(This interview was originally published in the February 2017 issue of the GPWA Times Magazine.)
You founded Ihre Consulting in 2010, and Codeta this year. Why did you decide to found Codeta?
It was for a number of reasons. I would say that the ambition to potentially start our own operations has always been there. Before setting up Ihre Consulting, I worked in various senior positions with a number of operators such as Ladbrokes, PokerStars and bwin, to name a few. Over six years of Ihre Consulting and of working with over 150 operators and clients on a global scale, we always had our ears close to the market in terms of trends, strategies and executions of the same, and, by doing so we identified gaps in that same market. Adding to that, I am very good friends with the founders of Evolution Gaming, so I have been paying close attention to their remarkable development over the last 10 years. In addition to all of these factors, my older brother, Christian, happens to be the founder and CEO of Lynxeye, an international brand consultancy agency. He has been poking me that we should do something together, since we believe that the iGaming market is missing proper brands with clear positioning in the marketplace.
What are some of the differences between running your own casino's affiliate program and managing other operators' affiliate programs?
Everything! I think few people comprehend the massive difference between running your own casino and subsequent program and managing a client's. It requires you to coordinate all activities, priorities and resources, as the affiliate program is very much your sales arm of the company and without having a good product, promotion, positioning and communication, you have less, if anything, to sell. So everything needs to be coordinated in order to get the most out of it.
Why did you decide to start your own companies?
Ladbrokes was my last job with another operator, and we as a family at the time we had an 18-month-old daughter and a 3-month-old son decided we wanted to move back to Sweden. Since at the same time, most of the iGaming companies that used to be based here in Stockholm were moving abroad and putting a lot more of their operations in places like Malta, I figured the only way for me to remain in the industry was to set up my own company and consult them instead. The rest is history, and I am very humble, fortunate and glad that Ihre Consulting has grown to the extent it has.
What experiences at these other firms were most important in preparing you to run your own iGaming companies?
I think definitely the "helicopter perspective" making sure that before a decision or an action has been taken, you assess and account for all aspects and possible consequences. When running your own iGaming company and operations, every action has consequences and repercussions in other parts of your operation. So knowing and being aware of the complexity of running an operation is what I learned the most, since I believe if you dont have that, a lot of your potential profit margins go out the window.
Codeta is focused specifically on live casino and table games. Why did you choose to focus on this niche?
We identified this as a positioning that no one on the B2C-side of our business had taken ownership of. No particular brand is associated fully with the product or this segment of the market. There is no clear owner of it as you would find in products such as poker (PokerStars) or sports (bet365). In our research phase, we also found out a lot about our target group table games players and noticed that this was a group of players that were in particular unhappy with their experiences on existing sites and felt they were not being taken seriously by the operators.
Tell us a bit about Codeta's customer base and marketing. What countries do most of your players come from?
We launched in June 2016 and did so with Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and International English. Given our very strong affiliate relationships in the Nordic countries in particular, our existing players have primarily come from that region and Sweden in particular. However, we expect this to change over time as we just launched our German site in November and expect to launch our U.K. site by the end of 2016. These two markets the U.K. and DACH are the ones we believe will become our core markets in Europe for the next few years: Table games and live casino have reached a different level of maturity, awareness and scale in these markets, while the Nordics remain very slots-oriented. I do believe, though, that once consumers in the Nordics become aware of the live casino product, they will come in with full force!
How does Codeta appeal to them?
I think customers appreciate our sleek design and that they do get the sense of the brand instantly and our positioning as a table games casino. The agency that designed and built the website participated actively in all the focus groups, quantitative and qualitative studies, and interviews that we did with players. So they built the site with much of that feedback in mind. I think players appreciate that we put the games first at Codeta. We dont hammer players with promotions or cross-sell messages. We focus on the games, because at the end of the day, it is the games that the players want to focus on and play.
The site has English, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian as language options. Why did you decide on these languages, and do you have any plans to expand to other languages in the near future?
We have added German. We decided on those languages since we have the best knowledge about those geo-markets and have the strongest affiliate relationships in the same. Also, we felt like the most picky consumers one could have are probably Nordic ones so if you do things right there, you are most likely geared to take on other parts of the world!
Describe your role in regard to affiliates. How much of your traffic is attributable to affiliates?
