Africa and South America are two regions that have been high on the agenda for many betting and gaming companies as of late. But each market within these two continents requires a bespoke, localised approach. This is something that Sergei Efimenko, CEO of Atlas-IAC, believes his company has achieved.
Speaking with SBC News, Efimenko discusses all things global expansion as he discusses Atlas’ vision to “modernise the global sports betting industry”, touching upon his plans for new and emerging markets.
SBC: What is your modus operandi at Atlas and what sets you apart in a sea of sportsbook suppliers?
SE: Atlas-IAC was founded with the vision of modernising the global sports betting industry. It was clear that manual trading teams would be replaced with data feeds and algorithmic pricing models pushing real-time odds updates into a sports betting platform designed around live betting. With this in mind, the Atlas founders set out to build a modern, modular and scalable sports betting platform that could replace the legacy sports betting platforms that are still widely used today.
In order to make this vision a reality, the founders knew that they would need to build a platform that was faster, more scalable and more reliable than legacy platforms, and deliver this platform through a SaaS business model. With the use of enterprise grade in-memory computing, private and public cloud virtualised servers and years of research and development, Atlas is now one of the fastest growing B2B suppliers in the industry today.
The priorities for our company will always hinge on product quality, speed of deployment, alongside integrity and loyalty to all our customers. Our platform is a supermarket, which is based on diverse and flexible kits which allow our partners to quickly adapt/customise the platform for any requirements and markets of operation. We also fashion simplicity out of the sometimes unnecessarily complex. Just take our unique CRM tools. To describe CRM marketing, most competitors typically use incomprehensible language as if it were the Large Hadron Collider. In reality, it just takes a smart program.
Moreover, by automating processes, we help to build a dialogue with the client and prevent mistakes across workflow. Our profiling and antifraud provides another eloquent example. The cornerstone of this system is simple and consists in maximally fast and categorising players by game and near-game attributes, in order to influence the client through the internal mechanisms of the system, minimise losses from sharps or carpet-baggers, and also create the most comfortable conditions of the game to good customers. This profiling system works in conjunction with the antifraud system, which solves for the previously unknown future behaviour of the client, or alternatively, the conditions of the markets or game that will be assigned to them.
Ultimately, for all operators, the goal has to be recognising and understanding their customers from the log-in. With Atlas’s unique AI-powered platform and its accompanying tools, that one-time pipedream is now an ascertainable reality. After all, personalisation in the sports betting industry is a word that has been used for a long time but has never come to fruition. Now it’s our ambition to steward the industry’s evolution towards delivering personalised player experiences.
SBC: How have you scaled up your business in recent years?
SE: The Atlas platform now has over 50 operators on-boarded with partners either taking the full solution (PAM/Sportsbook/Casino) or just our sportsbook, either through a simple iFrame or via our sportsbook API – which has all of the hooks and triggers required to power the sportsbook, but offers an additional level of flexibility to the operator.
The modular framework of the Atlas system ensures that sportsbook integrations can be rolled out quickly, with the heavy-lifting undertaken at our end. That can even include underwriting our “no risk sportsbook solution” which has proven very popular of late, particularly amongst casino brands who previously baulked at the supposed volatility of adding a sportsbook to their offerings.
Our strategy was initially to focus on smaller clients as we built the business and platform. However, we are now in a position where our platform and operations are ready to service Tier-1 clients, with a number of proposals in process. We understand that the success of any proposal is built upon understanding the client’s strategy and adapting the product and operations in order to help them achieve their objectives. We are fully confident that our flexible sportsbook solution and years of experience in the betting space allow us to compete with the more established platforms on the market.
SBC: Atlas is making its name across emerging markets at the moment. Can you tell us about what makes your platform a perfect fit for these nascent territories?
SE: At Atlas, our aim has always been to offer the sector’s most scalable, flexible, and efficient sports betting and gaming platform. Whether that’s for emerging markets, like LatAm and Africa (where we’ve done more notable recent work with MOJA Group, the Pan-African powerhouse), or more mature ones (from Asia) it makes little difference.
What does define us, however, is our incredibly modular and automated service. Atlas’ automated toolbox across trading, marketing and responsible gambling is the constant differentiator for our diverse global operator partners. As we’ve seen with MOJA, the successful automated capacity of our leading sportsbook platform is proven and perfectly positioned to deliver on varying Pan-African needs across different local partnerships and tech configurations.
Atlas also understands how to manage diverse customer bases, based on their history and the patterns of behaviour, and we can provide our clients and their customers with a step-change in services across, marketing, RG, and all sports odds (from the football cornerstone to more niche local preferences) both pre-game and above all in-play. This ability to adapt to different market requirements is, of course, based on our highly modular, state-of-the-art, AI-driven trading tools and fully automated CRM solution. This allows for complete management of customer marketing and communication activities linked to betting patterns in one place.
