What is your management style as Digitain’s new CBO?
I say to all the guys: you're all CEOs of your own desk. You have your desks and you have to treat it like your own business. I’m there to assist. Part of that comes to solutions-driven management. Anyone who’s worked in sales will go to the boss and say, ‘Can I get a discount on this deal,’ etc. What I’ve tried to change is the mentality and for people to come to me with solutions. I don’t really care if the proposed solution is a pink fluffy elephant; it just shows that people have started to think about the solution. That sort of structure goes back to university, when I studied Middle East politics, which you can imagine includes a lot of conflict and a lot of problems. And my tutor said if you take argument A and argument B, and you take two bits of that argument and come up with argument C, that’s a solution.
What else have you had to consider during your transition?
I wanted to get through as much of this interview without talking about Covid-19 as possible and we’ve made it this far. When Covid hit, everyone was panicking. I said to the team that sales is about momentum. Last year was about building momentum and I did that through empowering the team for everyone to be their own CEO – and I think outside of that, I’ve learned patience. That’s come down to understanding how different cultures and people work, and that’s people management; no one teaches you that. I don’t believe in reading books on sales management; I believe in living it. We had a great 2020 but the key thing was to build momentum into this year. I’m proud of the team there.
Another thing related to patience is the removal of emotion. Salespeople are, of course, emotional. We all want everything we can have and we want it right now. I’ve removed emotion as much as I can. It can be both positive and negative; when I’ve got positive emotion, I’m aware I can give out positive energy. At the same time, when that energy’s negative, I’m aware it can go through the whole team. I try and balance it out, not celebrating the highs too much and not focusing on the lows either. Removing emotion from passion and honesty is sometimes hard but I always try to focus on looking for the benefit to Digitain. If you look at the benefits rather than the USP, everything changes.
What things should sports betting companies prioritise in 2021?
I don’t want to speak for others. I truly believe in defining your own path, which removes ego. That’s not to be rude to my friends who have similar positions in other gaming companies. Their reality is not my reality and their strategy is not my strategy. So what Digitain is going to do is focus on international expansion. I’m delighted I’ve appointed a colleague to become head of international offices. We’ve started in Africa, we now have a regional salesperson there; we’re now in the interview process of Asia and LatAm too. But in my new role, it’s not just about appointing the salespeople in these new regions; it’s about how the product fits into this.
We’ve got a very exciting product roadmap to ensure localisation of product; localisation is key. The main focus on our product roadmap this year is delivering a product interview wherever you are in the world, which is market-leading and meets demands because from Nigeria to Kenya there are differences. There’s not one product that fits all markets. We’re trying to have a global outlook but with specification within the product. We’re heavily investing in AI, looking at innovation, not invention. We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel. But can we get an extra 5% to our margins or bet types by changing things? That’s where we’re looking at.
Sometimes if you look at big gaming companies, some of their success has come from the stuff they do behind the scenes, rather than the big product announcements. So when I talk about innovation, I’m not saying you won’t see great things from Digitain. But the focus is on innovation to increase the benefit and gross gaming revenue of our partners globally. That comes down to flexibility and putting the company first. The one motif every gaming company has to have is delivery. There’s no point promising stuff unless you deliver it. I need to deliver to the partners so I say to the product team let’s commit to what we can deliver. It’s about believing in our own path and delivering to our own partners through international delivery and product.
How are you planning for the Euros?
I hope it goes ahead. We live in a very fluid world. When I try to get to Armenia, I sometimes have to change several flights, and I’m one man not hundreds of thousands of fans trying to get to a tournament. There’s a heavy focus on our sportsbook product and it increases the benefits to our partners. We’ve announced our Accumulator Bonus where even if your bet loses, we give you an ultra-cashback.
If you win, we give you a multi-bonus on top of your winnings. We’re bringing in innovation with little bet types. But Euro2021 is football. One thing people are missing is the opportunity that you’re going to get a lot of casual players. As an industry, we segment people as sports players, casino players, bingo players and so on.
It’s always a challenge for the industry to attract new people to your site. So we’re not just looking at the sportsbook, but at casino content because we need to give our customers in the B2C world an opportunity to not just get a short-term hit of increased revenue in 2021. We need to look at a long-term plan where we say, ‘You’ve got this great acquisition tool in Euro 2021. What can we do outside of that to make sure that once you’ve acquired the player you keep the player?’