Adaptability And Agility: An Interview With iGaming CEO Sirp De Wit

12 March 2021

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The iGaming sector continues to employ thousands of people per year from a variety of different backgrounds.

The iGaming market is filled with lots of extremely talented and hardworking people, so it is no surprise that people flock to the Mediterranean island of Malta every year to work in the growing industry.

We have discussed in the past how multilingual employees are able to get a step ahead due to the number of geographical markets being targeted in iGaming (more on this soon). Companies such as All in Global are able to offer prospective iGaming workers the chance to test their language skills online before they showcase their credentials on their CV. iGaming offices in 2021 are truly global offices which consist of a variety of different cultures and people. Anyone who is looking to work in a multicultural office need look no further.

This brings us to Inovatiq, an iGaming setup with offices in the Sliema area of Malta. With an office consisting of employees from all corners of the world including, Japan, Malta, Sweden and the United Kingdom, we decided to speak with the CEO of the company, Sirp De Wit who gave us the low down on what it is like to work in the iGaming industry in 2021.

First of all, could you tell us a little bit more about yourself and Inovatiq?

I’ve been CEO at Inovatiq for almost three years. Started here on June 1st 2018 and the company was also incorporated in 2018, so I started a few months afterwards when the basic foundation was set. Before that, I was managing director at Highlight Media Group/Net Gaming which now rebranded to Acroud. I have been active in this industry for over 12 years now.

Inovatiq in a nutshell is a lead generating performance marketing company. We own assets which target several countries directly in Europe, North America and Asia. We are mainly working with organic SEO, trying to ensure that our websites rank as high as possible in the search engines so that we can send high value leads to the casino operators.

We have a small office in Sliema, Malta. We have a desk here for all our employees, but we are also fully remote, so everybody here has the option to work from wherever they want. This was already in place before the pandemic, so we did not have any difficulties to get up and running during the first lock down. Personally, I am quite keen on the office and I think it’s a big part of building a culture within an organisation. The pandemic opened my eyes to working remotely. I think the combination is fantastic, so we give the possibility for the employee to pick whatever is right for them. But I think it’s important that everyone has the option of being able to work together from one location, have a cup of coffee, play some FIFA, have some face-to-face meetings and have their own desk.

We are two months into the new year now, how has 2021 been so far?

2021 has been good so far. We saw good growth in 2020, and we entered 2021 with great speed. So, I am thrilled with what we are doing and proud of the team. They have been crushing it.

What do you think the reasons are for your recent growth?

It comes down to the operational execution. The team and attitude are key for our success. We have seen growth and on top of that, one must say that the pandemic has given us an extra 10-15 per cent boost simply from the fact that more people are seeking online entertainment. iGaming is clearly seeing this boost.

You touched upon Covid there, would you agree that gambling companies have been making a lot of extra money due to the frequent worldwide lockdowns then? This is currently a hot topic within UK media especially.

I can agree that due to the lockdown, more people are sitting inside and are seeking entertainment online. Certainly, I can agree that online casinos are having a higher turnover due to the lockdowns. In Sweden, they extended some restrictions, as they did in Spain. Most likely in other places in Europe, certain things will be put under the microscope again because of the lockdowns. I would say that due to higher turnovers within iGaming, people are predicting that problem gamblers need to be protected which is now as you said a hot topic in the UK.

As a company did you have quite tight plans and deadlines which helped to engineer success or are you able to be quite flexible?

Absolutely, we changed some plans. One must know that being flexible should be part of any strategy you might have in this industry. Market conditions change and therefore you must adapt. We came into this with a business plan with a set number of markets, sites and a set strategy per site. I have been doing this now for 12 years and although the plan is set you must be agile. There were certain markets which we did go into that we stopped working with. Simply, we did not see the return as expected. On the other hand, we have entered other markets because we got intel that those markets were more interesting than we had originally thought. We do run a tight schedule with tight executions from an operational perspective, but if we see that changes are needed than we act. We are a small company with 13 employees, so we are quite agile with that. For example, it is quite easy for us to shut down the focus in one market and enter a new one. Everything we do is online and digital so the speed itself is fast. At the same time, the expertise we have onboard here enables us to be agile. With the techniques that we use, if something is possible in one market then it is possible in another. Of course, you need the local touch as well, but overall, we can act fast when needed.

