It’s the time of the year again, folks. Well, almost.
The third edition of the annual Summit of iGaming Malta (SiGMA) will be held on 16th to 19th of November, and those four working days of networking opportunities will bring together over 3,000 iGaming executives, suppliers, vendors, service providers and affiliated under the roof of the Intercontinental Arena.
CalvinAyre.com caught up with SiGMA founders Eman Pulis and Dennis Dyhr-Hansen, two guys from different backgrounds that built an annual major event—one that is based on bromance.
You guys made it look so easy, at least in hindsight, but how did SiGMA really started?
Eman Pulis: Truth be told, until three years ago I had no idea what the gaming industry was all about. All I knew was that it was an important engine for Malta’s economy. I have, however, some 13 years experience organizing events, specifically in Malta. I was still a university student bringing DJs to Malta as a hobby which soon turned into a small business. One of my best memories remains Bob Sinclar’s 2006 festival, which attracted some 8,000 party goers. I still remember vividly sticking flyers to car wipers, designing, printing and selling tickets, sticking posters on campus and busy junctions, chasing friends to help spread the word… all this before Facebook.
As I grew older I started organizing more expos instead of parties. 2012 was the time I threw the last party and hung the gloves. Since then I never looked back on that scene (well, excluding the infamous SiGMA Closing Night, of course). Sometimes, however, I still see SiGMA as a glorified party, where speakers replaced DJs, hostesses replaced dancers, and delegates replaced clubbers.
Looking back, there is very little I would change. The execution plan and results were pretty cool with SiGMA so far. From a local events organizer, I now have a broader business perspective. SiGMA has become an international event.
Dennis has been a great mentor since day one and I owe the success of the event to him. He put his contacts and his trustworthiness on the line the first year. So failing was not an option for me.
Dennis Dyhr-Hansen: I was very excited with the project when Eman made his pitch. I remember meeting him at a local restaurant in Sliema, where he came with a bulky, unimpressive laptop and showed me some numbers and a detailed plan. I knew of his events. My partners from Denmark had even attended his last party in 2012 and that was somehow helpful in persuading them of his abilities to carry this project forward. The next board meeting went something like this,
Dennis “I have this proposal in front of me by Eman. He is the same guy that organized LoveSexy in 2012 in Amazonia, remember that party?”
Morten: “How can I forget that VIP? Is he doing another one?”
Dennis: “No but he wants us to partner up for an iGaming show.”
Morten, Mikael, Mikael, Morten: “Yes, why not.”
Dennis: This is one of the most solid partnerships I’ve had in my business careers. We complement each other very well and can only see bright things for the future. I must admit I had my awkward silence moments the first few months until Eman caught up with the industry. We would walk into a meeting and he would tell the likes of Yggdrasil that we would be bringing in many affiliates, not understanding that they are not an operator, but a B2B. But he caught up.
Bottom line, operators want traffic, and with Matching Visions we have had a great working relationship with most of them. So it wasn’t so hard to persuade them to take a booth the first year.
For SiGMA’s third year, you are promising—once again—an even bigger show. How are you planning to live up to that promise?
Last year we took the decision to reinvest the pennies earned into the show again. We engaged not one, but two full timers, Sophie and Jarek, as well as an experienced business development manager, Anthony, who has many contacts and experience in the industry.
We could then focus on building the business and new strategic partnerships. We carried out a meticulous survey to find out what delegates truly want. As a result, we implemented some changes right away, before the turn of the year.
We needed a strong campaign to generate more interest among affiliates. So we took some inspiration from the movie 300 and, in an unprecedented move, are giving away the equivalent in flights for affiliates from all over Europe and Tel Aviv. Exhibiting operators were encouraged to invite VIP guests, flights on us, and throw a string of hospitality events around SiGMA. After all, Malta lends itself quite well for wining, dining and late night shenanigans.
We decided to give free standing lunch and premium coffee breaks on both days, giving delegates more time for business.
In addition, the idea of a ‘SiGMA Pitch’ should go down well with so many start-ups, innovators and investors. With so many mergers and acquisitions, expect some serious deals to be made in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ -like environment.
Many also wished for our dates to be further away from our friends from BAC and EiG so the we agreed to shift the show a month away from Berlin, creating a dynamite Malta Gaming Week.
We also have new conference partnerships with the likes of KPMG, who is adding a third e-summit in Malta on top of their Gibraltar and Isle of Man e-summits. Other partnerships have been cemented with the BiG Foundation, iGaming Academy and the MGA as well as Random Consulting’s Mario Galea and Aideen Shortt. The latter two will be co-organizing an iGaming booth camp for top executives.
We added a lot of networking events, dinners, drinks too. Andy Jones, who only until last year was a partner at MiGS, will be setting up one of the largest booths at SiGMA this year. We are also working closely with him to throw an unforgettable Aliquantum Welcome Party.
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What are your plans moving forward?
We have been tempted to emulate the success of SiGMA with a second show. However, we ultimately decided that we didn’t want to take away from the strength of our show in Malta. We spend an entire 12 months curin this one show and, for the time being, we want to keep it this way.
We do, however, organize a good number of networking dinners, all aimed at fostering a networking environment in time for SiGMA. We labeled these networking events iGatherings. A select crowd of 200 executives is invited and seated strategically to maximize networking in a pleasant environment.
On top of that, we publish our SiGMA magazine twice yearly. That too is fast becoming a well respected publication in the industry, where the focus is on Malta, yes, but also on different personalities within the industry. For instance, our last cover story dealt not only with Bit8’s acquisition by Intralot, but with the person behind the brand, his love for IT and mathematics. Business is ultimately done among people, not among companies, and this publication sheds light on the persons behind successful brands.