Embracing innovative start-ups is ‘a matter of survival’ for established corporations in the gaming sector, according to Burckhardt Bonello, the chief executive of Found Fair Ventures and founder of mybet.
Bonello will take his place on an expert panel of judges who will grill the finalists pitching at the 2015 EiG Start-Up LaunchPad competition in Berlin in October. Bonello told TotallyGaming.com that he has been encouraged by the emergence of innovation ‘incubators’ spearheaded by leading companies in the industry, including William Hill’s new WHLabs initiative. However, he insisted that it was a necessary step for major corporations.
“For a big corporation this sort of step is inevitable – it’s a matter of survival,” Bonello said. “The lifespan of companies is getting shorter and shorter, and it is a very good idea to embrace younger start-ups. The likes of Google and Apple have been showing others how to do it.
“One of the biggest problems is that most corporations try to do it themselves, because they want to own everything, but that is the wrong approach. They should have external entrepreneurs and perhaps a minority stake, and then they can grab the company when it’s suitable to be bought.”
Bonello said that he has been relatively disappointed by the level of innovation in gaming in recent times, but added that he and his associates would be interested in a range of proposals. “I think that there’s a lot of room for game-changing ideas in the gaming space,” he said. “It seems that very few people have been working on an idea or trying to deliver it. People have just been waiting to copy another idea.
“I think corporations should wake up and be open to engaging with start-ups, but from our perspective, we are very interested in disruptive game-changers. We’re looking for really passionate, exceptional talent, and people who have ideas and some sort of founding experience, as well as a deep knowledge of how to manage marketing in the space.
“There is no age limit. We will back 25-year-olds if necessary, but we would not back the 35th copy of the same start-up. We’ve seen a lot of potential in social and iGaming. We’re looking at the use of artificial intelligence and mobile-focused, multi-channel gaming, as well as the infrastructure surrounding all of these areas.
“We have a wide range of knowledge – not only in the gaming space – and we are very well positioned to judge what is going to happen five years from now.”
Given his extensive experience, Bonello is well positioned to offer advice to the industry’s creative thinkers, and those who will be pitching at the EiG Start-Up LaunchPad.
“Start-ups need to make sure they have the best team possible as they will be competing globally against others who might be backed by tens of millions of dollars,” he said. “You need to be able to take on the other top talents and make sure that you maximise the learning speed and reduce the learning cost before you scale. So you shouldn’t scale too early, but if you have the right framework in place, you will need the firepower to scale quickly.
“We see a lot of start-ups who don’t do their homework and don’t know their competitors, and that is pretty basic and pretty embarrassing. Above all, start-ups have to convince you that the team is good and that the idea is something new that isn’t already out there.”
Bonello feels that Berlin is the ideal destination for the Start-Up LaunchPad.
“It’s a great location for start-ups,” he added. “There are teams in Berlin without a single German on board, simply because it makes sense to be based here and the costs are comparatively so low. We are also very open to start-ups who are looking at using Berlin as a gateway to the international market.”