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NEWS 28 June 2019

EveryMatrix CEO: The top-performing companies are the most focused

By Matthew Enderby

Ebbe Groes, EveryMatrix CEO, spoke exclusively to Gambling Insider about the company’s year so far, and why it has chosen to follow a business plan of specialisation.

How has the first half of the year been for EveryMatrix?

This year has been excellent. It’s been a consolidation of our current premier product, CasinoEngine, both in terms of development and new business. We are excited and I expect we will be able to announce between now and iGB Live the signing of a very large client, the biggest one yet on the casino platform. This deal follows several other tier-one clients using our casino product today.

Our business model changed as well when we left the start-up white label space a while ago, and we are happy we can focus entirely on bringing on board large operations. We are winning over established clients by selling specialised products, rather than only selling turnkey solutions. We decided to distance the company from the white label space and not compete with everyone in the business. So far, this move has paid off and it has been a very rewarding process.

Another important change we made this year is regarding our B2C operation. A few weeks ago, we announced the selling of Jetbull, which was a brand we held for a long time, almost from the start of the company. So that’s sold off, and while we have not completed it yet, we are in negotiations to also close down our white label business and to put our full focus on being a software provider. That’s quite a big shift.

How does the selling of Jetbull change EveryMatrix’s business model, and what do you hope to accomplish?

The top-performing companies in our industry are the most focused. I’ve always admired Kambi, Evolution Gaming, NetEnt and companies like this for completely staying away from platform and B2C licensing. We’ve been in those areas for a while and it has served us well, but we are now in a position which is a bit of a luxury, where we can decline this kind of business and instead work with other companies in that space. We can focus on being a pure software provider. This of course, still means licensing, but only as a software provider and not having operator licenses.

Operating in the B2C was never the plan, but when you have a brand, you do try to do well with it. I am happy we found a home for it. We have a good relationship with AMGO as they are already an existing client of ours. They bought Jetbull and have added some power to their brands. They now reap those benefits that come with having multiple brands.

When we spoke at ICE you told me your casino offering has pushed on and developed. Is that your biggest product? 

Currently, CasinoEngine is our most extensive product and it has exceeded our expectations in the past year, and we expect other sides to join in. The product we expect the most from this year is our sports product, OddsMatrix. We started by building a fully managed sportsbook, but that was without a platform, purely for plugging in; in the style of Kambi, you could say. Later on, we added the platform, then came the casino and payment products we have today.  

Sport is our origin and also the most complex of the products. It’s not without reason the specialists in this sector have spent quite a lot of money and have a large team on this. A couple of years ago, we started to rebuild the product from scratch to make it more competitive. When we started that project, we knew doing a new version of our sports product would be quite time-consuming. I had hoped for 18 months less than what it did take. But we’re finally there with that.

Our back-end has been ready for more than half a year and we have now migrated the first of our existing clients to a new front-end. This is, of course, an essential part of the user experience. IT gives us the ability to finally compete properly in the sports space. The first wave is migration of all clients before the start of the new football season.

This sports product is sold both as a turnkey solution and as a stand-alone product. One of the many things we did was integrate it in the same way as our casino. This makes it quite easy for clients and any of our casino clients can take this product; it has the same API managed by us. Amsterdam will be the first main conference where we start with this product and, from then on, we will build some momentum for ICE next year.

You launched your esports service at the start of the year; how has that developed since?

It’s been really good. The esports services rely on the new product we have been discussing. One of the key things for our new sports product is its smooth and effortless process of adding new markets. When you look at esports, I think we successfully created 150 new markets. This wouldn’t have been possible in the old system, especially in such a short time. When we’re out showing this product, we receive a lot of good feedback on this because of its depth of information.

It’s nice to have an esports product to be proud of, but for me it’s been most rewarding to see how we delivered a proven concept in a completely new area to us. We’ve been able to create all those markets, including automatic settlement, and everything you want in a modern sportsbook. It’s a product that really stands out for us. Luckbox is the first live client for esports, now in the public BETA stage and looking to move forward.

