Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your career in gaming before you became CCO last November?
I have now been in the iGaming industry for the past 10 years. I was Managing Director at NetEnt for the first six years, then I started a few studios as an entrepreneur and 7/8 years ago I joined Pariplay. Time has really flown; I can’t believe it’s coming up to a year since I became CCO (Chief Commercial Officer). And, yes, as CCO I also have the responsibility here for the Malta side of things, so I’m the Managing Director here of our legal entity and operations. It’s been a fantastic journey for me going from the supply side to the aggregation layer of the business, in terms of personal and professional development.
Pariplay is a very successful company, our growth rate has been phenomenal in previous years, and I’m glad to now be responsible for taking this forward.
In terms of your first year in the role – have you got any celebrations planned for the anniversary? And, more importantly, how do you reflect on your first few months as CCO?
We have been fortunate to have had a lot of things to celebrate over these past 7/8 months – it feels like years, but it’s only months. I think the one achievement I’m most proud of is the team. When I joined, one of my key objectives was to consolidate, build and grow the commercial team. This has now happened. We have commercial functions in our main office in Sofia, Bulgaria, here of course in Malta and we have a commercial office in Gibraltar. We have account managers in those locations and we managed to bring together a really great team, a fantastic mix of experienced professionals, new blood coming from outside our industry and also developing colleagues internally. I’m a big believer in this internal development of our talent pool, so I’d say that’s the one significant milestone I’d like to call out.
A quick question on a few of those locations you mentioned: which one’s your favourite!
I can’t have a favourite, they’re all very different – I haven’t yet been to our Sofia office, which is where I'm going in September, so I look forward very much to visiting. I have been to Gibraltar several times before in different capacities. So, yes, I will not call any single one a favourite, but the one I’m looking forward to going the most is Sofia – because I’ve never been there before.
At the top level for Pariplay there’s been a few changes recently – obviously Aspire Global acquired Pariplay – but more recently NeoGames acquired Aspire. Does that change much and how has that impacted the day-to-day for your team?
From a personal perspective and a Pariplay perspective, there has been essentially zero operational impact on the day-to-day. It’s, of course, a fantastic development for the company and the group to now be a part of NeoGames.
NeoGames and Aspire Global are companies that I have known & worked with over the years. They are companies and people that I’m already familiar with and I’m very comfortable with.
We have now created one of the only two companies on the B2B side from the technology perspective that cover the entire spectrum. For Pariplay specifically, I expect this will give us some synergy and market access in the iLottery business, where we’ve not really been present before. From a game development perspective, NeoGames have their own development studio – and within Pariplay we have our Wizard Studio, so there will be some interesting synergy and cross-pollination with the two studios.
I wanted to pick your brain about the breadth of the B2B offering with iLottery being added in. A hypothetical question I sometimes ask is: is it better to be a market leader in one area, or have a strong offering in every vertical? What is better in your opinion, specialist or generalist?
I think the reality of the component pieces that are within the NeoGames Group is that they have been assembled from having companies that are really focused on those areas. So, from a Pariplay perspective, certainly the focus area is aggregation – number one; and the Wizard brand – our own game content – number two, which is for the casino market.
On the sportsbook, Aspire Global had acquired BtoBet and their focus has been to develop a fantastic platform for sports, which is now also integrated in the Pariplay offering. So, with one API, you have access to not only the casino content, but also the sportsbook content.
Aspire Global, a platform with player management and account management, provides the glue for everything from a casino perspective and the managed services to run the B2C brands. NeoGames is iLottery and has been on End 2 End bingo, which is a very exciting technology company coming from Latin America, one of our focus markets. Again, through the Pariplay fusion platform with the same API, you also have access to the bingo product.
I’d say it’s been a recipe for success for the current NeoGames Group to have had individual companies focused into their markets, and become market leaders and successful in their own specific area. And subsequently, with the acquisitions of Aspire Global first, and NeoGames now, we continue with this same strategy of having the individual companies retain the brand name, retain the structure, retain the organisation, so that focus is maintained. At the same time, looking for synergy on a commercial level, on a customer level and on a technology level.
You've mentioned a few products and brands, but Wizard Games in particular has come up a couple of times. Can you talk us through what’s been happening with this part of the business recently and your plans with it moving forward?
Wizard as a brand was launched at Sigma last year, pretty much when I joined in November. We hired a new management team and started to create new and better content as a result – so, that has been a step up when it comes to the game quality and production. In addition, we have been very busy from a distribution perspective and from a licencing perspective, especially when it comes to North America and the US & Canadian market. The whole industry is focusing on those as being a huge opportunity and Pariplay has identified this as a strategic market, so now we’re executing that strategy.
Wizard is the product spearheading our entry into the North American market and is being followed by the aggregation business. So, in Ontario for example, we’re also offering third-party vendors and we’re starting to aggregate with Ignite, which is the third-party studio that is leveraging our licences to enter the US market.
So it has been a fantastic journey that I have personally contributed to – and the future is even more exciting, the company is very pleased with the progress made and we’re looking at further investments into the quality of the games, and into the team.
That’s a perfect segue for our final topic and question. You have already discussed Wizard, North America, Canada and the US. Overall, what are Pariplay’s ambitions and targets on the North American continent, given that there is so much international expansion into these markets right now?
For Pariplay, the North American market is strategically important as one of our growth engines and we are executing state by state; we expect to be live in Michigan and Pennsylvania very soon, with others following afterwards.We launched in Alberta and Ontario when it comes to Canadian provinces, and I think the key for us as an aggregate is to be the number one aggregator in every market we enter. We have a portfolio of over 80 vendors and over 80 content suppliers on our books. But, for the North American market, we need to have content that is focused on North American players.
We’re doing this within the Wizard portfolio – but there are also existing brands, existing companies that we want to add for a localised offering, which has been a success for Pariplay in our market entries; so for the US, Canada and North America in general we are adopting the same strategy.