EEGaming: First, let me thank you for doing this interview. It means a lot to have such a highly ranked professional’s interview among our list of persons we have interviewed during our period of existence. I know the year is not over yet, however looking back at 2016, what were the key developments for you and EveryMatrix?
Ebbe Groes: You’re most welcome, I am happy to respond to your questions and to be able to reflect upon our company’s evolution.
From a commercial point of view, from the start of the year our number of clients grew by more than 30 new and established operators, which is a sign that we can serve large operators on the market with the same success.
We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to re-write all our main products; the sports, casino and payments solutions are almost ready to showcase and some of the new modules are already live. Rewriting a large complex application is very time-consuming and can be a bit frustrating at times since you have to maintain the old application as well. 2016 was a year like that, but we’re now close to completion, gearing up sales and seeing the results starting to appear commercially as well. I’m a firm believer in continuous re-investment into software and pretty proud of where we’re going at the moment.
Some early results? Well, our sportsbook solution is now able to deliver more than 25,000 live events per month. Our casino product has kept its top position in the industry as the best casino platform with 4,000 games and constantly new features added.
2016 also brought the biggest brand yet signed by EveryMatrix, one I hope to announce before ICE. But stay tuned! We’ve expanded our sales team, both with product specialists within casino and sports, and with a new Commercial Director. We made great efforts to bring account managers closer to sales team members and make sure things move faster for our clients.
EEGaming: Are the current laws and regulations which have been implemented and somehow forced on software providers helping business or are they slowing it down?
Ebbe Groes: First thing to notice is that legislations differ quite a lot, both in terms of financial and technical requirements. There’s an obvious and legitimate desire to create tax revenues from our sector which we should respect – along with desires to improve players’ protection. So overall we welcome this development. It will overall help grow the market and ensure a level playing field.
I am also happy and appreciative for some of the technical requirements imposed upon us from various regulators as they can serve to reduce fraud, chargebacks and other maladies of our industry.
This doesn’t mean that things can’t be improved and my largest concerns would be the failure to properly protect license holders against competition from non-licensed providers and the occasional countries putting up massive back taxes or entry fees, essentially pushing some companies towards remaining in the grey zone.
EEGaming: A company of the size of EveryMatrix can’t stand still for too long, it must bring new technology and innovations. What are the little secrets that help EveryMatrix in innovating yet again?
Ebbe Groes: It’s not only that we can’t stand still for too long, but we cannot afford to do that.
In the online gaming industry change is constant and every major player is aware that technology and innovation are necessary elements for any company that wants to advance.
Our approach to technological innovation has been influenced by our clients’ demands and requirements, so using the latest technology in bringing the best products into the market comes as a natural element in delivering better services for players.
So, that would be our little secret: Listen to your clients and recognize the great suggestions that will help proper further growth. This way, the right kind of demanding client can help you for years to come and one should actively seek such clients, even at the expense of others that might bring higher revenues in the short term.
While big parts of our product development are fueled by visionary product developers in EveryMatrix, I can point to a couple of areas from our last couple of years that would not have been nearly as good without demanding and knowledgeable clients.
One is the huge role of API driven development. We’re today probably the most advanced provider in the world when it comes to what you can build yourself around an EveryMatrix solution. We can split up the products and modules allowing clients to add, in-house or from others, exactly what they need, typically around user experience with front end and CRM as the key areas.
The other is our Asian-focused agent management system, which keeps being improved at a quite impressive speed on the back of client requests.
EEGaming: Are there any standards that you follow in order to access new markets?
Ebbe Groes: In general, we’re blessed with being quite flexible in our approach, being privately held, able to invest when we wish without having to keep to certain profit targets, and owned by management.
When it comes to new markets, be it in terms of products or geographies, we seek to only enter when we believe that we can make a difference and be a key player. This is one reason we’re not targeting Africa and the Americas in 2016 and probably 2017 as well. Doing Europe and Asia is quite sufficient. Each area comes with its own demands and we can’t be the best everywhere, yet.
EEGaming: What about expansion? There is definitely a plan for that, but tell us, what are the important steps and what are the things that need to be avoided?
Ebbe Groes: We’ve by and large grown organically. Fast but without (large) mergers and acquisitions. This gives a quite harmonious organization, a staff that I’m proud of working with and whom I truly feel buy into our company’s vision and goals.
Still, as we’ve grown it’s become harder to maintain the entrepreneurial spirit of the past. Key people don’t scale, including myself and my co-founder Stian Hornsletten, and that forces more thinking into organization. Of course, hiring smartly into middle management is one way but we believe it is not enough.
In 2016 we took the quite radical decision to aim for splitting up our company in virtual sub-companies, each with their own management team. So, a CEO, CTO, COO, head of sales, account manager, support for our sports product, OddsMatrix. This management team can focus fully on their product, technically, operationally, commercially, aiming to make it – stand alone – the best it can be, taking control and competing against the best in the business. We did the same for Casino, for Payments and the other solutions.
It’s still early, but overall I feel it was a move that is paying off handsomely – and will do so even more as we progress and gain experience with this. I think the only other alternative would have been to give up some of the business areas and focus purely on one or two products, as for instance Evolution and Kambi are doing.
I believe this split into verticals is what will allow us to yet again double and re-double our size, both in terms of revenues and even to handle well the continuous growth of staff.
EEGaming: Do you have any products that will soon be released?
Ebbe Groes: We have more than one, I’m happy to say. But if I should mention our biggest investment, biggest gamble even, it’s our new payments company MoneyMatrix.
MoneyMatrix is a brand-new payment processing platform that encompasses new technologies and security protocols to keep customer financial details safe. The new payment solution is PCI DSS Level 1 Compliant, including full control of transactions, better risk management and detailed reporting. It’s built upon a combination of our own experience and that of the highly competent people we brought on board for this. MoneyMatrix will hold a payment service provider licence from the Malta Financial Service Authority which allows us to contract for payments alone large clients within and outside the gaming industry, fully detached technically and commercially from our platform, sports, and casino business. It’s a strong team, a remarkable product and I personally can’t wait for the ICE 2017 unveiling!
EEGaming: How’s the feedback regarding the current products?
Ebbe Groes: Feedback for a software company can be measured in signed deals and volumes going through the platform. With that measuring stick, we are happy. I like our industry for many reasons. One of them is that there’s a quite good correlation between quality and success. Hype doesn’t last for too long, the actors are too smart, too well-informed for that.
But hey, industry appreciation is nice too. So, we’re glad to notice a series of positive signals from the industry, such as securing White Label Partner of the Year at the EGR B2B Awards 2016 in London and “Best Sports betting software provider based on Open Business Relationship” and “Best casino software provider based on Open Business Relationship” awards at CEEGC 2016 in Budapest.
EEGaming: If you could choose one celebrity to promote any of your products, who would you choose and why?
Ebbe Groes: Denise Coates, the Bet365 founder and chief exec, whom I respect immensely for the product, company, and results. EveryMatrix is a B2B company and I can’t think of anyone whose endorsement would carry more weight with decision makers in our industry. So, go home Messi and Murray, and give me Denis Coates for my celeb promoter!