What we would like to do next is trying to build a cool front-end as well. Luckbox is a specialist in this, so it’s nice to work with them. They built their own front-end on the back of our sportsbook and offering them flexibility has been a key strategy for us. Luckbox is now one of two clients that have our sportsbook but with a completely different front-end. The other one is a company called Bookee that has a swipe, Tinder-esque mobile app that sits on top of our sportsbook.

Luckbox and Bookee are completely different but they both showcase bespoke front-ends built by themselves. To showcase what we have built there, it would be cool to deliver a turnkey-type, ready-to-deliver front-end for esports. Once we get through the first wave of requests from our clients on the front-end we’re launching now, that’s what we’ll turn to next.

Stian Hornsletten, CasinoEngine CEO and EveryMatrix Co-founder, said regulatory shifts in Spain will help develop your operations there. Could you give us some more detail on this?

What is happening, and that’s not specific to Spain, is that tier-ones are struggling to be technically compliant. Let’s take Reality Check, the vital UK requirement which costs a lot of people a lot of money and time. If you do this as part of the casino application, which is something we can do, then you can plug this into your own platform and then be compliant for the casino part. 

You see this mix of compliance requirements, some are about the casino experience, and some are about connecting to a player database for the country. In case you are able to address the casino specific parts of requirements, then our client can rely on us to handle this. It’s a cool feature of being able to run the entire casino experience off our platform.

iGB Live is just around the corner, what can you tell us about your plans for the exhibition? 

iGB Live has always been a stop for us as this conference is an excellent opportunity to meet clients, so we have a lot of our team heading there. We are eager to showcase the new sports product and to explain how our clients manage to lead the industry through technology.

We are also launching a new corporate website. Our team is currently putting it through final testing and tuning so it will be ready for Amsterdam.

RELATED TAGS: Online | Sports Betting | Mergers & Acquisitions | Casino | Feature
IN-DEPTH 16 August 2019
Roundtable: David vs Goliath – Can startups really disrupt the industry?

(AL) Alexander Levchenko – CEO, Evoplay Entertainment

Alexander Levchenko is CEO of innovative game development studio Evoplay Entertainment. He has overseen the rapid expansion of the company since it was founded in early 2017 with the vision of revolutionising the player experience.

(RL) Ruben Loeches – CMO, R Franco

Rubén Loeches is CMO at R. Franco Group, Spain’s most established multinational gaming supplier and solutions provider. With over 10 years working in the gambling, betting and online gaming industries, he is skilled in operations management and marketing strategy.

(JB) Julian Buhagiar – Co-Founder, RB Capital:

Julian Buhagiar is an investor, CEO & board director to multiple ventures in gaming, fintech & media markets. He has lead investments, M & As and exits to date in excess of $370m.

(DM) Dominic Mansour – CEO, Bragg Gaming Group:

Dominic Mansour has an extensive background of nearly 20 years in the gaming and lottery industry. He has a deep understanding of the lottery secto,r having been CEO at the UK-based Health Lottery, as well as building bingos.com from scratch, which he sold to NetPlay TV plc.

What does it take for a startup to make waves in gaming?

DM: On the one hand, it’s a bit like brand marketing; you build an identity, a reputation and a strategy. When you know what you stand for, you then do your best to get heard. That doesn’t necessarily require a TV commercial but ensuring whatever you do stands out from the crowd. Then you have to get out there and talk to people about it. 

AL: Being better than the competition is no longer enough; if you’re small, new and want to make a difference – you have to turn the industry on its head. Those looking to make waves need to come up with a new concept or a ground-breaking solution. Take Elon Musk, he didn’t found Tesla to improve the existing electric cars on the market, he founded it to create the industry’s first mass-market electric sports car. It’s the same for online gaming; if you want to make waves as a startup, you have to bring something revolutionary to the table.

JB: Unique IP is key, particularly in emerging (non-EU) markets. As does the ability to release products on time, with minimal downtime and/or turnaround time when issues inevitably occur. A good salesforce capable of rapidly striking partnerships with the right players is vital, as is not getting bogged down too early on in legal, operational and admin red tape.