SBC: Which emerging markets are currently taking your eye?
SE: It’s hard to pick a favourite! And it’s certainly a rapidly evolving landscape where no market positions can be taken for granted, especially if you’re running on outmoded legacy systems. Emerging markets are highly fragmented too. Speaking more generally to begin with, time was when six or seven markets would be an attractive proposition for international presence for a global betting brand. However, what we’ve seen in the modern era is the emergence of lots of national champions (take Caliente in Mexico with a whopping 75% market share) who are not globally-centralised operators.
Every country has their own form of regulation (bar maybe Norway, Finland and Austria!) which differences revolve around return to player, tax rates, marketing restrictions and market-access restrictions to name but a few. The trend for operators’ management teams partnering with local brands is escalating. It’s sometimes easier to retain the expertise and support local heroes.
What matters to knowing the customer, meeting them in their respective communication game (i.e. familiarity) with a host of localisation techniques. Atlas’s modular platform is a step ahead when it comes to delivering the requisite versatility and tech.
We’ve been growing our international footprint from Eastern Europe to Sub-Saharan Africa and on to LatAm. Needless to say, Africa is an emerging market that is ripe with opportunities and presents us with opportunities to build on our international expansion. As we continue to grow Atlas’ incredibly modular B2B software division, such as ours with MOJA Group, highlight how our breakout proprietary technology is fit for purpose in emerging markets all over the world.
But, again, localisation is the key. And the ostensible excitement of untapped territories like Africa is not for the faint-hearted! We’ve seen huge switches in market position already with significant competitive volatility per country. Territorial diffs remain very high when it comes to sustaining a viable business model. BetKing flourished in South Africa and Nigeria, but flopped really badly in Kenya. In fact, only the likes of Betway, Betika, BetPower have truly made it in multi-territory Africa (i.e. you can count them on one hand!) before our deal with MOJA.
In LatAm, everyone will naturally point to the sleeping giant of Brazil and it’s undeniably exciting. Regulation, or at least its real-world application, is still somewhat uncertain and delayed by the recent election. That said, they say Brazil is now Bet365’s major territory, surpassing the incredibly mature UK market and even China. So, I think that’s all you need to know in terms of potential! A majority of our operator partnerships are here as a result. We’re also very interested in Peru, which is just finalising its regulation, alongside some of the existing success stories, like Colombia.
Wherever you stick your pin on the map, these varied requirements across continents, countries and territories constitute ideal proving grounds for our versatile platform to demonstrate how we keep our international partners ahead of their rivals. Atlas’ efficiencies of cost and scalability will win out over time, no matter where you set your scene on the global stage – whether it’s Brazil or Peru, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Senegal or the Philippines.
SBC: What are the challenges to making it in Africa or South America?
SE: Well, these are football-mad territories, and so football must lead the way across both continents. Almost without exception, you’re selling the same football-powered product. But it can be complemented and supported by local preferences which can range from mainstream to niche appetites (e.g. basketball or jai alai!). Player habits are also very different.
In Africa, essentially customers like to play the lottery on football every week, preferring win-accumulators with a median number of 10 selections, and an average stake of less than a pound. Small-stakes-big-win scenarios will prove popular in all emerging markets, of course, but these types of bets are great for the operator on margin, and there’s plenty more juice in the lemon so to speak.
More broadly, rapid-fire access to funds, from deposit to withdrawals, is also vital to making your brand the preferred wallet of any customer. That’s a universal constant. Africa may differ in that more nuanced payment systems are required than in more developed countries, and the customer trust in any operator really hinges on their capacity to payout in a timely fashion. Especially because customers heavily favour the aforementioned BetBuilder / parlay model.
You have to localise your payment methods in many cases country-by-country in a patchwork assembly of needs across Africa which isn’t too dissimilar to what you’re seeing state-by-state in the US. That calls for unparalleled agility if you want to service Pan-African multiplicity as Atlas is already doing.
In essence, though, as with South America, you have to localise on Customer Support, too. That’s one area where automation can’t currently help you too much. African players want to speak to a human, fluent in their native language and preferably dialect. And the User Experience of your site has to be familiar, so you can’t reinvent the wheel for UX if you want to take on the leaders in any given territory.
Elsewhere, I still believe that free-to-play (F2P) jackpot games are the best way to acquire and retain customers in an international landscape that’s running out of regulatory rope in some parts. And as Atlas continues to break into new emerging markets, F2P solutions that track localised player proclivities could prove the reliable differentiator for operators who’ve discovered that old-school bonusing is a race to the bottom.
The Atlas-IAC team will once again be on site at SBC Summit Latinoamérica at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Miami from 31st October.