To add the the recent outcrop of ideas centred around adapting social media formats to sport betting – and hoping to create a community of like-minded gamblers into the process – is Betfect. Led by the London-based Italian entrepreneur Giacomo Alpago, the company launched its social tipping site in 2015. Having grown up in Italy where the weekend’s football is the subject of endless discussion and deliberation, Alpago saw the opportunity to bring this enthusiasm into the online arena to form what he terms as the “eToro of sports betting”. With an app in the making and partners already signed up – including Ladbrokes – Betfect is making headway towards its goal of providing a properly interactive platform for sports-betting consumers.
GamCrowd: Can you give some background on you and your partners?
Giacomo Alpago: I’m an Italian entrepreneur based in London (and I have) a passion for innovation, disruptive technologies, sports and the environment. I moved to London in 2009 to pursue a BA in International Business - during these four years, I also lived a year between Argentina and Spain to finish my university studies. Behind Betfect, there is a great team in place, from Endri Krasniqi in charge of the UX and the overall product development together with the rest of the team - Christoph Hornung and Anton Kaszubowski, both serial entrepreneurs who are bringing on board experiences from: gaming, start-ups, ecommerce and venture capitalist fields to support the team and the business.
GamCrowd: What gave you the idea of Betfect?
Giacomo Alpago: I first started to think about the idea of combining social media and sports betting when I was living in Italy where all the young sports enthusiasts were spending hours before the Sunday matches talking and discussing betting tips. Later on, with the growth of social media and the switching from offline to online sports betting, I realised the betting community was using social media platforms to share their betting experiences and tips - this is when I saw an opportunity for a concept like Betfect.
GamCrowd: What were the first steps in getting the business together?
Giacomo Alpago: The first step always starts from the recognition of an existing problem in the market - in our case: the online communication within the sports-betting community. The team is key and you need to find talents with the same passion, vision and mission, but with different skills sets who can balance yours. The solution was obvious: build up a platform to place, share and copy bets while being able to interact with the community. Basically a social network/Etoro for sports betting.
GamCrowd: How important was it to get early advice from someone with experience of the gambling industry such as Anton?
Giacomo Alpago: Getting advice from Anton, with a strong experience in the industry, is critically important to guide the management team in different fields: industry insights and knowledge, fundraising process and business development. He’s been instrumental in spreading our message amongst leaders and investors in the sector and, like me, has become an evangelist for the fact that Betfect is filling a gap in the market between bookmakers and their customers who are increasingly seeking out a more socialised betting experience.
GamCrowd: What do you think are the particular difficulties with the gambling industry for start-ups?
Giacomo Alpago: Considering only gambling-related problems, the main difficulty is definitely trying to convince big established players to partner with you and cooperate, especially when you’re a young team which doesn’t even have a live website. There is also a limited universe of investors who understand and invest into the sector and a lot of companies fighting for investment. You have to make sure that you can differentiate yourself from the crowd and can back that up by solid metrics and your value proposition.
GamCrowd: What financing have you received to date? What financing are you seeking?
Giacomo Alpago: At the beginning (early 2015) it was mainly from family and friends, so we could optimise the product and validate the concept. Currently we are preparing for a follow up from the right investor (in order to: scale the business, launch iOS and Android applications and increase the number of partners available on Betfect.com.
GamCrowd: When did you launch the product?
Giacomo Alpago: I launched the first MVP in October 2014, where we conducted research and discussions with focus groups - defining and developing the perfect set of features for a social network for sports betting. In 2015 we continuously improved our Beta version (with Ladbrokes as an integrated bookmaker) from an MVP to the most customer-centric, social betting platform.
GamCrowd: What reaction have you had to the product so far?
Giacomo Alpago: In 2015 we created an interesting proof of concept and managed to achieve a strong organic growth with almost no marketing budget. Betfect is designed to drive viral traffic by allowing users to share their tips with friends. Currently, we are receiving interest for partnerships from major bookmakers across Europe.
GamCrowd: Betfect is clearly more social than other gambling products – do you think that social gaming remains an unexplored area for gambling companies?
Giacomo Alpago: Today we are addressing one of the biggest problem in the online betting ecosystem, the social interaction between users and the lack of options for the community provided by operators. Until now, users rely on various communication channels like social media platforms to interact. Betfect solves that problem, for operators and customers.
GamCrowd: What are your near-term goals for the product?
Giacomo Alpago: We are currently working on the gamification aspect in order to provide a higher level of engagement as well as adding multiple bookmakers, useful contextual data, news and competitions. We also have a fully responsive website, however, that’s not enough in 2016 and that’s why we will give our community the possibility to manage everything from native mobile applications.
GamCrowd: What is the long-term plan?
Giacomo Alpago: We are passionate about revolutionizing the sports-betting experience through innovation - by transforming traditional online and mobile betting processes into inherently social experiences. We also aim to become a global social-betting platform where customers from different countries can interact with each other using local and different bookmakers.