How easy it for startups to bring their ideas to life? How do they attract capital?

AL: It depends on the people and ideas behind the startup. Of course – the wave of ‘unicorns’ is not what it used to be. Some time ago the hype was a lot greater in terms of investing in startups, but that’s changed now. Investors now want more detail – and even more importantly, to evaluate whether the startup has the capacity (as well as the vision) to solve the problem it set out to address. That’s not to say investors are no longer interested in startups – they certainly are – but now more than ever, it’s important for startups to understand their audience as well as dreaming big.

JB: To get to market quickly, you need a great but small, team. If slots or sportsbook, the mathematical engine and UX/UI are crucial. Having a lean, agile dev team that can rapidly turn wire framing and mathematical logic into product is essential. Paying more for the right team is sometimes necessary, especially when good resources are scarce (here’s looking at you, Malta and Gibraltar).

Building capital is a different beast altogether. You won’t be able to secure any funding until you have a working proof of concept and, even then, capital is likely to be drip fed. Be prepared to get a family and friends round early on to deliver a ‘kick-ass’ demo, then start looking at early-stage VCs that specialise in growth-stage assets.

How do you react when you see startups coming in with their plan for disruption?

RL: We welcome the innovation and fresh thinking startups bring. This is particularly the case in Latin America, with a market still in its infancy. One area we’d especially like to see startups making waves is in the slot development sector. Latin America is a young market that needs local innovation suited to its unique conditions – especially in regard to mobile gaming.

Operators eyeing the market have Europe‐focused core products, which creates a struggle to work to the requirements of players and regulators. To succeed there, it has become more important than ever to work with those with a knowhow of the local area to adapt products and games to besuitable from the off; we welcome the chance for local talent to develop and grow.

Do you think it’s easier for established companies to innovate and establish new ideas? 

AL: From a financial perspective, yes. It is without a doubt easier for incumbent companies to establish a pipeline of innovation via their R & D departments, as well as having the tools to hand for data gathering and analysis.

But it stops there. Startups hold court in every other way. Not only are they flexible, they can easily switch from one idea to another, change strategy instantly as the market demands and easily move team members around. Established companies know this – and this is why we’re seeing an emerging trend for established companies to acquire small, innovative online gaming start-ups. They have the right resources and unique ideas, as well as the ability to bring a fresh approach to businesses’ thinking.

RL: For me, it’s always going to be established companies. Only with the resources, industry experience and know‐how can a company apply technology and services that truly make a difference. Of course there are exceptions. But when it comes to providing a platform that can be approved by regulators across multiple markets – as well as suiting an operators’ multiple jurisdictions – it is simply impossible for a couple of young bright minds with a few million behind them to get this done.

DM: I actually think it’s harder for established companies. It’s key to differentiate between having a good idea and executing one. That’s where the big corporates struggle most. They’re full of amazing people with all sorts of great ideas but getting them through systems and processes is nearly impossible.

Is it essential to patent-protect innovative products?

AL: It’s a very interesting subject. If we take IT for example – patents can actually become a block to the evolutionary process within the industry. Of course, getting a patent future proofs yourself from the competition copying your concept but, having said that, if you’re looking to protect yourself from someone more creative, smarter and agile, you’ve probably lost the battle already!

In our industry everything is moving faster and research takes less time than the development itself. No matter how good you are at copy pasting, you can’t copy Google or Netflix. The most important thing is not the tech itself but rather its ‘use-case’ – or in other words, does it solve what it’s meant to solve? Competition is healthy and the key to innovation. If you spend your whole time looking behind you, you’ll never be able move forwards.

JB: Tricky question, and one that depends on what and where you launch this IP. It can be difficult to patent mathematical engines and logic, mostly because they’re re-treading prior art. Branding, artwork and UX is more important and can easily be copied, but the territories you launch will determine how protectable your IP will be once patented. US/EU/Japan is easy but expensive to protect in. But China/South East Asia is a nightmare to cover adequately. Specialised patent lawyers with experience in software, and ideally gaming, can help you better.