We met Jaume López and Nina Sparv, the co-owners of Epicorns, for an interview about their business and thoughts about the industry.
Hello Marius, and thanks for the interview! We are good, but unfortunately, we won’t be able to attend the Tallin Affiliate Grand Slam 2017 since Nina had an injury while skiing so it’s a bit uncomfortable to travel in the next few weeks. But we are looking forward to attend SiGMA again this year. We attended SiGMA last year and it was a very good conference both business wise and for meeting up with friends and colleagues within the igaming business.
Can you tell us a little about your company and how the business is structured?
Our company, Epicorns, is a startup. The company was setup last August so we are very new affiliates in the igaming business. We began with targeting two not-that-popular markets, Finland with our site: parhaatnettikasinot.org and Spain with our sites:online-ruleta.info & blackjack-online.es. Later we have been focusing on creating more and more sites (we have more than 90 websites online right now), both as a support for the bigger sites and to have them warming up for when we decide to jump into new markets.
The structure of the company is very simple since we are a very small startup still. We are basically the management and the SEO department.In addition to us we have Juan Carlos, which is the “joker” in the company. He´s the site manager, account manager, content manager and much more… We also have our precious developers, who are based in an office in India, with Mithu as the head of the department and Prasath, Ram, Prem and Sabari as developers. Last, but not least, we have had a lot of help from Jaume’s brother Albert, who have helped us from the beginning, and whenever some extra help is needed.
We are now in the phase of getting some of our websites established in the market. When the revenue starts growing, we will have more resources to go into other markets and growing our company as well.
Are you surprised at all of the changes happening in the industry?
Of course there are some surprises with this big “affiliate acquisition fever” and companies getting listed and so on..but in the end, it was kind of expected.
As older the sector gets, the bigger corporations will take more and more shares of the market, which of course leads to a more competitive market. That’s how it is in all the industries and this one is not an exception.
A number of your competitors have gone down the real money operator route, and tried their hand at white labels. Have you also done this?
Is not something that we are considering now, but both of us have years of experience working for operators within different markets, so in the future it might become handy if we decide to jump into the market as an operator.
Developing unique content is a key pillar of your strategy. What will be your primary focus on this front over the next 6 months?
The actual focus in short term, will be to push more and more content in our main sites right now: nya-casinon.org in the Swedish market, uudet-nettikasinot.org in the Finnish market and casinosonlineespana.org in the Spanish market.
They are sites that talk about online casinos and new online casinos in general, which means that they need a lot of casino reviews, news and promotions to be uploaded constantly. It will take time for us to grow them in content as much as the big corporations since we don’t have the same budget for content as them, but with patience they might be our top websites in 1-2 years. Currently we write a lot of content, especially in the Nordic markets by ourselves.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets ?
We are focusing on Spanish, Finnish and Swedish markets right now. We also have sites for Italian, Portuguese, French, German, Norwegian, UK, Australian and South African markets. The plan will be to grow in the markets that we know the most, then diversify going a bit in each market, since we have been working in all the mentioned markets already.
Regarding emerging markets, for us might be a good opportunity all the Spanish-speaking countries in South and Central America. There is a lot of available traffic, but currently the payment methods are still an issue for them. We already have some traffic from the mentioned markets, since we have lots of sites in Spanish language, and who knows, maybe in the future they will become a very strong market.
How do you find UK market and competition?
The UK market is very tentative, but, since the competition is so big and the investment needed to get good traffic is way bigger than in other regions, we thought that we will leave the big markets for when we have enough revenue so we can invest strong on it.
How have Google’s algorithm updates affected the way you go about traffic generation, SEO and content at your company?
Google is pointing towards quality for the user, so as far as you create content that the user likes and the robots as well, you shouldn’t have problems to rank. So, our focus is into the user and it will always remain this way.
Are there any exciting plans in the works that you can tell us about?
Actually, we are doing to do a full redesign of two of our sites, rahapelit-netissa.com and tragaperras-online.org. They are growing a lot in traffic and players,but they still have a very poor design and they´re also providing a very poor user experience.
Last year was about creating the websites and getting them up and running as fast as possible. This year we will be focusing on improving the outlook of them and of course the user experience.
What is the main thing that you’d like Sigma readers to know about your sites/company?
Since we are very new affiliates within the market, we really appreciate the operators that trust us from the beginning, although the traffic currently might not be the one of the biggest within the markets. Many of the operators have been helping us, and are still helping us to grow towards our targets. That´s something that we will keep in mind when we will become an established lead generation company within the sector. So, whoever wants to join our journey is more than welcome!
What challenges and opportunities has the move to mobile presented you with?
Since our company was setup very recently, all our sites have always been fully responsive, the mobile version has never been a problem for us.
What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for your business and the wider affiliate sector in 2017?
The one and only challenge (and not an easy thing to beat) is the competition, since every year the sector gets more and more competitive: companies listed and with hundreds of workers, casinos investing more in SEO, Google developing algorithms more and more strict… So, we wouldn’t say anything in particular, simply that the competition is stronger for every year that passes.
What two pieces of advice would you give to any new affiliate starting today?
The first one, is that they always lie, content is not king, PATIENCE is king!
Setting up a website that is new won’t make you a living until it has at least 8 or 10 months (most probably more than a year). Within that period, you won’t generate even close to the numbers that you might expect, after listening the numbers and revenue that other affiliates are doing with sites that have almost no links and no content, but are way older.
And the second one, don’t give up, ever. Even If you don’t have the experience you can learn on the way, focus on a converting design and unique content. Worry about the links later, since with the design and the content you have already 80% done.
Do you play slots and what would you do with 1 million Euro from jackpot winnings?
We play slots online but not with real money, to be able to write reviews of the games, and to be able to be on top of what´s happening in the business. Nina though likes to play slots for real money whenever a real slot machine appears in front of her. She´s also known by the nickname “Kolikkomummo” in Finland, which means coin granny, since she always had coins with her to play slots.
In the case, we would play and win a 1M€ jackpot, we would without a doubt invest it entirely in our business, since the most difficult thing for a start-up company is to get enough revenue to be able to work comfortably, and also to be able to work without so much pressure because of the cash-flow.
Jaume López and Nina Sparv are the co-founders of Epicorns, a startup online marketing company specialized in lead generation. Jaume has experience working in both affiliate sites and in operators, always working in SEO related jobs. Nina instead, has been previously working in the operator site as a business manager and content manager within the Nordic markets.