Betting on the future

12 March 2019

Bettor Faster and Bet Blocks founders Jonny Robb and Nilesh Mistry have established GamblingStartup.Ventures, in a bid to connect early-stage gambling businesses around the world. Here, we meet some of the teams looking to revolutionise the way punters play.

Nestled in the middle of Kiev, a team of four Ukrainian developers are coding up a storm. It’s early days yet, but you can hear the excitement in their voices as they describe the potential goldmine they’re sitting on. Fireswan an automated betting strategy app, is on target to tip the balance of winning back into the hands of the punter, in a technological age when operators are more accustomed to holding the strategic advantage. 

Currently in Beta testing they have 710 active strategies that are delivering a reasonable 4.65% hypothetical return on investment (ROI) at average winning odds of 2.59. But that’s in aggregate; their true power hits home when they tell you they have 30-week back-tested strategies such as ‘Time to Lose’ that delivered a 65.37% ROI increase on 148 picks. Or the ‘Time to Draw’ strategy that delivered an 84.43% ROI on 49 picks. 

Meanwhile, in New York, Jake and Dean are closing their latest funding round, finalising a UK licence and preparing to pack their bags for London. As the founders of Prophet, the two friends are on target to offer full and customised liquidity to customers when cashing out via their secondary marketplace for sports bets. Prophet allows for greater profit (compared to an operator’s cash-out feature) by selling bets, and the best odds on the market when buying bets, all on a platform that’s data-driven, analytics-focused and tailored to the consumer. In their words “we’re giving back to our users in an industry notorious for taking advantage of them”. 

Behind closed doors on a backstreet in north-east Paris, two guys are on a mission to offer an alternative to the current era of expensive live streaming. Banking veteran Charles and applied mathematics graduate Hugo have joined forces to create Skillcorner a computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) video-tracking product. 

Using AI-powered video tracking technology based on deep learning, they are capable of recognising, positioning and following players, the referee, and the ball, in real-time from any game broadcast live. They claim their tracking algorithm for live broadcast games is the best on the market with up to 95% accuracy, gathering one million data points per match. They’re using this data to create a new generation of super-smooth match visualisations and match analysis with huge commercial potential. 

Scattered across England you’ll find three friends working remotely to bring an old gift idea into the digital age. There’s nothing quite like the surprise of opening a birthday card to find a scratchcard, lottery ticket or betslip lurking inside. Cue ensuing banter between you and your mate as you negotiate the split of your hypothetical – but absolutely certain – win. Giftmybet is aiming to make this process of gifting a personalised bet fast, simple and most importantly special, even if the giftee has little knowledge of sport.

Split between the unlikely combination of Johannesburg and Nashville you’ll find the founders of Chalkline Sports who are three years into their bid to dominate the free-to-play sports gaming market with a Stateside focus. On track to deliver more than 3,600 games in 2019, what separates them from the myriad of existing companies in this space is the sheer volume of games they’re capable of putting together and their relentless focus on conversion and analytics. 

Finally, we arrive in Shoreditch, London. It’s here that you’ll find me in my spare time extolling the innovations of gambling start-ups to you. I’m the co-founder of Bet Blocks, a messenger app that mirrors how millennials are betting from WhatsApp groups, only making it easier, faster and more engaging. It’s from this direct experience of the unique challenges that start-ups in our industry face that we created the informal network Gamblingstartup.ventures.

From one bettor to another, the odds of creating any successful start-up are fairly eye-watering. Factor in the hurdles and pitfalls of the gambling industry, from licensing and regulation, to being a David in a world of Goliaths, and it sometimes feels as if you’d be better off playing the lottery. Despite this we steel our nerves, quit our jobs and step up to the plate because we truly believe in, and are excited by, innovation. The bottom line, though: it’s tough. 

It was through meeting other start-ups that we realised the benefit of exchanging ideas and supporting one another and it was from here that Gambling Startup was born. Our objective is simple: to help encourage and foster connection and support between start-ups while raising our collective profile to the wider industry and investors.

The last part is where you come in. We want to reach out and make it easy for you to find and connect with the future of betting. We want to encourage you to support this new generation of start-ups, be it through mentorship, commercial engagement or investment. 

To understand some of the challenges our start-ups faced we asked them for their thoughts. “Our biggest challenge is exposure.” explains Jake Benzaquen of Prophet. “We’re looking for any way to get the word out about Prophet within our target market (male gamblers aged 18-40) in the UK post-launch. We would love to engage any press or media opportunities that present themselves.”

Ed Harris of Giftmybet highlights a massive challenge we all face: “Investment, investment, investment, to support further growth. Like a number of start-ups we’ve spoken to, funding in the betting industry is very difficult to access.” It’s a painful realisation our start-ups often come to, that the mere association with gambling rules out 90% of investors. 

“We have a lot of challenges on every front,” Morgan Jacquin from Skillcorner explains. “If I have to narrow it down to one, I would say it’s the speed at which business decisions are taken by large corporations. It always takes more time than we expect”. Time that start-ups can often ill afford to lose. 

Max of Fireswan is succinct about the biggest challenge he believes gambling start-ups face: “Scaling.”

“We have reached the point where a lack of resources prevents us from producing features quickly. It’s frustrating when there is a detailed roadmap ahead of us,” he says. 

To follow the progress of our start-ups or to get involved in shaping their story, sign up for our newsletter at gamblingstartup.ventures.