To put it plainly, we believe in a very tight execution, but you need to remain agile and you need to make sure that if a market does deliver better than expected, then put more resources into it. Alternatively, if you see that a market is not delivering, the worst thing you can do is delay the decision to terminate.

Is it perhaps easier for companies with a smaller number of employees to adjust then?

Absolutely. You must have the right crowd for it too though. It is very important from the top down to have the sort of mindset to showcase that you are a company which realises that after two to three months, when efforts are not giving the expected return, you are able to move the resources elsewhere. Obviously though, you must be careful with it. If you do it too often, then you become a company that flip-flops on the execution. As of February 2021, we are in seven markets directly which we are happy with. Those markets are growing well but at the same time, we have some new options for later on in the year.

We have been building up our main brand for the last few years now and it has become our global affiliate portal. The main markets for us are North America, Europe and Asia. In Europe, we are targeting northern Europe countries including Scandinavia and Germany. We have also added Japan. But I can confirm that gets visitors from other countries including India, some countries in Africa and South America too - so it has a global reach already.

Has it been straightforward to build up the brand or more of a battle?

It has been straightforward. It’s the same approach we would use for a single domain which targets only one country. The only difference is that, although you and I could see it as one site, is basically many sites in one. It is a multiple Geo domain setup which has many people working on it from different angles but then again it is still just one site. The site gets a lot of love from a content and marketing perspective and therefore the overall reach is a lot more powerful. Has it been a battle you ask? No. Again, this is a similar answer to the question you put forward earlier when you asked me if the company has a tight strategy: there is one strategy in play, but If we see that certain things don’t work, we change and act accordingly. So far, I must say that the website has gone according to plan.

I looked at the Invoatiq website and saw that you are donating £1 for every player sends to an operator, how is this going so far?

Firstly, talking about it again makes me feel good. I like giving something back and I think it’s good for the people here at Inovatiq to work on a product knowing that the more players we send the more we can donate to charity. I am sure we are not the only ones taking this initiative though, others are doing it too and I applaud them for it. But the other side of the coin is the marketing effect. We can use this as a marketing tool to reach out to other people in the world and show them that we are a bit more then just a casino affiliate site informing users about the most trusted casinos.

Could you tell me a little bit more about your donations so far?

In 2019, we donated to the Wildlife Victoria Foundation during the period where there were all of those wildfires in Australia. The foundation used our donation to help shelter animals and build up nature reserves for the animals. In the same year we also donated to charities which were involved with cleaning up the plastic from the oceans.

In 2020 we had a different angle, we connected with an athlete who goes by the name of Mark Slats who took part In the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. The challenge consisted of racing across the Atlantic in a rowing boat. This is mind-blowing when you think about it – Mark and his friend were on a rowing boat, for a period of 30 days, crossing the Atlantic during the month of December! They set a record whilst they did it. They also connected a charity to it too, so those guys raised money for the cancer foundation which is fantastic. We decided to put the full amount to the children’s cancer foundation, and we are very happy to have given that last year.

This year we are open from receiving input from our visitors. If they know of any charity foundations, they can email us. We already have some visitors giving us input. This year we will be donating again, and we will be publishing details on our website. Hope to be donating again over £10,000 by the end of the year.

Let’s talk about the markets now. We are currently hearing a lot of noise surrounding the iGaming markets in the UK and US markets. What is your opinion on those right now?

