Georgios Sotiriou, Director at HellasBet, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Staffed with individuals who have a deep understanding of their industry, HellasBet are constantly supplying in-depth analysis. Georgios Sotiriou tells us what 20 years analysing and playing the game - follow his story below.
How did your affiliate business take off? And, is iGaming your only vertical?
You can call it ‘love at first sight’. I was intrigued from the beginning - how affiliate marketing works and what the potential is. Apart from iGaming, which is my main focus, I have applied it in a couple of travel websites too and trying to explore different versions of it every single day.
How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the Gaming space?
This is a funny one. Back in 2000, as a student, I developed a betting website for my dissertation and I realised that it could bring me some income. So, I changed it into a website with predictions for football matches and named it HellasBet. I added a banner of a bookmaker without an agreement (ssssshhh!) and reached another one to see if they ‘also wanted to be in it’. They saw the competitor, said… 30%. Boom!
Yes, it has been 20 years that can easily dry you out a bit and there were moments I needed a change, but I’ve always been focused on Gaming because of its huge potential.
How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
I call myself a slasher. I do this/that/these/those; a bit of everything. But during the years I have built a flexible and trustworthy team by hiring freelancers for different jobs and tasks. We have been a team of 8-10 in the past year or so and I outsource anything else we cannot do.
What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
I find the affiliate platforms a little bit dated. I think they should be used to connect the operators with the affiliates more and to provide the support that the latter needs. Gaming is so dynamic that the constant changes could have a huge impact on an affiliate’s business and most affiliates try to keep up with everything, which is almost impossible. Operators should play fairly with each other and support the affiliates if something goes wrong.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
Affiliates have to be open-minded. Something that works now could not be working later (speaking from personal experience). They should diversify and open as many channels as they can support. Affiliate marketing is only a fraction of what can be done but it also has a lot of options to be implemented. So, keep exploring.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
At HellasBet.com we recommend betting tactics and provide predictions in a variety of sports; football, basketball, tennis and horse racing. We also have casino and slot reviews, as well as a brand-new podcast called ‘Secret Scouter’, not just looking for football talent but also for the best odds on matches. Football accounts for 70% of the tips on the website and we have been unique because we cover most of the games (30 leagues) for the past 20 years. This is our USP; a list of hundreds of predictions in a common day, which are analysed and handpicked by our tipsters.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or, with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
There have been a couple of times I had an enquiry about selling a share of my business but there was no ‘white smoke’. This is a procedure you cannot be negative about if you don’t see what’s on the table. However, our focus at the moment is to improve and grow. Adding value helps in a possible investing or selling scenario. Always.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
This could be a long list. But to make it short, I believe in building long-term relationships with your visitors and the operators. There is a thin line you should not cross because you get paid by the operator but at the same time, you want to be 100% honest with your visitors.
What sets you apart from other affiliates?
I never like saying we do something better than others. I prefer that we do our best, reach our full potential and then the visitor will get to decide. Although, having been in the game for more than 20 years, we must be good at something, right?
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
I am a huge fan of technology and we use a lot of different software services to automate our work and be able to focus on the main thing we do, sports analysis and betting predictions. On a more personal level, I try to keep it more balanced. For example, I prefer to read a real book than through an app to my kids or call a friend to ask something instead of texting them.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2020 and beyond?
It already does. There is the great impact of AI and big data in the gaming sector in general, so it is inevitable to have an impact on affiliates too. Everyone needs to keep up with emerging technologies. I would also include blockchain technology, which is also of great interest and we should at least know about it and be familiarized with it before it becomes a part of our daily life.
Is the grass greener on the other side - have you considered going down the operator route?
The grass could be greener on the other side, but there are some players best in… clay. I prefer to stay on this side considering myself more of the ‘people’s guy’ and less corporate.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority in 2020, and why?
We are really interested in the US market despite all the different legislations by state. We are about to relaunch one of our company’s websites, LiveTipster.com. The plan is to offer live predictions on several sports focusing but not limiting within the US sports.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
It is really challenging! As I mentioned before it is hard especially for small affiliate businesses to keep up with all the changes or to compete against bigger ones that have figured out all the legal aspects. As an example, being an affiliate in the UK needs attention to detail and there is a lot of small print to think about. In the end, you either say ‘I’ve had enough. Let’s… Brexit that market’ or you lose tonnes of your energy to be 100% complied with the legislation. For Sweden, I am unaware of the details but for Germany, I hope it will be clear and straightforward for operators and affiliates.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
From the latest betting events and exhibitions, I have realised the increase of interest in the Asian markets. Despite some traffic from Japan, Indonesia and The Philippines, the data we hold is not big enough to make any conclusions. At the moment we are keeping an eye on what happens in Asia.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
I know that you cannot do anything by yourself. Even the biggest inventors or business owners had more people on their side. For those who start now, and this is general, I suggest to pick your partnerships wisely, outsource what consumes your energy and trust your team members.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
I am a man of dreams. When I see a nightmare, I recognise it is not reality and wake up.
What are the main challenges for the sector in 2020?
Changing regulations by country to country is one of the challenges. However, now we must deal with changes we never predicted (come on tipsters!) before these unprecedented times. I understand there have been changes also in the customer behaviour due to COVID-19 and isolation we all had to go through. So, we must keep up with new trends and hold the balance between marketing and… morality.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators?
Some people tell me I am crazy, but I prefer working with just a few operators other than with a long list of sportsbooks and casinos on our group’s websites. I am a fan of the 80/20 Pareto Law, so I prefer to have great partnerships with the operators that give 80% of our revenue than chasing that 20% with less popular operators. Most of the times this approach has proved right.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
I remember last February in London, just before the lockdown domino around Europe, we were all hesitant to shake hands with each other. When you shake somebody’s hand and say ‘hello’ you immediately get a more personal touch in the things you will discuss later. Potentially you have the opportunity to meet other affiliates and companies under one roof. Expose yourself to the current market and new channels or trends you may not be aware of.
There is always space for improvement, but the level of gaming events has usually high standards.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
Unfortunately, no. However, getting into more markets in the next year will need some travelling for that purpose. I am already eyeing Manila for May 2021. I was in the city back in 2006 and had a great time, so I am sure I can combine business with leisure.
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies!
I am married with two kids, ages 9 and 5. I am a Mathematics, Statistics & Computing postgrad and hold an English FA Football Coaching and a Football Scouting diploma. I have been a semi-pro football player for more than 10 years.
Born in Athens where my heart is, while my body currently lives in London. I love Chios, an island hidden by us Greeks as a secret treasure and I am lucky to have the best friends anyone could ask for.
What’s on your must-read list right now?
I am currently reading ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari. The next on my list is ‘The Rational Optimist’.
Which quote do you live your life by?
‘Even if you produce the most delicious watermelon, there will be someone who doesn’t like it’.
‘Just do it’. Nike