Continuing our EIG SBC start-up features, our Business correspondent Mark McGuinness caught up with Jesse Learmonth, president of Bet Smart Media based in Canada on beautiful Vancouver Island.
Bet Smart has been developing web and mobile betting products since 2010, the Bet Smart Media team leverage their knowledge of technology development and igaming to produce top tier Applications for the gaming sector. SBC caught up with Jesse, to find out more about this exciting start-up
SBC: Hello Jesse, and thank you for taking the time to share the Bet Smart story with Sports Betting Community. Can you give us some background on the company?
Jesse: Hi Mark, thanks for having me! Bet Smart Media (or Bet Smart, as everyone informally calls us) is a developer of web and mobile products that focuses exclusively on the iGaming industry, and more specifically, the sports betting category. We’re a private, independent company that has been in business since early 2010, and we’ve been at it full-time ever since!
Bet Smart has 2 lines of business. The first is our product business. Broadly, we develop content-driven solutions that help people find and choose bets. Our strategy is to partner with sportsbook operators to supply them with content-driven products that deliver value to the bettor, whilst helping drive bets to the sportsbook.
We also have a services business. Over the past 4 years, we have become quite capable at managing the full product development lifecycle from concept through to delivery and support, so we lend ourselves out to groups looking for some extra horsepower and expertise in that area. We offer product consulting services, helping groups crystalize their product strategies and development roadmaps. And as a natural extension, we help implement these roadmaps by offering web and mobile development services. We’ll basically draw up the blueprints and then build the house if that’s what you need done!
SBC: Let’s talk about your products. You recently announced the launch of your ‘Trends’ product as a B2B offering. What does Trends do, and what value does it bring to both sports bettors and sportsbook operators?
Jesse: As the saying goes, ‘past performance is often the best indicator of future outcomes’, a notion that has obvious applicability when deciding which sports bets to make. In this spirit, we wanted to create an easy way for enquiring minds to see exactly how teams have performed in the past to help make them make bet decisions for upcoming matches.
But unlike the many fine companies that publish one-way content like stats tables or predictions, we wanted to explore the idea of allowing two-way interaction with data. So we created what is effectively a data-driven search engine for team performance, the idea being that you can search the database to find compelling betting “trends”.
Let’s say United is playing their next match at Old Trafford, and that the offense looked strong in their previous match with a multi-goal performance. I could run a quick search using Trends to see that, since the 2008-09 season, United has played 55 matches in this same situation. Of those 55 matches, United has won 81% of the time, posting a strong 45-5-5 record. For me as a punter, this is a powerful suggestion that I can weigh into my betting decision.
SBC: This sounds like predictive data analytics, which is a space that is heating up in betting with the arrival of several new companies and offerings. Where does Trends fit in this landscape?
Jesse: This is an important question given the increasing buzz factor around the idea of predictive analytics. There are many great companies out there trying to crack the nut that is predicting the future through the application of sophisticated math models and advanced quantitative analysis. However, we’re not trying to be one of them, even though it may sound like Trends falls into that category.
Trends simply looks at situational factors for upcoming matches, and then looks backwards to see how a team has performed in past matches where the same situational factors were present. Of course from that, you can identify patterns – or trends – that help deliver confidence in a betting decision. But that in and of itself does not constitute predictive analytics as it ignores the many other factors used in predictive models, such as relative team strength, league analysis, weather conditions, etc.
We like to think of Trends as a ‘confidence engine’ as opposed to a ‘prediction engine’. It gives people objective data points and tools that empower them to make up their own minds about a bet, rather than prescribing advice like prediction-style services. At best, Trends is a cousin to predictive analysis
SBC: What is your strategy with Trends, and what has the response been?
Jesse: Our overall product strategy – which includes Trends – is to partner with sportsbook operators whom integrate our products into their sportsbook, and in turn offer our products to their customers. Our first B2B integration was done last year with Oddschecker.com, which offers Trends to its users. While Oddschecker itself is not a sportsbook, it serves as a representative case study for the product’s use case and integration model, which we are now exploring with several sportsbook operators.
As for the response, it has been overwhelmingly positive. I spend a lot of my time talking with operators to understand their pain points, and it’s abundantly clear that customer-facing product innovation is a struggle given the torrid pace of technological change. Of course there are incumbent product suppliers to online sportsbooks, but there actually aren’t many of them. There is a strong appetite for new and innovative product concepts, so we’re here to provide more choices to those operators who looking to create a uniquely differentiated offering.
SBC: What do the next 12 months hold for Bet Smart’s product roadmap?
Jesse: To borrow a baseball metaphor, we’re only in the first inning with Trends. We field a lot of questions about “can it do this” and “will you be adding that”, so we’re happy letting the market dictate the roadmap. Naturally, a lot of the questions are about the potential for in-play, and support for additional sports and leagues.
Beyond Trends, we’re looking very hard at the customer experience for in-play betting on mobile devices. There is still too much friction to place a bet on my mobile during a match, which is the result of most sportsbooks inheriting menu-driven hierarchies in their mobile sportsbook interfaces. That works fine on the desktop, but mobile is a different beast and a lot of our focus over the next year will be on re-thinking how in-play betting markets are visualized on mobile devices. We expect that to be a prominent theme of our 12-month product roadmap!
SBC: Besides developing and commercializing your own products, you also mentioned Bet Smart’s services business. What type of services do you provide, and what are some examples of work that you’ve done?
Jesse: The reality is that it’s difficult to manage a high-volume, low-margin transaction business like bookmaking at scale. There are many types of organizational capabilities and expertise needed to do this well, but product innovation isn’t always one of those. We’ll help groups round out their product strategy, then execute on the implementation of it. As I like to say, Bet Smart will sweat the details so our customers don’t have to.
In terms of the types of projects we’ve delivered, it covers quite the spectrum. Some examples include development of an odds comparison app, a bet tracking app, arbitrage detection and alerting software, an interactive odds margin calculator, and betting content apps on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. We’ve also helped groups with platform-level work on the back end, including betting API development. You can think of us as a Swiss Army Knife for any type of technology-driven betting development!
SBC: Any final thoughts, Jesse?
Jesse: We’re a very approachable team, and are always interested in talking to people in the industry. We welcome any and all to visit us at our offices in beautiful Victoria, Canada – though that is understandably far for most to travel. Therefore we travel to London several times per year, and we look forward to meeting members of the Sports Betting Community there during our next scheduled trip for ICE 2014!
Cheers for now, Mark!
Jesse Learmonth – President of Bet Smart Media