A pleasure to meet again after a thrilling win last November, Tamir. Start-ups are an important element for this industry. Yet, there are many different definitions of the term “start up”. What is your own definition? Is there anything special about iGaming start ups in your opinion?
For me, “start up” has a lot of meanings, but the first thing that comes to mind is courage – daring to leave your comfort-zone and do something new and different. It also means to think out of the box, be creative, innovate and try to disrupt the market. Start-up also means that you seek to join forces with the best and most ambitious talents out there, build a team and lead the way into an unknown path, with many ups and downs along the way. iGaming is an amazing market for start-ups because of the endless innovation, huge market size and many opportunities you can find in it. Having said that, there are also tough challenges for iGaming start-ups, such as fierce competition, heavy and expensive regulations and limited options in funds raising.
You’re based in Tel Aviv – a place known for a buzzing start-up scene. We would love to know how it looks like from someone who built a successful start-up in that environment. What makes the city so special?
Israel is sometimes called the “start-up nation” for good reasons and Tel Aviv in particular is considered one of the densest cities in the world in terms of start-ups. For us, as a new born start-up, it was a great place to bring us to speed quickly and with less pains. We could very easily tap into valuable knowledge, experience, connections and guidance to help us with whatever we needed, especially in the beginning. Another advantage is our ability to engage and recruit the best talents in technology, product innovation and graphic design. This is especially true for Tel Aviv, which is considered, and justifiably, one of the most important cities for gaming, with companies such as 888, Playtech, Playtika and many others based all around there.
From your experience at SiGMA in Malta, do you see any synergies between Malta and Tel Aviv? What are the main similarities, the differences, opportunities?
Malta is probably the biggest and most important iGaming hub in the EU while Tel Aviv is one of the most important centers for high-tech, innovation and entrepreneurship. TelAviv is also the incubator from which some of the biggest gaming giants were born. So it is no surprise that there are many crossovers both ways and SiGMA was a good opportunity to realise it. Just seeing so many familiar faces from Israel in last SiGMA conference and traveling on an airplane packed with iGaming veterans and top executives was a proof of the deep relations and synergies out there.
Could you tell us more about your award-winning product BetUP? How did you come up with this idea and what was the development process like?
BetUP is the world’s first live-betting cash tournaments network. The idea is that players from different countries, jurisdictions, and operators can join mass tournament games and compete against each other to see who is the best in live sports predictions to win big cash prizes. This unique concept was inspired by existing gaming genres such as poker tournaments, progressive jackpots and the live betting fast markets. The idea was evolved by the team here at Commologic and we keep on innovating and developing more features, game formats and sports as we go. We work using a very lean, in-house built, development process that allows us to design-build-test-improve in relatively short cycles and react quickly to the market and to our customers’ requests. Part of our company culture and “DNA” is that we keep improving and optimizing our processes by analyzing past experiences and performance. We think creatively on how to improve while putting ego aside and empowering our team members to voice different and unconservative views. We also worked closely with some of the operators to run closed group trials of the product in order to check ourselves, learn from players’ feedback and fine-tune the game as we go. Probably the most important contribution was from working with Unibet (Kindred Group), our first partner, to provide us with great insights and real large-scale customer feedback.
You launched BetUP with giants Unibet in April last year. It’s an exciting partnership! Could you share with us some details about this cooperation? Moving forward, what is your strategy for market penetration?
Having Unibet as our first customer was a remarkable milestone for us and a real vote of confidence in what we do and in the BetUP concept. Since the beginning, they were very supportive and we really felt that people there are truly listening and constantly thinking on how to make this partnership a success. We found many similarities to us in the way they work and do things, which was quite a surprise considering the big difference in company size. People there work lean, are enthusiastic about what they do, take responsibility and really care about the business. The whole process of integrating and customising BetUP for Unibet was relatively fast and smooth. The BetUP game was integrated and launched into all Unibet’s core markets and is available via mobile, tablet and PC web channels as well as a standalone native app on the app store. Our strategy is to keep aggressively growing the BetUP network and to have more leading operators join in. Our second operator – The Football Pools (UK) is already live on the BetUP network and there is much more to come. The significance of having a second partner was not only in the contribution to the network liquidity but it also allowed us to prove that we are not a one-trick pony customised for a single brand but rather a true multi-operator B2B game network provider. Obviously, this type of pool-based games is heavily reliant on liquidity, so size does matter(!), and going forward our main focus will be in growing the network by contracting with more operators and offering unmatched prizes in terms of size and coverage. We also believe in innovation and in generating value for our partners. The fact that BetUP is such a unique and first to market game concept helps a lot and provides a way for our customers to stand out of the crowd and reach new and casual audiences with a product perfectly geared just for that purpose.
How did you find the SiGMA Startup Pitch? Was it your first time in Malta? Were you aware of its heavy presence of online gaming companies?
It was the first time for us as a start-up company to participate in such competition. We were quite excited about the opportunity to pitch our vision and products to hundreds of industry representatives and to the panel of industry veterans and investors. As an ex Playtech executive, it wasn’t the first time I have visited Malta but it was great seeing many familiar faces, mingling and networking with old and new friends from other iGaming companies. I was aware of the significance and activity of iGaming in Malta but still was caught quite surprised by the heavy participation and variety and seniority of participants in the SiGMA conference this year! Winning the competition was obviously a nice cherry on top of the cake, but I also must compliment the other start-ups that gave a real fight with excellent presentations, innovative ideas and enthusiastic teams. The competition was very tight and we were fortunate to end up first.
You actually landed a deal a t SiGMA – hard cash – tell us more about it, we are super excited! Which investor liked your idea the most? Of all seven investors who did you relate to the most and why? How will the investor that believed in your product be involved moving forward?
SiGMA was very interesting and fruitful for us also beyond the start-up competition. We managed to carry on some very interesting discussions, create super important business leads and more. Unfortunately, I cannot yet share the details with you but promise to tell more later in the year. We met some very serious and knowledgeable investors who we are still in talks with. There isn’t yet any hard cash deals but I can say things look very positive for the future.
You now carry with you a baggage of experience. What would be your words of advice for young entrepreneurs trying to kick off a start up?
First advice would be to really invest time and efforts in making homework, studying the market, vertical and subvertical you plan on going into and only then start planning it all. I so often see young and enthusiastic entrepreneurs coming into iGaming with no prior knowledge and failing just because they came unprepared. Another bit of advice would be to challenge yourself and your ideas all the time, think how to improve, think what can go wrong, learn from previous successes and failures of others. The nice thing for an iGaming start-up is that there are so many ideas and trials going on all the time that you can learn from, so just make sure you don’t repeat the same mistake and try to follow success. Last, and probably the most important one, is to connect with other people in the industry, form relationships and friendships. When time comes, your most important asset in making your great innovative idea a success story, is your network of people that will help you make your dream come true!
This article was published first on SiGMA Magazine. Have you attended SiGMA last year? Relive the highlights from our last show and stay tuned for this year’s SiGMA. Watch out for what we’re branding as the ‘iGaming Village’ this year.