SiGMA raises the bar with mega successful show

The third edition of SiGMA broke all records. The island has never witnessed an iGaming bonanza this spectacular, this successful: everyone walked out a winner. The organisers anticipated close to 3,000 attendees, with the final numbers edging 4,000, double last year’s numbers. This was clearly visible on the expo floor, which was extremely
busy on both days.
SiGMA16 Expo & Conferences Day 1

 

The iGaming storm came to Malta on 16-19th November. The organisers behind SiGMA pulled off an impressive number of strategic partnerships, culminating in a much anticipated Malta Gaming Week, bringing the entire gaming community together; from affiliates and operators to regulators and vendors.

After receiving plenty of great feedback, this year’s summit saw some great upgrades, including the fact that over 300 affiliates flew to Malta for free, from the organisers’ own pockets. There are plans to reignite this idea with 300 fresh flights, but for new affiliates, thus injecting the show with “fresh attendee blood”.

 

SiGMA16 Expo & Conferences Day 1Following last year’s overwhelming interest in conferences, the organisers switched to a bigger conference hall, with completely redesigned layout. Instead of standard theatre style setting, the room was set up cabaret style, with round tables, giving the attendees a better opportunity for discussion and networking.

Free standing lunch for all the delegates was also introduced on both days. It gave the attendees more time for business during those busy days.

SiGMA16 BiG Charity Dinner & Gaming AwardsThe BiG Charity Dinner was brought to SiGMA for the first time as well, one day before the exhibition officially opened. It was a fantastic night of sports stories and brilliant entertainment, simultaneously raising money to enhance the quality of life of injured, sick or terminally ill individuals around the world, with a focus on the healing power of sport.

First edition of Malta Gaming Awards was held together with the BiG Foundation Dinner at the InterContinental Ball Room.

 

 

SiGMA16 BiG Charity Dinner & Gaming Awards
6 winners were chosen in the following categories:

Affiliate Of The Year – Winner: Game Lounge Limited

Careers Program – Winner: Tipico Careers

Corporate Responsibility – Winner: Maltco

Fastest Growing Operator – Winner: Evoke

Innovator – Winner: Join Games

Investor – Winner: Optimizer Invest

 

 

 

Among the other new events introduced during SiGMA16, the SiGMA Startup Pitch, brought together nine startups and seven investors under one roof. With so many investors wanting to join the gaming scene in Malta as well as worldwide startups, there’s never been a better time to launch this session. Real big names, including Morten Klein (Cherry Group), Ory Weihs (XLMedia) and Carla Maree Vella from Optimizer Invest were among the investors grilling the start-ups.

Each startup had three minutes to present their project and then faced a seven minute session of Q&A from the investors and the audience in a Dragon’s Den-like environment. Despite initial fears, the format worked marvels, and not a single member from the audience was bored given fast paced session.

The winner of the first edition is Commologic, an innovative sports betting software provider based in Israel and licensed in UK, Malta and Denmark. Their first game, BetUP, the world’s first inplay betting cash tournament game, has recently gone live with Unibet and The Football Pools.

Preparations for SiGMA17 are already in full swing. The details on the next edition will be announced in early 2017, but booths are already selling fast. Stay tuned and check maltaigamingsummit.com for regular updates.

Don’t blame the affiliate. Blame the game.

SiGMA met with Romanian affiliate Alex Munteanu from AXL Affiliates – a colorful, bright, self made multi millionaire and one of the leading sports book affiliates worldwide.

 

1. How did you build this affiliate empire?

Everything started when I was only 14 years old by combining my passions for sports and programming. I’ve created my first website just to share my thoughts regarding the tennis matches I was watching and a few months later I found out that this can be more than just a hobby. Once I realised the potential of this industry I started to dedicate all my time and resources to learn more about becoming a successful gaming affiliate. When I turned 18 I decided to quit tennis as I couldn’t do both things in the same time. In the following years all the profits made by the affiliate business were reinvested in buying more websites and projects.

 

2. Tell us more about your business.

Right now AXL Affiliates is one of the biggest sports betting affiliate network in the world. We maintain 5000+ active websites that are welcoming over 1 million daily unique visitors. Our team is composed of 28 highly trained and experienced people who ensure everything is up to date, running and growing. I think our big advantage lies in the unique team spirit. We are a big family and our friendships make us achieve our goals with ease.

 

3. Is it too late to start a new affiliate career?

I don’t think it’s too late to start as an affiliate but it’s definitely much harder as the competition right now is huge. I encourage everyone to start a business in this field if they have a passion for betting. The most important thing is to follow your dreams and there are a lot of examples in this industry which demonstrate this aspect.

 

4. What is your opinion of the recent regulatory update in Romania?

The regulatory update in Romania is not something unique. The process is very similar to what happened in other EU countries and everyone (affiliates, operators and state) will benefit from the new law that has been put in place. The affiliates have to pay a 7000 EUR yearly class 2 license tax to compete for the €1 billion market.

