The second annual iGaming Entrepreneur Conference took place today in London, one of the main hubs of innovation in the iGaming industry. The creative mind behind this event is Michael Caselli, an iGaming professional who dedicates an enormous amount of time studying start-up events, VC and investor events and has a massive network of all three groups within our industry.
This year a new agenda was hand-crafted to provide valuable content, facilitate networking and provide mentoring for both start-ups and investors. The presentations included “how to” sessions, case-studies and the newly-launched “Brightest Minds Showcase”.
Today’s “Entrepreneurial Success Case Studies” session featured serial entrepreneur Max Wright, a professional with over a decade of experience in the online gambling industry. Wright used to run a Microgaming casino and then founded White Hat Gaming, a casino and bingo software provider. Wright spoke of two lessons he’s picked up along his journey, one being the importance of running a lean start-up, something he learned when he had to lay off 20-30% of his staff as an operator. “I didn’t want to do it, but did it…I thought it was going to be a disaster, but one week later, all was the same and everything was fine”, he said.
The other lesson Wright learned was starting up a company with good friends can be a good thing as the trust is already there. “The idea of don’t start a business with your friends is bollocks, don’t believe it”, he said. Wright emphasized the importance of 100% trust when choosing business partners and third parties to work with. “If you have any inclining of mistrust, don’t do it!” he warned.
This morning’s “Collaboration: Another Option” presentation was delivered by Will Mace of Kindred Futures, part of the Unibet family. Mace talked on how collaboration and partnerships are also a viable path for start-ups, its not just about acquisition and investment.
Mace believes partnering with a company like Kindred Futures can be a valuable route for a start-up and its growth, especially seeing as the start-up will have access to established organization resources such as designers, IT, data scientists, etc. In return, Kindred Futures are able to get their finger on the pulse of what’s out there, what’s the latest technology and innovation- a clever way to stay on top of the future.
After a morning dedicated to start-up education, the afternoon focused on the investor side of the business. The post-lunch “Investor Panel” featured an impressive line-up including Mark Blandford, Evan Hoff, Carla Maree Vella, Bruce Elliot and Simon Collins.
Blandford kicked of the discussion by emphasizing how important the quality of the management team is for a start-up. “Getting to know management well is absolutely vital…everything starts with management”, he said. Vella agreed and said it’s a compliment of team and product that’s most important to her. Hoff likes to know how the management handles a situation under pressure and Elliot said he much prefers to work with full-time founders as opposed to founders who are involved in other projects. “Often time the founder has five other jobs, etc. Do they have the capacity to get things done? When the founder is not full time, that gives us a big scare”, he said. Collins said he is most interested in companies that are solving a problem and makes sure its not just a lifestyle business.
When asked about exit strategies, Blandford warned that start-ups should not view an IPO as the “holy grail”. He also said he’s not concerned with fixed time frames and prefers to evaluate how things are going with the start-up and then deciding whether to stay or not as an investor. “If the opportunities are still big and the company has advantages, we will stay”, he said.
The “Brightest Minds Showcase” took up the rest of the afternoon and can be best defined as a pitch competition. During the showcase, 11 start-ups had the opportunity to describe their company in one minute by video or live presentation. A panel of mentors questioned the start-ups for three minutes immediately following each pitch and at the conclusion of the showcase, the mentors chose the winner.
This year’s start-ups included:
Bookee: Sportsbetting app b2c company
Commologic/BetUp: Live pool-betting competition
Fibetco: Financial betting concept
Full Color Games: Innovative card and casino games
i-pools: Simple social sports betting solution
Sportito: EU-facing DFS provider
Nous Global Markets Limited/TIQL: Financial spread betting platform
PlayTRex: Social poker games
Pvp.me: Betting exchange for eSports
LuckyChewy Poker: Poker software & social network company
MOWJOW LIMITED: New trivia concept
And the mentors were:
Mark Blandford, Burlywood Capital
Michael Caselli, Lyceum Media
Bruce Elliot, Boston Multi Family Office
Tom Edmonds, Harris Hagan
Chris Davis, NMi Gaming
Kieran Stroman, BDO LLP
At the conclusion of the pitches, Bookee was crowned the winner and will enjoy a prize package including 38 hours of mentoring from some of the brightest minds in the business and a CalvinAyre.com product profile video. This package offering of lot of valuable industry experience is worth well over £25,000 and Bookee founders Adam Wilson and Adam Kalmanson told CalvinAyre.com this was the first award they’ve ever won they absolutely love the prize.
The iGaming Entrepreneur Conference proved to be a fantastic event and an inspirational way to close out 2016 for CalvinAyre.com event coverage. We at CalvinAyre.com always love hearing about innovation in the industry and would like to urge all start-ups to check out our “ventures page” and let us know what you’re up to.