The UK market is certainly a massive market, but it is also very competitive. Even before the pandemic, the UK was a market which was perhaps slightly over-regulated. Don’t get me wrong, it is very important to protect the players but at some point, regulation can actually do the opposite of its intended purpose. Let’s put it this way, if you are a new affiliate or operator and you want to enter the UK market, it is most likely not an interesting market. There are certainly better markets to focus on which allow for a little less restrictions as well as a little less competition. The UK market is obviously still a fantastic market, it’s a beautiful market if you are already established, but to enter it now, it’s not as interesting.

The USA market on the other hand is the market of the future. It could be the biggest gambling market in six or seven years from now but most of the states are still locked up. There are some interesting states open now. Everyone is talking about it; it is a very hot potato, but our view is that the world is a lot bigger than most companies seem to think. There are what, 196 countries in the world? Even if you take out Europe and North America, there are still so many fantastic markets where you can set up a good business if you are an affiliate or an operator. Everyone is talking about the USA these days. However, in my opinion it is still many years away before it reaches the potential we are talking about. Obviously if a state like California was to open up, that would be a game changer. But that might not even happen within the next three or four years. The same goes for Texas and we don’t know if Texas will ever open up. But Texas and California are the types of states which make a difference. Most of the other states are still of course interesting but you need to consider all market conditions set for that state. If the conditions are good enough, everyone has to decide for themselves.

I think there are other emerging markets out there with lower hanging fruit whether you are an operator or an affiliate.

More and more markets are emerging, right? Are more jobs being created in the industry then?

For sure and Asia is developing quite fast now. Japan is one example. I’m not sure whether Japan can still be an emerging market as it has been on the landscape for quite a while now. There’s Vietnam, Thailand, etc there are quite some countries there which have potential. If you look at Eastern European countries, they are quite easy from a competition point of view and from a regulatory point of view. Africa is very interesting from a sports perspective if you look at Kenya or Nigeria, but it could take some more years before it hits that potential where you can compare it to other parts of the world. South America is another one; Brazil is showing growing numbers. Funnily enough Brazil was one of the markets where, when I started in this industry 12 years ago, was part of the emerging market landscape. 12 years later and it is still a part of the emerging market landscape. This shows again that it is never straightforward to predict.

Could you give some input as to how you see the future for Inovatiq?

There are many brands which we work with in many markets that fall under Inovatiq. Again, with the execution plan in play I predict that we will see good growth this year. We aspire to compete with listed companies that compete in the same segment alongside us. You need to strive to aim high. The higher you aim for the higher you go. We are already competing with these companies, so I am extremely happy with how we are doing it here with the low head count. I think that’s one of the main things that I’m proud of. I don’t see success in the size of the organisation, I look at the cash you can generate. What we are doing now is beautiful, but I am aware that we are still in an early phase of the growth stage and there is quite some external factors that could negatively affect this growth. We have not even come close to our full potential and I believe that at the end of this year, we will be a lot closer and that’s what I am trying to strive for now. Keep our head down and keep grinding while enjoying the ride most importantly. Then next year we can set out a foundation for the future. We are in no hurry.

Finally, do you foresee that iGaming will continue in Malta? Is the government still satisfied with the iGaming companies?

Yes, I think so. Malta is a great place for the iGaming companies, there are lots of good people who work here. The country is basically set up to support these sorts of companies. However, there are some issues. For example, banking – it’s a little bit tricky to open bank accounts here. It’s harder to be receiving funds when you have a global reach due to banking restrictions. Of course, the laws are there for a reason, but it does create a little bit of a bottle neck. It seems that other countries are a little bit more straightforward regarding handling these things. It is not really Malta that is the issue though it’s just how it has been set up. Other than that, Malta is a small place with many companies within iGaming located here. So automatically you have limitations with getting access to good staff and you need a good strategy for retaining them. But regardless, I still regard Malta as a great place to set up a company within this niche. Like always sometimes it’s good to shake it up a bit, not get too lazy and to make sure that the infrastructure is in place to ensure that iGaming companies remain on the island. But Malta has all that we need to deliver on our plans. It is our trusted home for now.