In this edition of Innovation in iGaming Profiles we spent some time with Paul Dolman-Darrall, serial entrepreneur and Founder of Gamevy. We first learned of Gamevy as a Pitch ICE 2015 contestant and this innovative start-up won the hearts of the industry and wound up as the winner.
Gamevy is a B2C company that builds online games, offering players a blend of skill and luck with mechanics inspired by gameshows. Dolman-Darral is a gameshow connoisseur with a passion for the gameshow concept and for his company that is unmistakeable and inspiring.
We took a tour of Dolman-Darral’s offices in London and had the opportunity to discuss the innovation behind Gamevy, learn the mechanics behind Gamevy’s “The Heist” and “Gears of Fortune” games and what it takes to be an innovator in the online gambling industry today.
Becky Liggero: Today I’m with Paul Dolman-Darrall. He is the Founder of Gamevy, a B2C company that brings TV gameshows and casino games online and allows anyone to play in a gameshow-like atmosphere. Paul’s company was the winner of Pitch ICE 2015- congratulations on that by the way- so what was it about Gamevy that just won over the audience and got all the votes that you needed to take home that title?
Paul Dolman-Darrall: I think its two things, really. The first thing is the idea is really simple. It’s a gameshow that you play rather than you watch. And we’ve all watched gameshows, we’ve all grown up with them, they’re on television all the time, we get them. It’s a really simple idea. You play them rather than watch them. The second thing is it’s a truly innovative idea. We haven’t got the ability to play a real gameshow where you can win prizes at all on mobile, a tablet or PC. So it’s a really simple, innovative idea and I think that’s what makes it stand out.
BL: You’ve got two games I’m familiar with that you showed me earlier, can you describe how each of those games works and why they are truly unique in the market today?
PDD: So they key thing is we allow you as a player to have skill in the game, that your actions actually have a real consequence on your ability to win. We have two games coming out to begin with, the first one is called “The Heist”- you take ten steps towards the vault and you can “steal” the jackpot – its all about you choosing which path you’re going to take and answering the questions to get you to the prize.
Our second game is completely different. We don’t just re-skin our games, we actually build whole new game mechanics so it feels like a totally different gameshow. And our second gameshow is “Gears of Fortune”. Gears of Fortune, you spin the wheel, you collect the symbols and if you can collect the right symbols, you can walk way with a thousand pounds from just the one pound bet. And in fact, you can bet a pound more when you want and win up to ten thousand, even one hundred thousand pounds.
BL: Ya, it’s this really cool blend between – its luck and its skill – its really a cool idea and I know you have a background, you’re an entrepreneur from when you were a small child. I think you sold ink to children…
PDD: Fountain cartridges at the age of eight…
BL: Ya, so can you briefly tell me the journey that you’ve been on since you were selling ink cartridges at eight years old to starting up this company here in London?
PDD: I have been involved in start-ups all along, but like anyone else I’ve had to go out and earn money as a career, but I can’t help but come up with crazy ideas. And this is one of the strange, crazy ideas that I had actually even dreamt about and came up with the idea that we should just all be allowed to take part in gameshows.
Why do I have to go through this painful process to go on television, I just want to be on a gameshow right now. And then a very, very long time later, I happened to get together with our two other founders, Helen and Dan, who we worked on a previous start-up together which was actually successful and it all just felt like the right time. We all came together, we shared differing ideas, I shared my crazy dream that everybody could take part in gameshows and maybe we could build a gameshow company.
Again I think because of the simplicity and the innovativeness of the idea Helen and Dan who I wouldn’t necessarily describe as the gameshow geek I am, were like “wow, this looks like a good idea”. And you can’t build a start-up by yourselves, by getting them involved we were able to build out the team of ten that we have today.
BL: So in this dream of yours, what are some of the gameshows that you really enjoyed and what was it about those shows that really interested you?
PDD: Wow, you know, I love every single gameshow and to give you an idea, in just the three week period when we started this company, together we watched over three thousand different gameshows from America, Israel, Germany, Japan, to look at different gameshows, all the way from the 1950s to now.
But there are ones I grew up with as a child and then as an adult you think of and there are some real game changers, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Deal or no Deal, the ones we can all name, but I love all of it- and the astonishing thing is, I’m not some 60 year old grey-haired man. Maybe I’m getting a little bit older but the demographic for gameshows is very wide, its not male, its not female, it’s a very broad demographic.
There are these people who just adore gameshows, and the incredible thing is you see it in pub quizzes in this country, a particularly British phenomenon compared to some places- two million people in the United Kingdom take part in pub quizzes weekly. Any time we do any sort of gameshow format or quiz format in the United Kingdom it just takes off. And we want to be the company that just takes off.
BL: Amazing. This would explain why you have your license here in the UK with a focus on this market
PDD: That’s correct.
BL: Very good. To participate in the Pitch ICE, you were working with GamCrowd, which is a crowd funding, crowd sourcing type company. From your perspective, how helpful is it to get involved with companies that are crowd sourcing and crowd funding when you’re trying to get a big name for a start-up?
PDD: Well, when you’re a start-up and you’re surrounded by big companies – this is an industry with some enormous companies who as you know from ICE, they turn up with giant stands- there was one particular stand where you could go on a tube, jump on a bus, sit on a sofa, go relax in the lounge and that’s just a stand and it was like an enormous city being built in the middle of ICE.
So when you’re a ten man start-up, and you’re attempting to sort of take on these companies, the reality is you have to work with others and anyone who wants to work with you, whether they are partners, whether they are people who get you finance, people who might even give you helpful advice, that’s really, really useful and you kind of just have to except it otherwise you just won’t succeed as a start-up.
BL: Yes and actually I’m going to look to you for a nice piece of advice since you have so much experience in starting up companies and testing out new markets. What piece of advice would you give- if you had one piece- to all the entrepreneurs out there in the world who want to make their mark in the online gambling industry?
PDD: Ohh one piece of advice…I would say it’s a really weird one which is, “just do it”.
In reality if you look at most people they want to talk about being entrepreneurs, they love the idea that yea, I could create my own start-up, but you will just create constant excuses as to why you shouldn’t do it. And that is the typical, average person out there. Oh I’ve just had kids, I’ve just got married, I’m doing well in my career…there will be excuses as to why you can’t do it. And the reality is that if you’re well enough off, I don’t mean super rich, I’m not a billionaire, I’m not one of these people who can afford a giant stand at ICE, but if you have just enough money and enough inclination, if you just do it, that will be the thing that makes a difference.
And you might not succeed, not every person who builds a start-up succeeds in their first start-up. I cannot sit there and claim every single idea I’ve ever had has turned into a phenomenal success, but just doing it is the key bit of advice I’d give.
BL: Excellent and lets hope that Gamevy is that phenomenal success that we’re looking for.
PDD: Thank you.
BL: And Paul, thank you so much, we love your idea.