Introduction to Gamevy
Gamevy is a company that proves that the exposure of start-up competitions – in this company’s case Pitch ICE in 2015 – really can benefit innovative enterprises that are aimed at introducing new concepts to the online gambling industry. In the first of a two-part profile, marketing director Helen Walton describes how the team behind Gamevy came to the industry blind, and how their exposure to the Totally Gaming ICE show helped not only introduce them to potential clients but also saw them change their strategy altogether in terms of the potential clients. “We learnt a lot as we were giving our presentation,” says Walton. “We honed the pitch in the process of giving it because you learn what’s appealing for people, what people are nervous about, what they criticise or attack or challenge, and that helps you refine your pitch. That’s incredibly powerful. Pitch ICE got us our first two sales and out first big tranche of investment. It changed our strategy; it clarified out route to market.”
Gamcrowd: Which show did you take part in?
Helen Walton: We started off taking part in Pitch ICE. We had been a start-up for about a year and a half. We had been there before – very much as visitors – and we weren’t even certain that we wanted to do Pitch ICE. Ideally, we would have wanted it a month later; more of our products would have been ready we would to our GC licence by then, at which point we thought we would be in a better position to present ourselves But things happen when they happen, not when you are ready for them and we really didn’t want to wait another year.
It turned out to be absolutely the right decision. We made our pitch video, we went along. We decided quite quickly that we were probably more prepared that most of the other start-ups there. We had a slightly larger team, we had been working together longer and we had experience of building start-ups within other industries. That was our advantage; but our disadvantage was that we had far less experience of the gambling industry than anyone else there.
Gamcrowd: What do you think is more important – knowledge of the industry in which you are trying to enter, or knowledge of how to build a start-up?
HW: We always felt that it was kind of an advantage that we are not blinkered in any way by pre-existing conceptions of how the gambling industry ought to work. It make some things much harder for us. No question we found getting a licence harder. We find getting conversation with people slightly harder because we don’t have a ready-made network. But I think that is more than outweighed because we challenge things – without even thinking about it – that other people keep telling us are impossible. We were told several times that there was no way you can make a skill game work; ‘it’s ridiculous, you’ll have terrible problems with the GC; customers will hate it; it this isn’t what people like’. We got the whole range from people who have done all their testing on a small group of customers who are very content with slots and casino games the way they are; and therefore struggle to see that it’s all the people that they don’t test who we wanted to target.
Gamcrowd: How amenable did you find the Gambling Commission?
HW: They are certainly not easy to approach. There was no sense of ‘let us help you through
this process’. They weren’t start-up friendly. We talked about how handy it would be to have a start-up licence, to allow you to run a beta version to a small group, perhaps with some kind of stake return element. I can see ways it might be made safe and responsible, but that doesn’t exist and I can’t se it becoming a priority for the Commission any time soon. It’s not their job to encourage innovation with in the industry.
Gamcrowd: But do you think they should be raising very high hurdles for new licensees?
HW: Their role is to protect the consumer and if their view is that to do that the hurdles need to be sufficiently high tat lot so work has been done; that’s not bad for a public body, but how start-ups cope with that is a different question.
Gamcrowd: It’s red tape?
HW: And now we’re through, we like every other gambling company are quite happy to raise the barrier to entry for everybody else!
Gamcrowd: When it came to the show, was it very useful?
HW: It was astonishingly useful for us. It has to be said, you have to do your work ahead of ICE. Of the 400 emails we sent out saying ‘let’s meet at ICE’, you’ll four meetings ahead of the show and four at the time. The pre-work is as important as being there, and the post work of chasing the other 396 emails. We learnt a lot as we were giving our presentation. We honed the pitch in the process of giving it because you learn what’s appealing for people, what people are nervous about, what they criticise or attack or challenge, and that helps you refine your pitch. That’s incredibly powerful. Pitch ICE got us our first two sales and out first big tranche of investment. It changed our strategy; it clarified out route to market.
In part two Walton talks about how the company’s change of strategy led it to its new investor, Lottoland, and how the conversations with the lottery sector led it to rethinking its possible addressable market. Helen Walton will be writing a monthly column for GamCrtowd as of January.