18 October, 2022

Challenging times; new opportunities

In an enlightening Zoom interview from Ukraine, Parimatch Tech CTO Artur Ashyrov addresses the difficulties of operating during the war, the “TikTok-ification” of sports betting – and the key challenges behind Parimatch’s transition from B2C to B2B.

Artur, can you give me an introduction into how things have progressed for Parimatch Tech in the last year – since you restructured your organisation and aimed for the B2B market?

If we are not considering the war in Ukraine, overall, things are pretty interesting for us. Because of the full-scale Russian invasion, we started to find more ways of business development, and I believe our tech transformation was a significant enabler for this. If we had not implemented that transformation, at least partly, it might not be the case that we would diversify our business model as we have. Presently, we are in the second part of our new era: we are trying to monetise what we achieved as a tech company and diversify the main B2C business, adopting new business models as well.

You’ve still got the Parimatch operator brand, so if you were to talk percentages, how much of the business is now B2B and how much is still B2C?

The exciting part is that, at some point, we realised that Parimatch Tech Holdings is operating as B2B internally. We have our platform, which is the product, and then we have the stakeholders – named hubs – that are features for the platform. We brainstormed and asked ourselves: ‘If we do this internally, why don’t we do this externally as well?’ To answer your question, I would say that now we have a solid focus on B2B, especially compared to a year ago when you spoke to CEO Maksym Liashko.

At that point, we weren’t focused on the structure of the B2B model as much. Now, we’re aiming for the first launch next year. Of course, that means a lot of internal changes to redo some of our organisation’s way of doing business.

In terms of the platform, obviously, there are a lot of providers out there already. How is Parimatch Tech trying to stand out?

From my experience, I wouldn’t say there is too much difference between platforms in the market. I have some B2B background, and the history of becoming a B2B company was the same as ours. First, you become a strong B2C operator, then decide to sell parts of the platform to someone else, and then you become a B2B company.

I would say we have our strengths for sure – for example, we have a lot of expertise in high load systems, as well as technical aspects that don’t matter for the end user: we can host cloud and data centres if you need some local operations. Parts of our platform are made up of the best experience that we took from the market. Our casino platform does 30 integrations a month or so – from my experience, this is a perfect time to market.

Traditionally, Parimatch is heavily linked to sports betting. In the future, what’s the plan in terms of sports betting and casino – will it be 50/50 between the two verticals?

Things have already changed. If you look at the market, the average proportion between the two – even with colossal betting operators – is 50/50. We are going that way as well – the world is becoming faster, and people want TikToks more than long reads! From that perspective, we’re really set – as we have a solid casino platform.

It’s interesting you mention TikTok because it’s come up a lot in the industry lately. We even had YouTube personality Jake Paul calling for the ‘TikTokification’ of sports betting. It’s a difficult word to pronounce (!) but will the industry go this way? Obviously, Facebook had its day, then it was more Instagram, and now it’s TikTok…

If we talk about this, I would say even sports betting is changing, with fast markets – and we’re keeping up to those standards on our sportsbook platform, which is going in that direction. We realise we have old-school players who like to follow their favourite teams, know everything about them and it’s easy for them to make a bet. But there’s also a new generation that likes to earn fast bets – on Dota matches or something like that. So, I would say sportsbook is moving towards this… TikTokification, yes!

Again, it’s a tricky word! But I completely agree. I wanted to ask about the challenges you’ve faced technologically, moving from B2C to B2B, given the internal systems you mentioned earlier. What are the biggest hurdles you’ve faced – a problem you have come across that you hadn’t before?

Our current engineering problems are mostly focused on architecture and design. When you have an ad hoc B2C platform, it’s easy to make these shortcuts when designing systems. You have some deadlines, but you don’t need to worry about whether there will be another operator who uses it. If you have a platform at scale, with hundreds and thousands of microservices, it becomes a pain because you have to analyse whether they are all B2B-compliant retrospectively. We’ll have to think about how to redesign certain parts of the platform and make it work for different operators who hold multiple brands. So, I’d say our main challenges currently are in that area.

Thank you for that very specific answer – and it leads me to a thought on the B2B-B2C divide… The first thing that comes to my mind is whether you are now working with companies that were competitors before, and are still your competitors on the B2C side?

We would definitely work with these companies. I would say our B2B model is a bit different from the mass market. We don’t want to go in the direction of specific companies where the model is based more on getting new clients onto their system. We will use a more boutique approach with companies who don’t have expertise in specific areas to incubate that business and help them develop.

Naturally, as a Ukraine-based company, it has been an incredibly difficult situation for Parimatch Tech and the rest of the industry in Ukraine this past year. How have you coped as an organisation?

It’s very, very challenging because the situation is very stressful; as you may understand, we have a lot of employees in Ukraine. Sometimes, people are scared and stressed, so it’s challenging from a management perspective. You have to care more. As usual, when people are stressed, they can sometimes communicate irregularly – but you have to be very empathetic here. It’s also challenging for me that the time since the war began has seemed to flow faster for us.

Our standard operations, opening more offices in different countries and diversifying, became problem number one in week one. So I would say it’s very hard and, hopefully, it will get better; we’re having some tough times. However, these challenging times are a new possibility for Parimatch Tech to demonstrate our values and adapt. Hard times present unique challenges, but also new growth opportunities.