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    GPWA Aaron is offline Former Staff Member
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    Default Affiliate Interview Series | Assaf - stassaf

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    Age: 40
    Hometown: Haifa
    Living in: Israel
    Favorite Food: Indian
    Must Read Book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
    Sites:
    odds1x2.com
    cheltenham-odds.me.uk
    grandnational-odds.me.uk

    When did you launch your site?
    My main site, Odds1x2.com, was launched in September, 2004. It was half a year after Iíd returned from five months travelling in Asia Ė mainly India; this trip was extremely inspiring and opened my mind to new ideas and made me think about how I would want my life to unfold. I decided to follow my own path when I returned from my travels and combined two things I love: computer programming and sports.

    What is it about your odds-comparison offerings that give visitors to your site a unique and valuable user experience?
    Unlike sites that focus on offers and banners, I think that odds comparison is all about the customer and finding a mechanism to provide them with the right tools to get the most from their betting experience. Our cutting edge technology means faster and more accurate data presented through our unique and attractive user interface, which is focused on helping our users by simplifying things as much as possible. This is what makes us stand out from the crowd: Less superficial glitz, more substance.

    How long did it take to develop the odds comparison offering? What were some of the challenges in getting it up and running?
    Iím a software engineer and all the core technology was based on my knowledge and past experience. The core application was developed in six months, but since then we having been constantly improving our product on an almost daily basis to meet the challenges and needs of our customers in an ever-changing landscape.

    The most important aspect of an odds comparison site is a fast, automated application that fetches and analyzes data from the operators and then presents it to the users in an attractive format. Weíre talking about millions of fragments of data that need to be updated in a matter of seconds and automation is the only solution.

    One of the biggest challenges weíve faced is the plethora of different methods the operators use to deliver the data, and getting the data from different operators to match our own systems. The biggest variation between operators tends to be the league and team names. For instance, you could find on our system more than 20 variations just for Manchester United (Man Utd, Man United, Manchester Utd, and so on). The application needs to match all those variations and the relevant fixture quickly and efficiently; otherwise the data presented to the visitor will be inaccurate and irrelevant.

    How often do things change (say, with one of the operators you work with) that require you to redevelop or revamp your code?
    Our approach to things is proactive rather than reactive and weíre constantly working on improving our offerings and giving our customers better products, even if there are no changes with the operatorsí integrations. We brainstorm on a weekly basis, trying to build new tools based on the feedback we receive and our experience in this industry; we place the customer at the center of everything we do.

    Daily maintenance is required as new teams/events enter the system from operators, but major updates in the way we integrate their systems are not so frequent. If an operator happens to change its method of integration it requires a whole lot of programming work, redeveloping the code (sometimes from scratch) and changing some of our systems.

    How important is this type of service to a sports bettor?
    I think itís an essential service. Before buying something like a laptop or a phone, a smart customer will look for the best price in stores and online. Why wouldnít smart punters look for the best return on their bets given that the differences can sometimes be as high as 30 percent between bookmakers?

    In the beginning the service was targeting professional punters, but as time passed we saw that the product appealed increasingly to more casual bettors who are looking for better value in their bets. We provide a service to smart consumers.

    What are some of the advantages of targeting players that are looking for the best possible odds? Are there any disadvantages?
    Customers who are looking for the best odds tend to be more professional so on one hand you take a risk on the more knowledgeable punters winning more regularly, but on the other hand the engagement from those customers is very high as they have strong intent on placing bets and opening new accounts. Those customers also bet in high volume and their account life expectancy is much greater. In the end, we believe in the old adage that in the long term the house always wins.

    You also make your odds comparison services available to third-party sites. Can you describe how those relationships developed? Do you worry that, while it's nice to get the fees they pay, that you're losing potential affiliate revenue from players who are seeing your product on someone else's site?
    A few years ago as a strategy of expanding we started to offer odds comparison solutions to third parties, those companies who wonít start to build an odds comparison offering from scratch due to the required investment in time, manpower and expertise.

    Those relationships initially started from personal relations with other affiliates. From there it was word of mouth. In my humble opinion we have a great service and very competitive prices. We got a big boost by cultivating relationships and gaining valuable feedback on the GPWA forums too.

    Ten years ago we wouldnít even think about providing services to other sites, but as the competition in the field of odds comparison increased we understood that the benefits outweighed the risk of losing some traffic.

    One of the results of comparing odds is that your site is able to identify arbitrage opportunities. Can you give those who may not know what arbitrage is a quick definition?
    Bookmakers use traders to calculate their odds and sometimes due to different opinions and other internal factors, a situation emerges which means that if you back both outcomes in a two-way market (letís say on a tennis match) on two different betting sites youíll lock in a guaranteed profit.

    Hereís a short example that will explain it simply Ė letís say Roger Federer is facing Rafael Nadal in tennis:

    At Bookmaker #1, Federer is priced at 2.1

    At Bookmaker #2, Nadal is priced at 2.05

    Backing them both on those two sites will guarantee you a profit of 3.7 percent.

