Published: 21 June, 2022

Glitnor Group: Gaming 360°

Tim Poole speaks to Glitnor Group CEO David Flynn, following the firm's takeover of affiliate KaFe Rocks

Congratulations on your acquisition of KaFe Rocks. What is it in particular that appealed about the company; why was it a must-have?

Their appeal was one of the main things, to be honest. From day one, not only the owners but also the management team were absolutely fantastic. We’ve been looking at the affiliate market for over a year now, and assessing a number of potential targets, all with their own benefits. But KaFe Rocks just stood out, head and tails, from our perspective. In terms of the synergies that we had, the cultural fit of the two businesses and the shared future of the businesses, this will help us ensure that we’re aligned moving forward. This may be surprising as we’re looking at two totally different companies. But it’s really worked, it’s like a hand in glove situation. The partnership fits perfectly.

How’s the executive structure going to work? Will the existing CEO remain at KaFe Rocks?

Yes absolutely. Simon [Pilkington] will remain the CEO of KaFe Rocks. KaFe Rocks will continue to run their own show, so to speak; they’re doing an absolutely fantastic job and have beenfor years now.

Our direction for growth geographically is very much aligned, in the sense that our growth profiles are similar over the next four or five years. Simon has quite recently brought on board a new management team over the course of the last 12-18 months, and they’re a great team.

How appealing is the US presence in your strategy?
I’m assuming very...

Good assumption. There are a number of things that we’ve been assessing over the course of the last few years. Our focus is to be one of the most entrepreneurial and fastest-growing businesses in the iGaming market. Our focus is going to be across operations, game studios and affiliation, or lead generation as we call it. We already have a very strong presence with operations, with leading brands in the Swedish market as an example. We’ve also launched our B2B business Swintt just over two years ago, which is going extremely well.

This was now time to strengthen our focus on the affiliation piece of the business. The question is why? When we look at the US and several other markets, there’s a lot of marketing spend ongoing, a lot of noise around sports betting and a lot of marketing dollars not making the right type of impact from an operator’s perspective.

For us, we see that M&A has been ongoing in the gaming industry for many years. I started out 19 years ago in iGaming, and the first transaction I was involved with was in 2006. So this is not something new but we know it is going to continue at pace, and now that the US is in play it's going to continue with even more vigour. The valuations in the US are also much higher, even with some of the numbers coming down over the course of the last few months. But the valuations are still much higher in the US than anything you’d get in Europe.

I foresee companies in the US that have revenues derived in the US, and have US shareholders and investors, effectively acquiring their way East. We want to make sure we are not the “acquiree” and more so the acquirer.

So KaFe Rocks is important in that strategy. Rather than spending an absolute fortune on marketing, player acquisition, going through into the US to make a US play using our B2C business – this is very much about a US play using KaFe Rocks. Also, the brand Time2Play, that’s what we’re really focused on in the US market. By doing so, not only are we deriving revenue from the US, but we can rapidly grow that and really understand the market. When the time is right, we’ll be ready to enter with our B2C business.

Our B2B business is already signing up a number of operator deals in US states. That will continue anyway. But the B2B revenue cycle is more long term, in terms of signing up and integrating customers, and in terms of distribution etc. Affiliation is immediate, and as a group we now have access to 12 states in the US; and there are another four licences on the way in. The revenues are starting; there’s a very strong focus from the team in that regard.

In terms of regulation, is there not a conflict of interests? are you allowed to be an affiliate, supplier and operator in the same state, or could regulators stop this?
No, there’s no particular regulation about the road we’re on. At the end of the day, they are separate companies; we have the same holding company but we already have two companies in the US for our B2C and B2B business. And through KaFe Rocks and Time2Play, we have two others. I see it very much as investment into these businesses as opposed to active management.

To zone in on time2play, did this brand stand out to you in particular due to its streaming aspect, or was it simply part of the wider package?

I really think Time2Play is going to be a destination for players going forward. We have a dedicated team focusing on that political offering.

It’s in its infancy, it’s still being developed. But we have great aspirations for that particular brand moving forward.

It’s not just about the streaming perspective, that’s just one offering, one part of the product that the team has put together, in response to the market need for streaming ability.

What percentage of the business will affiliate revenue generate? You’ve got B2C, B2B, it may be hard to say but how much are you expecting the KaFe Rocks arm of the business to bring in?

I’m not going to give exact figures, but it will be a significant amount for us.

Were there any other affiliate brands you looked at? What was the search process before you decided on KaFe Rocks... Did you almost go for any others?

We assessed quite a few, maybe up to around 40 different affiliate sites and businesses across the globe. Some were wholly focused on the US market, some partially in the US market – perhaps 5-10% of their revenues. But nothing really stood out.

What was really important for us with KaFe Rocks is that they have such a good product. They really do want to build, and continue to build, sites that offer players the right kind of experience and the right kind of advice. We did this to ensure we were not going to be working together with such sites that perhaps don’t follow the rules and regulations that are in place.

As KaFe Rocks says, and as I believe in, it is important to make sure gaming is reputable; and it’s important to only work with reputable destinations, websites etc. For players, too, it's important they play games from reputable sources.

Lastly, are there any further acquisitions that you’re either looking at right now, or something longer term that is being strategised?

From a strategic perspective, Glitnor has seen over 100% growth year-on-year since day one. We are also about to turn four years old, and we envisage that our growth path will continue moving forward.

As I said, M&A within the industry is very prevalent, we know that there will be other opportunities down the road for further transactions. We can now look at transactions across all three paths of the value chain, with regards to affiliation, B2B and B2C.

There could be further transactions as well, looking at other verticals and products, and indeed ancillary services to the gaming industry that we aren’t involved in today. All of this is making sure we continue to be the fastest-growing iGaming business globally, moving forward.

is there Anything else you’d like to add, David?

I’d just like to emphasise what a great team KaFe Rocks has: it’s fantastic. I’m really looking forward to working together with them. When we announced the deal, I went round to the office in Malta, joining the team for a few beers and puttinga face to the name, so to speak. It gave me a lot of confidence, meeting all the other team members I had the opportunity to meet. So I’m very, very excited about the future.

How far is the office in Malta?

They (KaFe Rocks) operate a villa hub, called the oasis. It’s very similar to us, we moved into our own villa three months ago now. So, they are around three kilometres away, it’s not that far at all. It’s a great place where people can come and collaborate.

Otherwise, they operate a remote office, and employ an appointment scheme for their 170 Rocketeers. We also operate a very flexible scheme with our working policies, with our, let’s say, Glitnor Gladiators. So now we have Gladiators and Rocketeers!