Our initial marketing strategy is very much based on affiliates; once we gain traction in a market, we initiate other marketing activities, both online and offline. Currently the majority of our customers come via our affiliates.
Codetaff offers affiliates revenue share of 25-45%, with a possible 5% booster and no negative carryover. Why did Codetaff decide on this commission model?
I think this is a reflection of our experience, having worked with other operators for the past six to seven years, but also having been in close contact with affiliates throughout that same period. We wanted to give affiliates an incentive to work with us both short-term and long-term, and a key word for us is and always will be transparency.
Codetaff recently became a GPWA Gold Sponsor. Why do you feel it's important to support the GPWA? And how does a sponsorship help your organization?
Again, we have worked with so many programs and operators in the past, and we know how important it is to treat and respect the affiliates you work with. Our brand and our credibility is everything to us, and we have always respected the GPWA for the work they do ensuring that our industry remains fair and transparent key words that form part of our brand promise as well.
How do you ensure that payments are sent out on time? When do your payments go out?
We know how important this is to affiliates, and we have a team running the program with tremendous experience and with that same insight. We pay on the 20th of every month.
It's one thing to bring in a new person to a site. It's another thing entirely to get them to stick around. What does Codetaff do to retain players sent by affiliates?
CRM was already a key focus for us in our research phase before launching; for example, understanding players and what triggers them to react and be retained. At the helm of our CRM, we also have a very experienced team with backgrounds with companies such as PokerStars, GVC and Betsson.
Problem gambling is a serious issue for our industry. What does Codetaff do to protect players that may have a gambling problem?
Yes, we ensure that all our communication includes links and advice to those struggling with this terrible issue. And I would say that regulators have toughened up actions we as operators need to take, which I believe is a very good thing. So we follow those recommended actions.
Describe your typical work day. How much time do you spend in meetings?
I probably have, on average, two meetings per day. I would say that it is fairly few, considering the phase we are in with various market roll-outs, product development, etc. This is due to having a great team where everyone has clear responsibilities and tasks and where everyone is aware of them, so meetings are not necessary to the same extent as they would be in a dysfunctional organization.
How many e-mails do you send out?
I might be an e-mail junkie . . . probably around 150-200! I love e-mails.
Do you spend much time on the phone or on Skype?
I try to avoid it as much as possible, but always online. I'm on the phone much more, as I speak to investors and partners regularly.
How many affiliates would you say you communicate with on a typical day?
I probably only speak to one or two a day. The affiliate team is taking care of most of those correspondences and relationships.
Describe the office culture at Codetaff. If we were a fly on the wall, what are some of the topics of conversation we'd hear about at the water cooler?
Ideas! Everyone is very creative, and everyone is very ambitious and wants to drive the business. I would say that conversations would most likely take place around the coffee machine, as our staff works extremely hard and long, so they need coffee more than they need water!
Have you had a chance to attend any gambling industry conferences yet (LAC or ICE)? If so, what were your first impressions?
Yes, we exhibited for the first time at BAC (Berlin Affiliate Conference), and the response was absolutely tremendous. I think our stand was a reflection of what we are trying to achieve being different, being serious, but still having a great time. Our stand became almost like a hub for affiliates to spend time at.
What do you wish you could change about the industry?
I would say that the industry still is a bit too short-sighted. We are still very much at the beginning of iGaming, but the industry is focused on short-term gains more than long-term goals and vision.
Where do you think the industry will be in five years?
I think we will see consolidation and more operators in particular taking clearer positions in the market, for example, standing up for something. I believe there are too many operators simply copy-catting one another with no clear differentiation, and hence very limited customer loyalty.
If someone from out of town were to visit you, where is the one place you would have to take them?
I would probably take them to my favorite local restaurant, as they serve traditional Swedish food in a great ambiance and then, of course, have them visit our office to feel the pulse.
What is the last book you read?
Winter of the World, by Ken Follett.
Did you enjoy it?
Did you read it on an e-reader?
Or do you need to have a copy of the physical book in your hand?
What's your favorite movie?
What do you use for most of your web surfing: A desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone?
iPhone or Android?
If we took out your earbuds, what would we find you listening to?
If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go?
If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
Mats Sundin, Jesper Parnevik and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Name three things that people reading this magazine don't know about you.
1. My middle name is Percival.
2. I am divorced.
3. I played the World Series of Poker Main Event.