    You even offer a calculator for players to indicate how much they should bet on each side on each site. How difficult was it to build this technology into your site? What do affiliate programs think of this function?

    To tell you the truth once you have the accurate odds itís not hard to add this feature. The issue here is that bookmakers watch out for Arb players and change these odds in seconds to avoid this kind of situation.

    I know that some operators use this feature on our site as part of risk management, so thereís also a benefit for them. A select few bookmakers asked not to be included on this Arb service and of course we removed them from it immediately.

    If your players follow only these opportunities, they're going to win over the long term, right? And if you have winning players, it's hard to collect a commission. How do you profit off this betting model?

    Arbs are very nice in theory, but it is almost impossible to make long term earnings from them from a practical point of view.

    I know from experience that arbs change very fastóin split seconds sometimesóas bookmakers keep a close eye to avoid this situation and have other measures to avoid arb players.

    We think itís basically a ďnice to haveĒ feature of the site like dropping odds and other market movements features, but without automated applications that will place bets for these players I only see a very few players making real money from this feature.

    Also those players tend to place non-arb bets and play in other verticals such as casino and poker, so I really donít see it hurting our earnings nor those of the bookmakers.

    You also run several niche sites focused on horse racing. Compared to the odds1x2.com, how much work does it take to keep these sites updated?
    A part of our strategy in recent years has been to diversify into horse racing micro sites dedicated to the biggest events on the racing calendar such as Cheltenham, Royal Ascot and the Grand National meetings.

    Horse racing odds change very frequently as the race approaches and we had to build a solution that is very fast and reliable in order to meet the demands of the players. These event-specific sites generally require a lot of preparation from around two months before the event and for the rest of the year itís a case of maintenance and routinely adding content.

    Weíre going to be launching a new site soon which will be a portal for all horse racing punters covering all the events in one place.

    What's the long-term value of players that sign up for accounts for these special events?
    These players are usually not long-term ones, but some stick. If we take the Grand National for example then statistics shows that up to 54 percent of the U.K. population place a bet on this event, most of them in small amounts. Many of them will not remain active for long, but in my experience itís worth it for the customers who do.

    How did you become involved in the industry?
    I started to develop an application that compared stock prices and thought about how I could make money from similar comparison applications. My love of sports led me to sports betting as a comparison app perfectly meets the needs of customers in this market and the available affiliate programs offered a way to make a living out of it.

    How long did it take for you to start earning money?
    I worked as a senior developer for a good company with a decent salary and I decided to try something on my own. I gave it six months to see the potential.

    When I launched the odds comparison site the competition was very low, so I think after less than four months I started to see real revenues. I never expected it to happen so swiftly.

    Are you a one-person shop or are you part of a larger organization?
    I founded the company initially based on my programming knowledge and it evolved from there. As a strategy I prefer to outsource tasks to other companies to keep me focused on the big picture. So content management, SEO and some of the software development work is outsourced and the rest is up to me.

    Describe your work environment. Do you work from home? How often do you get to see and interact with other people in the industry?
    I still work from home as it's very convenient. I have my own separated office within the house which is solely devoted to work.

    In the longer term, I intend to establish an office and hire some employees to take development in-house.

    I interact with industry people every day by e-mail, Skype and over the phone and Iím a regular attendee of all the main conferences.

    What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?
    The traits I value most in both an affiliate manager and in a program are professionalism, good communication, and above all, integrity.

    The affiliate managers that I like have a deep understanding of the industry and are in a position to exchange ideas and make our sites better, and as a result our cooperation with them is more fertile and beneficial than with some other operators we work with. The programs I enjoy working with most are approachable and stand behind their words.

    I really donít like managers who push you banners without understanding the nature of your customers and operators that hire managers like that donít understand this industry.

    In an affiliate program I look for a good revenue share plan, as we believe the earnings are much greater in the long term with revenue share than with CPA. We also look for a reliable and accurate affiliation system and a very good affiliate manager.

    Whatís your preferred method of communication with affiliate managers? Do you like to talk on the phone, by e-mail or via Skype?
    I prefer e-mail, because it keeps things in order and itís easy to find things you talked about months ago. Skype is also a good channel for urgent issues and to use as an introduction to new faces.

    What prompted you to join the GPWA? How has it helped you?
    Meeting colleagues, learning from them and exchanging ideas is a necessity in any industry and in ours I think GPWA does it in the best possible way. I canít recall when I first heard about it, but Iíve been a loyal member since 2008.

    GPWA has helped me to keep track of industry changes and to encourage meeting other affiliates. The good reviews weíve received from customers on the forums have also boosted our third-party-services offering. We have quite a few customers thanks to the GPWA!

    How often do you attend industry trade shows or conferences? Are there any events that youíve attended more than once?
    For the last eight years I donít think I have missed more than a couple of conferences (which were due to other obligations). I think conferences are the best networking environment for people in this industry and itís a perfect meeting place to interact with your affiliate managers.

