Aspire Global CEO Tsachi Maimon has overseen a period of incredible expansion at the company, doubling revenues and growing to 150 employees over the last four years. He explains the background to this success and looks at market conditions ahead.
What was your career history before you joined the gaming world? How has this experience prepared you for your current role?
I began my career in the telecomms industry with Israel’s largest mobile operator, where I gained significant management experience and a deep understanding of all operational aspects of the business. Within a complex hierarchy, I learned how to achieve the goals of cross-disciplinary teams, interface with a wide range of clients, resolve problems in real-time, execute the company’s strategy and help fulfill its mission.
Having picked up key organisational management skills, honed my ability to use various technological tools, and developed my personal vision, my next role was as a manager at an e-commerce company. There I got the chance to get to grips with the basics of the online ecosystem.
My experience with both companies gave me the ability to understand the full potential of online operations, and provided me with the solid foundations and contacts I needed to take my first steps in the iGaming industry.
How have you seen the iGaming industry change during your time as CEO?
One of the biggest changes I’ve witnessed has been the increase in regulation. There are now more authorities in more markets than ever before, meaning that the process of establishing and continuing to operate an online casino, especially in multiple territories, is hugely complex which can be very off-putting.
Competition is also fiercer now than it’s ever been, with operators having to deliver an ever-wider selection of games from multiple providers, deliver competitive bonus programs and increasing levels of personalisation to hit their acquisition targets, while maximising retention and ensuring optimal profitability.
Higher levels of taxation, meanwhile, have been erasing margins for the majority of operators, subsequently reducing profits across the industry. That’s why we’ve been seeing so much consolidation, with companies increasingly attracted to M&A to strengthen market share.
That process is inevitable, but it also creates space for new industry players. One of the things I love most about the iGaming industry is the innovation that comes from hungry young companies with unique visions and fresh approaches. One of the best parts of my job is helping operators, whether they’re new entrants, established businesses wanting to upgrade their solution, or large organisations from other sectors that want to leverage the power of their brands. Whatever the scale and history of the company, what they’re all looking for is a way to effectively resolve regulatory and technical headaches, enabling them to focus on building their brands and growing their customer bases.
What are your goals for Aspire in the short and medium term? Will you focus on new products or new markets?
I’m happy to confirm that in Q3 we’ll be launching a new sports betting vertical, which means our partners will be able to take advantage of some of the widest event coverage in the business. It will feature unrivalled in-play betting, a huge selection of inbuilt betting features, in-play “Fast Markets” on football, basketball, and tennis, top-quality third-party integrations, and advanced bet encouragement algorithms that are a perfect fit for our own emphasis on player analytics and personalisation.
We’ll also be entering the regulated Portuguese market thanks to a new strategic partnership, and we’re confident it will deliver exceptional results for both parties. That’s going to add to our five current operating licenses in key markets including the UK, Denmark, Belgium, Malta and Italy.
Success, as they say, breeds success, and we’ll certainly be looking at ways to strengthen our R&D capacity, extend our reach, and grow our business in the months ahead. In addition to organic growth, I believe that it’s important for ASG to grow via mergers and acquisitions as well.
What more can you tell us about ASG’s activity in terms of M&A? Can you be more specific about your future plans?
I can confirm that Aspire Global has just completed the first phase of acquiring Minotauro Media Ltd., bringing aboard some exciting brands including CasinoLuck and NextCasino. The brands will be under the same daily management as today, but operated from the Aspire iGaming platform. This is the first transaction for Aspire Global, and certainly not the last.
Some say that marketing companies are ideally placed to enter the iGaming market due to the wide availability of platforms on offer. Is this true and if so, what are the barriers to entry for them?
Once again, one of the biggest obstacles for most operators is acquiring licenses to work in their desired markets. Then there’s the day-to-day operational dimension. Providing a comprehensive suite of services demands extensive experience and the kind of in-depth knowledge that very few companies can provide. I’m referring to the ability to run multilingual support, specialised VIP management, and the kind of CRM department that’s built around close collaboration between analysis and marketing personnel.
On the other hand, new entrants to the iGaming industry clearly bring fresh perspectives. Knowing how to bring traffic through a broad range of possible sources is at the heart of a successful operator’s business. At the end of the day, casino, like sports betting, is a universal form of entertainment and there’s always a way for the most talented marketeers to appeal to the love of winning that all of us share.
There are other iGaming providers that offer purely technological solutions, but for a first-rate marketing company that wants to use its skills in the casino arena, the smart choice has got to be a complete solution that includes all the services a successful business needs.
In terms of content, it’s not just about the ability to provide a wide and constantly expanding array of titles. A successful operator needs the ability to adapt its offering according to what the players really want, while maintaining the required income rates for the business. We manage the casino content for a partner operator based on analytics and performance optimisation, boosting retention, player value and loyalty.
Do you see an expansion of your game offering as important to business growth?
We’ve recently widened our casino portfolio thanks to integrations with leading developers Play’n GO, Realistic, ELK and Thunderkick, as we advance steadily towards our goal of providing an industry-leading selection of games. I would stress, however, that expanding our compendium has to be managed intelligently and sustainably to deliver immediate results for both ASG and our partners.
Quality is king, and as well as hand-picking all our titles, we’re strict about ensuring that perfect player experience is always the top priority. That’s why we’re also focusing on additional proprietary content, since exclusivity is a tried and trusted method of achieving true competitive edge.
How is 2017 shaping up in terms of business partnerships?
In a nutshell, Q1 has been amazing. We surpassed our ambitious goals and predictions in all areas of the business, particularly in terms of new partnership deals.
We’ve inked deals with a record number of operators, from new market entrants to casinos which have decided to migrate to our iGaming solution.
Everyone at ASG is hugely excited by the momentum we’re building up and I’m looking forward to sharing details of a number of additional agreements in the very near future.