Maria Mashchenko’s story is one of professional success and key leadership. Having been BETER’s COO for the last two years, she has recently been promoted to general manager of the BETER Sports vertical, using her talent and expertise to drive BETER to even greater heights and firming up its position as an industry leader with the igaming sector.
Maschenko has been responsible for BETER’s development of in-house, outsourced and franchised sports and esports tournaments. Her guidance and experience have seen the company achieve significant growth, mainly through various collaborations with prominent sports and esports organisations.
SBC spoke with Mashchenko to find out her views on the current position of the gaming market, how BETER is currently placed within the industry and how it plans to develop in the future.
SBC: You have an impressive record in sports verticals. How would you describe the development of that area and of BETER within the industry?
MM: I’ve always thought that the gaming industry’s sports sector is a fluid one, always growing and reshaping itself incredibly quickly. I can tell you that the new generation of fans enjoys their favourite sports online and in different formats, including betting and sharing their activity with the community. They don’t want to wait around for a month or even a year until the next tournament comes along.
It’s clear to me that these players prefer such events to be available 24/7, just like their gambling apps are constantly available, so they can play games on the spur of the moment, like while standing in a queue or during their lunch break. I will make sure that BETER’s products adapt to the modern type of player behaviour, and to the modern ways of placing a bet.
For example, providers are now locked in competition with one another to make live streams and betting apps ever more engaging. They’re bringing in new features and technologies, such as augmented reality and heart rate monitors and in-play statistics widgets. With all these innovations going on and more, I believe it’s an exciting time to be working in a fast-moving industry.
BETER’s history of success, which I’m proud to be a part of, is based on our ability to foresee those trends and provide next-gen players with what they’re really looking for – hi-tech, engaging and entertaining content.
When the company first launched in 2018, it only offered games that were played at one Setka Cup table tennis arena in Kyiv. Today BETER Sports provides live streaming, live data, and odds for 9,700 events from 14 table tennis and badminton arenas across four different countries, so you can see just how much we’ve grown, and how fast that growth has been.
It’s been such a success that a community of 100,000 people has grown up around the Setka Cup tournament on its social media, and that’s a real achievement because it shows how much people have enjoyed what we’re offering them. We’re now doing deals with table tennis organisations around the world, so we’ll be providing even more table tennis events from national tournaments in Sweden, Brazil and India, and that’s something we’re really excited about.
So we’ve come a long way, but we’re not slowing down. We’re continuing to work on new ways to offer a top-class experience to next-gen users, and we’ll be looking to expand both our player base and our geographical locations in 2023, sticking to our ambitious roadmap across the whole company.
SBC: What were the key results for BETER in 2022?
MM: It’s been a challenging year, let’s be honest. We have a big team and equipment based in studios that are in Ukraine, and our people are having to deal with the consequences of a full-scale war and invasion, something that’s hard to imagine.
First of all, I’ve put measures in place to make sure our team on the ground was fully supported and kept safe. Once I was sure of their safety and security, we did our best to carry on with business as usual, operating smoothly and providing uninterrupted service for our clients.
I’m so impressed that not only did our team achieve all this, but they managed to hit even higher numbers than before. I’m really proud of how they coped and performed under such significant pressure.
Elsewhere, we’ve strengthened our presence in Europe by opening new Setka Cup table tennis arenas in Moldova, Poland in addition to the Czech Republic one, and added a new basketball discipline to our portfolio too.
I’m pleased that we managed to hold more than 9,700 in-house sports events each month over the course of the year. We’ve a clear picture of our clients’ needs and generated a large number of events, to keep engagement levels high and our margins stable.
We have a strong advantage, in that we’re capable of powering up to nine simultaneous streams from different arenas and with different players. This means our customers have a large choice of which game to follow, and they can even pick several of them. Not only that, but we also guarantee our operator clients the highest levels of uptime for match-related markets, of a near-perfect 99%, an achievement we’re very pleased with.
We’ve also teamed up with 1,160 table tennis players during 2022, a 30% increase from the year before. This really shows how our tournaments have become even more popular within the table tennis communities. We’re delighted that among our players there are big names known not only by Ukrainian, Polish, Moldovian or Czech fans of the sport but also internationally.
And last but not least, during 2022 we fully implemented the best integrity practices into our tournaments. Over 1,000 of our athletes have already completed robust e-learning sessions on integrity and were taught how to react in specific situations, such as when somebody is trying to persuade them to participate in match-fixing.
We’ve also launched a whistleblowing platform and hold obligatory polygraph examinations to fix and investigate any suspicious actions. We have built a comprehensive integrity ecosystem which enabled us to reach impressive results. Our integrity, and that of the players, is all-important to us and we’ll continue to maintain the highest standards there.
SBC: Could you share a bit more about your plans for sports product development as this is a very saturated vertical?
MM: BETER Sports is taking its table tennis offering to the next level during 2023 by partnering with a number of official table tennis championships around the world. We’ve started by providing live streaming and odds from independent, national tournaments taking place in Sweden, Brazil and India. This allows BETER’s operator partners to offer an even wider selection of exclusive table tennis events from different geographies, as well as the 24/7 in-house matches provided by BETER Sports under the Setka Cup brand.
Our flagship discipline is table tennis, but we’re working hard to enlarge the portfolio with other kinds of games. We recently started offering badminton and MMA tournaments, two of the fastest-growing sports around, which got the attention of both bettors and the sporting community. We have already achieved very promising results there and are sure that this area has huge potential for the betting market.
SBC: You showcased several novelties of BETER Sports at ICE London this year. MMA events were among them. Could you please share with us why you decided to launch this kind of sport?
MM: I’m pleased to say that MMA has become one of our key novelties. We have held two in-house MMA fight days, with four fights on each day. The tournament featured professional fighters, martial art masters and champions of various nationwide competitions. We’re also seriously considering working with independent tournament organisers so we can offer even more martial arts events in future.
We regard this discipline as very promising for us, and it’s not just our own belief in the appeal of MMA. Both our current and potential clients have said they would like to see it available within our portfolio. We believe that adding MMA was an essential move, because it’s one of the most thrilling spectator sports in the world. It’s not just the electrifying atmosphere and the rush of adrenaline that brings bettors flocking to this intense martial art; MMA competitions present attractive and lucrative betting opportunities for next-gen players, more than you’ll find in any other sport.!
SBC: What do you like the most about working at BETER?
MM: I strongly believe that the biggest asset of BETER Sports vertical is my team. I’m so happy to be working with such dedicated professionals, who are ready to put their heart and soul into the work they do.
Despite the unthinkable challenges our business faced in the first weeks and months of Russia’s full-scale aggression in Ukraine, my team showed great courage, supported each other and never stopped aiming high.
They bring this energy and passion to the sports and gaming industries every day, and it motivates me to carry out new ambitious projects like badminton, MMA or other types of content from all over the world. We’ve worked hard to achieve all our success so far, and there’s more to come because we’re BETER together.