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Jeanette Kozlowski

Q.& A. | Fredrik Elmqvist, C.E.O., Betjacky

6 February 2009

Despite having similar qualities to all those other pool betting sites leveraging ever-popular social networking features, Betjacky has a business-to-business strategy that its founders hope will make it stand out in what is becoming a rapidly crowded space.

With little fanfare, Betjacky quietly launched last month amid an uncertain financial backdrop globally, and aside from a press release, no real promotion for the site. Two weeks later, the site’s chief executive, Fredrik Elmqvist, confirms that Betjacky, licensed and based in Malta, is still alive and doing better than expected -- with about 100 registered users so far.

Founded by six partners, a Swedish group with a mixture of gambling and I.T. experience, Jacky Betting Ltd. built Betjacky from the ground up. Mr. Elmqvist, who has a background in sales management and marketing in the I.T. industry, joined IGamingNews via telephone to discuss his emergence into the I-gaming industry and the company’s initial results.

How did you get involved with Betjacky?

    We had kind of had an idea four years ago to develop a betting pool for Champions League. Since then it’s been developed with new types of bet forms, and the whole social community concept -- trading ground, trading bets. It started with one simple, small bet on Champions League.

What drew you to the project?

    It was the idea of finding something that is new for this industry. With poker and casino and bingo and everything, we thought must be able to do something within sports betting because there are so many great events. So, to find something like that, and develop it -- that's what drew me in.

    Also, the fact that there is a concept you can develop involving social interactive services -- starting side pots, challenging your friends with side pots. It’s is much more socially interactive than going on a site, placing a bet and leaving.

Was there any research behind the social networking aspect?

    When I was a kid, my grandpa used to take me to the horse racing track. The whole family owned a lot of horses, and we went to go look at them every week. Being there with the other guys, I realized that we are copying their behavior here. They made their bets, they challenged each other in side bets, you know, “my bet is better than your bet.” Even though they were betting towards the house, they were also making side bets amongst each other. We've been looking at the whole structure on how they place these bets and the interaction on the race track -- studying these patterns and behavior -- to see if it could be made available to broader Internet audience.

How has the initial two weeks been for the company?

    It's been hectic. In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is. Basically, you can have everything developed and ready to launch, and when something is launched, we realized that “Oh, we need to fix that,” and “Oh, we got to develop this.” Also, you get some great ideas from customers.

    We didn't do any promotion. We just made a site available and told our friends. Then all of a sudden we have 100 members from 10 different nationalities. We realized there is a big strength in viral marketing -- the whole invite-your-friends and tell-your-friends aspect.

Why didn't you promote it before launch?

    We were waiting for the license. We got the license in January.

Are you guys still in a beta-testing phase?

    No. We take real bets and money. We are still now developing some extra features. We are developing a new bonus system because since we are a pool company, we need to have a different type of bonus system then what you can get today. So, we need to actually tailor-make our own bonus system, which is still in production. We will be deploying it in two weeks probably.

So, viral marketing is going to be a main source of promotion?

    From the beginning, our strategy is actually b-to-b -- providing this whole pool betting system and services as a network -- like a poker network. You get a market space on, let's say, Ladbrokes or whatever big gambling operator, and you say, “Oh, you got poker and pool bets” -- and there we are. That is our core strategy.

    The betting operators we have been in talks with waiting for us to first get licensed and show that it works. We are now targeting the gambling and betting operators for revenue-share models.

What operators are you working with right now?

    I can't disclose that, but we are talking to some of the major players that come from the Scandinavian area, and we also talked to some of the guys from U.K. as well.

So, your site currently is b-to-c, but you have a b-to-b strategy?

    That is correct.

    This is theory, of course, but I believe in 18 to 24 months all gambling operators must have a pool betting section on their site. I mean, they have a one-stop shop strategy, and why would any registered member at Ladbrokes have to go somewhere else to place a pool bet?

When people go to BetJacky on an operator's site, are they just going to be playing against punters at that one operator, or will it be a combination of everyone on every operator's site?

    I would say that's an option they have. For us, of course, it's better for everyone to be in a shared pool network. But if they just want to have their own pool, then that is something we will have to take into consideration. However, the discussion with the betting operators so far is that they are not interested in having just their own pool.

With so many markets in financial-crisis mode, why did you launch Betjacky now?

    You can say that, “Oh, it's bad timing,” but the thing is that it's bad times for a lot of people. A lot of companies might have big costs. We can start slimmer; this is normal for us from launch. So, it's easier for us to cope with that. On the other hand, we also understand that betting and gambling is not an industry that is that is totally proof from this kind of downturn. However, it has not been affected as much as, let's say, the car industry.

    This is just the way it is. You've got to cope; you've got to live with it, and you've got to adapt. And you've got to try to make an advance from it.

    You know what they say: Gambling, alcohol, lawyers -- they are the ones who are benefiting from this kind of downturn.

Was your site modeled after anything that's already out there?

    I would say no. What we did, from a graphic design point of view, we just gave them some input, and they didn't look at any other site. When it comes to the social interaction, of course, the whole social concept comes from looking at Facebook or a similar kind of social interaction. You see what kind of services they have.

    What I realized is that there is a big U.K. player that has similar product as we have called It's a U.K.-based company called Sportech, who owns Footballpools. They've been in the market forever. Since 2007 they’ve begun to launch all their pools, and it’s been quite successful, but they have a b-to-c strategy.

Do you think your b-to-b strategy is going to kind of set you apart?

    Absolutely. That company is competing with a lot of big betting operators. We see ourselves as part of a network with other operators that would become our friends and allies. I think that's the way the market is going to be structured: You've got your friends and allies working towards other opponents.

What kind of financial backing does Betjacky have?

    There are eight shareholders -- basically six of them work for the company: the co-founders. We have two external founders, both come from the product industry creating software products or Web services. We don't have a big financial backer. We are still privately held. With the funds we have, we started the company and developed the whole platform ourselves. We might be looking for investors here down the line, but market for external investors, as you know, is not the best at the moment. That would be something nice to have, but not a must-have at the moment.

What are some of your goals for Betjacky?

    A long-term goal for us is to take a market position in sports pool betting and making it something that is a necessity that all gambling operators. And then take a market-leading position within sports pool betting. That is more of our mission.

    The primary goal right now is to get partners -- to sign them up and roll them out. That's our short-term goal. The power of our company is the in-house development. We've got a very interesting road map in terms of product. We are looking at poker, doing something interesting with poker, but making it pool betting. We will launch new stuff every second month. We want to show the market that we can be a small but rapid development company. We want to shock the market, basically, with our presence.

Q.& A. | Fredrik Elmqvist, C.E.O., Betjacky is republished from
Jeanette Kozlowski
Jeanette Kozlowski