Following a year of growth and recognition of its business and services, SBC interviews Jesper Søgaard Co-Founder & CEO of Better Collective operator of leading industry player portal bettingexpert.com.
Søgaard details to SBC readers the progression of bettingexpert’s multi-language services and operations, which have become a mainstay for player referral and industry trust between consumers and operators.
SBC: Hi Jesper thanks for catching up…Congratulations on your recent Gazelle and European Business awards. As leader of Better Collective, what does this recognition mean for you and your business?
Jesper Søgaard : We are proud that our hard work, dedication and passion has been acknowledged and rewarded for the sixth consecutive year. The Gazelle Award is for businesses that have displayed growth for the past four years, so this confirms to us and our industry peers that we are very much on the right track and have been growing now for more than a decade.
Knowing that you are doing things right by having several independent institutions pat you on the pack is a very nice feeling indeed, but one we certainly don’t take for granted.
SBC: As an industry player acquisition vertical, how has affiliate marketing changed since you began operating bettingexpert.com?
JS: The affiliate world is a very different place to what it used to be, and perhaps better for the main difference is that affiliates need to provide strong value to their users to remain competitive in the eyes of Google and social media. You must put the user first, and offer them genuine content that they can engage with in a meaningful way. That wasn’t the case ten years ago; an affiliate could just pander to the needs of the search engine to guarantee high rankings and traffic. But now it is all about value.
It is also a far more competitive industry than it once was. It is much harder for new affiliates to enter the fold, and if you want to be competitive you need to have scalability and deep pockets. That’s not to say the market isn’t primed for new affiliates, because it is, they just need to come fully prepared for battle.
SBC: Why do you think Better Collective has been successful at creating a dynamic and international player community, where many well-funded betting operators have failed?
JS: We have always had a very strong core, and it is this core that is recognised by our users as well as what they are connecting with. Our goal with bettingexpert.com was always to create a space for sharing, where tipsters can come together and exchange their expert thoughts and opinions. We have achieved this, or at least our users say so, with many telling us that our platform is a trusted safe space for them to interact. We also wanted casual punters to have a home on our site, and to be able to seek advice and boost confidence in their betting strategies.
As we continue to innovate and roll-out new features geared towards tipsters and punters alike, we are strengthening our core and giving our loyal users plenty of reasons to keep coming back for more.
SBC: What has been your most testing time as leader of Better Collective a multi-language industry player portal?
JS: The most difficult challenge has been managing our growth internally. Over the course of a few years we have gone from having a handful of employees on our roll call to more than 85 at the last head count. When you start small, it is easy to track the recruitment process and ensure that everyone is aligned with the overall goals and aims of the business. But as the machine has become bigger; we have been forced to trigger structural changes that have disrupted our usual flow. We have overcome these challenges, of course, and now have the right balance between leveraging our rapid growth while maintaining our goals and culture.
SBC: As leader of Better Collective, you engage with betting consumers every day. In its current context where do you feel that the betting industry is letting down its customers in terms of marketing, communication and product engagement?
JS: One word, innovation. Despite many in the industry laying claim to pushing the boundaries and driving progress, very few are doing anything to change the game. The reason is a lack of motivation. The betting industry has always been quite a lucrative one, which leads to complacency. It’s a bit like football, and Premier League stars who take home more in a week than some do in a decade. It leads to a lack of passion, determination, and the desire to move the needle and come up with something new.
That’s not to say innovation isn’t taking place; some of the industry’s power players are investing serious money in new products and an improved UX, which is often why they remain ahead of the curve. But if they were under even more pressure from second tier firms and start-ups, they would have to dig deep to stay on top.
One thing I am pleased to see, however, is the industry embracing responsible gambling measures. Ten years ago, the betting industry was like the Wild West, but now more operators are taking problem gambling seriously and doing the best they can to protect players. It not only benefits those at risk of developing problem play, but operators and the industry in general.
SBC: Looking ahead to 2017 and beyond, how do you see Better Collective services and products growing?
JS: One thing we are doing is investing more into our pre-existing platforms. We have always been innovators in the industry, particularly in how our products connect with and engage the end user. We are also making sure we take care of our big brands, namely our flagship bettingexpert.com site, and new odds comparison site SmartBets. We are continuously working to improve the player experience and to drive growth. We are also gearing up to market both sites to a wider audience, so more people are aware of who we are, what we do, and what we can offer them.
Another area of interest is M&A. I’m not saying we are ready to get the cheque book out just yet, but the affiliate industry has become so widespread it is only a matter of time before a wave of consolidation washes over it. When it does, we plan to be major player and already have our sights set on potential targets.
Jesper Søgaard – CEO & Co-Founder – Better Collective