 

5. How did you find Malta for business relocation?

I love Malta! It is by far the best place to start an affiliate business. I can go as far as comparing the little Mediterranean Island to Silicon Valley. Nice weather, friendly people and the awesome legal framework wraps up Malta – Europe’s gambling hub. There is huge amount of gaming companies based there, making it the perfect place for a networking and educational event. To add even more value, Malta also has SiGMA, the perfect place for gaming operators and software providers to exhibit and meet with affiliates.

 

6. What are the future plans for AXL Affiliates?

We are currently investing 80% of our revenue in the research and innovation department. We have successfully financed several projects that have a huge growing potential. I think that only way to stay on top is to invest in new ideas, platforms and research. By doing this we are consolidating the company future while helping the industry evolve.

In the same time, we are also prospecting the field for becoming operators. I have this dream for years and this is the perfect time to give it a go.

A Winning Partnership

SiGMA caught up with entrepreneurs and affiliate buddies Max Noremo & Magnus Karnéus Hall from Slotsia.com.

Tell us more about the success story of your affiliate business; how did it happen, how did it all start? Can you take us through a journey in time, shedding light on some of the most remarkable moments, challenges and achievements in history?

It hasn’t been a short journey, I can tell you that. We started out very small, creating our first website about three years ago. Back then we had no clue what we were doing, but we had the motivation to keep trying and failing until it worked. We also consulted our good friends in the industry, like Oliver Fagerdahl at Betsafe, who has been a great mentor.

One day I remember clearly was when we made our first €100. We had, before that, not made a single penny, and we were not 100% sure this would actually work out. I guess that’s the success story put succinctly; to never give up on your dreams and to keep work hard.

With Slotsia.com we tried to create something new. We wanted our website to look and feel more like a casino than a regular affiliate site. Trust, conversion and user friendliness were our keywords during the whole site-building project, and now we can see that a lot of competitors are using our ideas in their new sites, which, to us, is like a stamp of approval.

 

In terms of the end user, what distinguishes your affiliate site/s from the many competitors out there? Can you name the traffic sources you currently have?

I would say the design and the user friendliness. We’ve tried from day one to do something different and new, and I’m glad to say we succeeded with our goal. Competing affiliates, operators as well as regular people have given us great feedback on the website.

 Before starting the project we used friends and family as test pilots, getting them to visit loads of different affiliate websites. This would let us know what they liked and did not like, and also how to make the experience as easy as possible for the user.

 

What made you move to Malta and how was your experience settling here? Most of the operators on your site are also based in Malta – is this coincidental?

We used to live here for three years and we have both missed the island since then. We started working together after we moved away and our goal since then has been to come back. Being able to work in a county filled with driven entrepreneurs really makes a big difference and, as you mentioned, being based on a walking distance from the operators we work with is definitely a plus!

 

What’s next for your business? Do you plan on selling or merging? How do you plan on growing this business?

Our next step is to go into new markets; in Scandinavia but also in Asia. There are a lot of exciting new markets as well as new products we are looking at. That’s a keystone in growing our business; branching out, reaching more users.

 

What is your main source of traffic? SEO & content writing? Email marketing? SMS marketing? White Hat, Black hat, Google algorithms keep changing constantly. How do you stay afloat?

Our main source of traffic is organic search, so SEO and content writing is a big part of it.

By constantly keeping an eye on what competitors and other websites do, but also by trying (and sometimes failing) new methods of ranking. It’s definitely not easy to work against an algorithm which is constantly changing, but it’s exiting and very rewarding when you try something new that work.

 

Do you work directly with the operators or did you find it easier to work with an affiliate network such as Matching Visions? What’s your relationship with these affiliate networks? How helpful have they been in helping your business take off the ground?

We used to always work directly with operators, but this last year we have also worked with a few different networks. Both ways have their pros and cons, but I would say that an affiliate network such as Matching Visions really can save you a lot of time. A good example is at the end of the month when you have to do all the invoicing to a bunch of different operators. With Matching Visions, for example, you only need to invoice them; they take care of chasing all the operators.

 

On an employee level, what makes employees stay with the company? How many employees do you have or plan on recruiting in the coming months?

I think you can go far with a good environment where the employees get feedback and appreciation from their employers. At the moment we do not have any full time employees, but we’re looking at hiring content.

 

E-sport, daily fantasy sport, binary; has any of these buzz words made it to the board room yet? Are there plans to delve into these markets?

They definitely have, particularly e-sports. We used to play games when we were younger, and we are impressed with how big the e-sports market has gotten since then. Definitely something we’re going to explore further!

 

We certainly hope to catch up over a pleasant dinner during SiGMA. What do you think of having a show like this in Malta? Have you ever attended SiGMA before?

That sounds like a plan. We’ve only been to iGB Berlin and London so far, but this year we’re definitely attending SiGMA. We’ve heard so much about the conference, and since all the operators are already here, it’s quite logical to host such a show in Malta, to be honest. Plus, the island lends itself quite well for wining and dining.

 

What are your passions outside the office environment? How do you spend leisure time outside work?

Our main goal is to find balance, so we try to do a little bit of everything. We spend a lot of time with friends and try to enjoy life, which is not that hard living in Malta. Dinners and some shenanigans does of course also take place from time to time!