    The conferences in Amsterdam and Barcelona are great, but I still think LAC in London is the best conference and a must-attend event for affiliates.

    What do you like about the industry?
    I think this industry combines a fine balance of business and fun; I like the tempo and the way things are constantly evolving, and, most of all, the people in this industry are very talented and working with them is a pleasure.

    If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
    Iíd say the legal issues, but we donít have too much control over it.

    I would like to see an organized entity that could effectively represent the affiliatesí interests in every aspect of this industry, who would solve disputes and above all will take care of the affiliatesí interests.

    Right now there a few websites that try to help affiliates, but thereís no organization with teeth that can effectively represent us.

    What do your family and friends think of your work as an affiliate?
    They have a lot of respect for the fact that Iíve established a company on my own and that I enjoy my work. But to be honest, many people donít fully understand the concept of affiliation and how it really works.

    Do you gamble online? If so, what do you play?
    No. I live in Israel where itís illegal to play online beside the local government monopoly.

    How long do you give yourself to answer e-mail? What e-mail tips can you offer?
    It depends on how important the e-mail is. My e-mail is organized by rules in folders, and every hour I take a quick look at my inbox. If thereís something urgent I try to answer immediately; otherwise I flag the message and try to answer as soon as possible without interfering with the flow of my other work.

    My tip is to organize the messages in folders using rules and highlight e-mail from important people.

    How do you manage your ďto-doĒ lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?
    I still like to use the old fashioned pen and paper. I keep two lists; one of long-term tasks and a short-term list to be completed that week.

    Iíve tried a few apps for it but havenít found exactly what Iím looking for, so it's still pen and paper for now.

    How much time do you devote to SEO and/or social networking in order to drive more traffic to your site?
    I was very into SEO a few years ago until I realized that the ever-changing nature of it stopped paying out, so I focus on putting the visitor at the forefront with the best user experience and fresh, relevant and engaging content.

    Social networks are a key ingredient in promoting our sites and services and a great way to get feedback from visitors. I used to focus on Facebook, but recently I have found that Twitter is much more beneficial if you do things the right way.

    Facebook doesnít have the real-time feeling that Twitter encompasses during live events such as big football games, the interaction looks to be lagging, and in our industry (which often focuses on live events and in-play betting for instance) itís essential to feel the atmosphere in real time and Twitter does this very effectively.

    Whatís the most difficult thing about running your site?
    Iím a very organized person and I like to know about everything thatís going on. The hardest task in my opinion is finding people you can rely on to do a task you donít have time to do yourself, and sleeping tight knowing they will do a good job.

    Whatís the best thing about running your site?
    My favorite thing about running the site is that no two days are the same. Every day is a new challenge and running my own business is a constant adventure.

    What do you do to stay in shape Ė both physically and mentally?
    I wish that Iíd done much more! I used to meditate and my next mission is to start swimming on a regular basis.

    If someone were visiting you, whatís the one place youíd definitely take them to see? Why?
    I would definitely take them to Jerusalem; with all its political complexity it has a very special atmosphere that I havenít felt in any other city in the world.

    When you need to get as far away from work as possible, where do you go?
    The first place that comes to mind is India. Iíve been there three times for a total of eight months and fell in love with the people, the atmosphere, the different landscapes, and, of course, the food. It is the most inspiring country Iíve ever visited.

    Whatís your favorite vacation spot? Why?
    Thereís no particular place, I love to see different places every time. But I would mention the Canary Islands which I visited half a year ago as part of my honeymoon. Itís a beautiful place. It gives you the feeling of real freedom and seclusion from work, which is important from time to time. I would definitely visit there again.

    Whatís your all-time favorite movie? Why?
    The Deer Hunter. Though itís labeled a war movie, I like its layers: the full characters, the atmosphere, its tempo and above all the moral of the storyóthe toll that war has on people and nations is overwhelming. Unless itís imposed on you, leaders should do everything to avoid this situation.

    If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be? Why?

    1. The Dalai Lama Ė most inspiring person of our era.
    2. Matt Cutts (former head of Google Spam department) Ė after a few drinks I might get some tips that will make me rich.
    3. Albert Einstein Ė is there a more brilliant person to talk to?
    4. George Orwell Ė the book 1984 always fascinated me and his prediction of the future was so true.
    5. Steve Jobs Ė the innovation, the determination and his leadership inspires me.


    What are three things that nobody knows about you?

    1. Iím a huge fan of ďThe KillersĒ and have traveled abroad several times to see their concerts.
    2. I hate Barcelona's ďtiki-takaĒ style, which always turned me to support the side they were playing.
    3. I think Buddhism is the right way of living. I see it as a way of life and not as a religion. It doesnít contradict any religion and the two can be combined.

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    Great interview. I see that you launched your site in September 2004. That was an awesome time for online gambling affiliates
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