth of staff.
EEGaming: Do you have any products that will soon be released?
Ebbe Groes: We have more than one, I’m happy to say. But if I should mention our biggest investment, biggest gamble even, it’s our new payments company MoneyMatrix.
MoneyMatrix is a brand-new payment processing platform that encompasses new technologies and security protocols to keep customer financial details safe. The new payment solution is PCI DSS Level 1 Compliant, including full control of transactions, better risk management and detailed reporting. It’s built upon a combination of our own experience and that of the highly competent people we brought on board for this. MoneyMatrix will hold a payment service provider licence from the Malta Financial Service Authority which allows us to contract for payments alone large clients within and outside the gaming industry, fully detached technically and commercially from our platform, sports, and casino business. It’s a strong team, a remarkable product and I personally can’t wait for the ICE 2017 unveiling!
EEGaming: How’s the feedback regarding the current products?
Ebbe Groes: Feedback for a software company can be measured in signed deals and volumes going through the platform. With that measuring stick, we are happy. I like our industry for many reasons. One of them is that there’s a quite good correlation between quality and success. Hype doesn’t last for too long, the actors are too smart, too well-informed for that.
But hey, industry appreciation is nice too. So, we’re glad to notice a series of positive signals from the industry, such as securing White Label Partner of the Year at the EGR B2B Awards 2016 in London and “Best Sports betting software provider based on Open Business Relationship” and “Best casino software provider based on Open Business Relationship” awards at CEEGC 2016 in Budapest.
EEGaming: If you could choose one celebrity to promote any of your products, who would you choose and why?
Ebbe Groes: Denise Coates, the Bet365 founder and chief exec, whom I respect immensely for the product, company, and results. EveryMatrix is a B2B company and I can’t think of anyone whose endorsement would carry more weight with decision makers in our industry. So, go home Messi and Murray, and give me Denis Coates for my celeb promoter!
Interview with Shona ODonnell
Since we keep getting newer audiences that don’t exactly know what the Berlin Affiliate Conference is about, we would like to ask you, who is this conference addressed to?
Shona ODonnell: Berlin Affiliate Conference (BAC2016) is the biggest autumn event for affiliates and introducing brokers in the online gambling and retail finance sectors. It is a great opportunity to meet with the industry, find out what is happening, learn new skills, develop new business relationships, expanded existing relationships and of course have a fun doing this as you meet with affiliates, operators and suppliers in this exciting and dynamic industry.
If you are an affiliate or an operator in this market you simply cannot afford to miss this event.
In 2015 you’ve moved from Barcelona to Berlin. What has changed in this period of time and what was the outcome of this move?
Shona ODonnell: Our move to Berlin was hugely positive and well received by the industry as a whole. The move was based on industry feedback that people wanted to go to a new city, you spoke and we listened. BAC 2015 was the biggest event we have ever hosted in the autumn and we expect it to be eclipsed this year as we see figures on registrations up 10% YoY.
What will 2016 edition offer us?
Shona ODonnell: An even bigger version of 2015! We have now outgrown the hall so we’ve had to be very creative with the space we have. We are just in the final stages of confirming our party venues and we ‘ll be announcing some exciting sponsors in the next week or two so keep your eyes on the BAC website.
We also have a number of new speakers that we haven’t seen at events before as we really want to offer our delegates something valuable to take home and apply to the businesses they work in.
Suppose I’m just a simple affiliate that wants to join this conference. How do I get in and what can I find inside?
Shona ODonnell: It’s really easy and it’s free for affiliates and introducing brokers, just register at http://www.igbaffiliate.com/events/berlinaffiliateconference/registration and we will confirm your affiliate status and send you your eticket via email. We make a promise that our iGB Affiliate events are free for affiliates and they only way we can do this is by checking each and every registration, so please understand if we ask you for a some more information to let you attend the event for free.
Once inside you’ll find all of the leading operators in the space, two conference rooms, two free bars (15.00-18.00), lots of activities happening on the different stands and lots of great give aways. If it’s your first time attending, do let us know and we’ll do the best to help you meet the right people as we know it can be overwhelming. It’s also really helpful to use the event app to booking the conference sessions you want to see and to book in those all-important meetings.
What can you tell us about the sponsors of this conference?
Shona ODonnell: We are delighted to welcome back our premium sponsors William Hill, 888.com, EGO.com and iAffiliates. In addition to this we have Buffalo Partners providing the free lunch for our delegates and we are very happy to welcome Media Skunk as our thought leader. Registration is sponsored by TipBet, NetHive are sponsoring the bar and WPN are back as welcome drinks sponsors to get things kicked off. We are extremely grateful to all of our amazing sponsors and exhibitors, of whom there are too many to mention here, we simply couldn’t do it without them.
What is the main subject that will dominate this year’s conference and why do you think it’s important?
Shona ODonnell: The conference has two central themes. We open on day one with a look at the German market and what has happened there in the last 12 months since we last visited. Then we have a focus on SEO as we know this is one of the most popular topics. I am very excited that we have Bastian Grimm speaking, he is an incredible SEO. In each session we will focus on one area of learning so that it provides practical solutions that will have a real impact. On day two we have a really interesting selection of presentations and panels all focused on innovation. I think it will provide real food for thought. In particular we have a dragons den session where new innovations will be showcases and questioned by both the moderator and the audience.
Any thoughts about the next year’s conference? Or better yet, where do you hope to get until next year’s conference?
Shona ODonnell: For next year’s event we are working on the space as the hall we are currently using is too small! So we are looking at where BAC can fit in 2017. But before that we have LAC which is our biggest event by far and this year promises to be very, very exciting indeed. LAC will be taking place in February and we expect it to grow significantly and provide even more business opportunities than ever before.
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