The term “iGaming Lifer” is often thrown around between online gambling industry professionals and chances are it’s a term you could use to describe yourself. For those of us who have been working in iGaming for a number of years, it’s hard to imagine leaving the industry and those who have tried leaving at some point almost always come back. Hence the term, iGaming Lifer.
What is true about iGaming Lifers is that they tend to jump from company to company, popping up at the next conference manning a different booth with a new business card. While the incestuous nature of the industry is a given, before making any career changes, it’s important to consider the size of the company you’ve got your eyes on and understand what is going on behind the scenes.
There are pros and cons to working for big, established companies vs. start-ups and the same rings true for public or state-owned vs. private companies. Clearly there are advantages to both sides of the coin and different people flourish in different environments- the trick is figuring out which environment is the one is for you.
Henrik Granlund, a good friend and a fellow iGaming Lifer, has recently made the move from a big state operator to a small iGaming start-up, PlayHippo.com. Granlund’s years of experience in iGaming, his work style and his skill set have landed him in an environment he loves and is thriving in.
While he’s happier working for a start-up, Granlund acknowledges the long hours involved and the advantages of working in a larger company. We had the opportunity to have a chat about the pros and cons of working for both types of companies and how players and affiliates can benefit from trying out smaller, more nimble online gambling brands.
Becky Liggero: Lovely to see you as always, Henrik and congratulations on your new venture, PlayHippo.com. You previously worked for a big, state owned iGaming operator for almost six years – from your point of view, what are the pros and cons of working for a larger company?
Henrik Granlund: The bigger a company is (and state owned tend to be big) the more structured it is as well, which many see as a “pro” but in the marketing part of the business it makes a company react a bit slower when out of the ordinary things occurs such as a big jackpot win.
Many of the competitors had advertisement and newsletters sent out congratulating the big win on the specific game, but the company where the actual win occurred didn’t get the news out there in time to fully capitalize on it.
In general I would say a state owned is a no thrills operation but a very safe one for the players and the same is true for the employees. It is a safe working environment where you have the option to try new things after it has been approved and there is not as big of a pressure if you fail – so it is a more forgiving environment where you can take longer time to reach a conclusion or a method that works.
BL: Interesting and I think people who work for public companies vs. private would echo your thoughts above on speed. So what are the pros & cons of working for a small iGaming start-up?
HG: The working hours would by many be seen as a big “con”, as in there are no fixed working hours at all in the beginning, you work until the project is working as it should. On the other hand you should have the motivation to spend those hours or you are not the right person at the right position. Everyone is really working on creating the best user experience for the players, and no one really sees it as a 9-5 job.
You either hate working like that or you love it.
BL: It’s true, only some people are cut out for the start-up environment. Why did you decide to make the transition from a big state owned company to a start-up?
HG: For me personally I wanted to prove a point that you don’t have to be 400 employees to produce a good product to market and a good product for the members playing at your site.
By focusing on a few core skills and letting experts in other fields help you by supplying a great platform you can succeed with a small but dedicated and experienced team.
Also I wanted to challenge myself and prove that the ideas I had would work and that it would be shown in the reaction from the players on our site as well.
I guess only the future can prove me right or wrong, but it is looking very good already so I am very pleased with my transition.
BL: That is great news, Henrik. Now lets zoom in on customer perspective- what are the biggest differences between playing at a State-owned vs. Entrepreneurial gambling site?
HG: Since state owned are a bit slower at adapting it usually takes longer time for new games to be released or other features that will improve the service for players.
Comparing PlayHippo with my previous employer we already have more games, a better bonus system in my mind, more payment solutions and longer opening hours for support than them but we are also only offering a casino product that we believe in rather then a big portfolio of products to spread the risks.
Another benefit when launching something from “scratch” is that you can design the functions exactly they way you want it, and by using the smaller sized company that you are in the beginning, you are so much more agile to adapt to changes so I think that players would still see a small brand as PlayHippo as a very competitive brand in comparison to the so called bigger one.
So I would say that for players going to new brands in general are only beneficial since those are the sites that really put the player in the center of attention and are still hungry to make a difference or at least that is the case with us.
BL: I think the word “agile” summarizes it all. What about when it comes to affiliates- why would they benefit from promoting smaller brands such as PlayHippo.com over some of the bigger brands that are out there?
HG: I don’t think an affiliate has ever attended a conference or talked to a startup and not heard the classic sales pitch that “since this is a new brand all players are potentially new players that you can send to us”.
Personally, I think if that is the sales pitch for a new brand you are in big trouble. All brands should be compared equally. So an affiliate should choose us if they want a converting brand that offers a bit of extra for the players.
I talk to a lot of affiliates and they are very concerned that you don’t have a huge marketing budget and are visible all over the place, but it doesn’t matter if we spend tons of money if the critical parts are missing. Conversion, Retention and Player Lifetime!
The players will be happy and keep coming back to our site. Nowadays there are very few operators that can keep 100% of a players gaming wallet, they will play at several casinos each month – you just have to make their playing experience a good one and they will come back and that will in turn generate good revenues for our affiliates as well.
BL: Sounds good, Henrik. Before we wrap things up, what piece of advice do you have for anyone who wants to start up their own online gambling business?
HG: Prepare yourself to work a lot of hours, don’t see this as a quick way of making money but rather see this as the way of creating a working environment that you can see yourself spend a lot of years being excited and proud working for and with.
Keep the players in mind since they are the people who actually build your brands.
Lastly collaborate with a great team, since you will be working a lot of hours and you need to be able to handle the good and the bad.
BL: That’s great advice, Henrik and thank you so much for your time today. Best of luck with your new team and we’ll see you at the next iGaming event.