Eskil Kvarnström, CEO of Leadstar Media talks to SiGMAnews.mt
Over the past few years, the Swedish company, Leadstar Media, has increased its presence in the international affiliate market. As of July 2019, the company runs over 25 websites in 11 different markets. We talked with their CEO Eskil Kvarnström, who shared his insights, both past and present, from working with an affiliate business as well as what he foresees for the future of the industry.
Hey, Eskil! Can you tell us a bit about how Leadstar Media got to where it is today?
Hi! Well, it all began as it did for many others, with poker. I played a lot myself, and it wasn’t long before I realized that affiliation could be a real thing in the future. With this in mind, I launched the website rakebacktime.com with my brother and a friend of his. A site where poker players could compare rakebacks and cashbacks. This was in 2007, and affiliation was still a relatively new concept.
After that, we had what you might call a break, and just let the websites brew. I studied business, Jens explored the world. However, it was also during this period, in 2012, the third co-founder of the company, Oscar, completed the team.
Over the next few years, in between studies, internships and exploring the world, we managed to create some new websites. One of these became a very popular site for betting tips, Bettingstugan. It actually began as a side project for another website but has since grown to become one of the most popular betting tips communities in Sweden.
In 2016, we decided it was time to give the business our everything, moved into an office in Stockholm, and the past three years have been great for us.
Interesting story, and background. After three years of full investment; How does Leadstar Media operate on a day-to-day basis?
We try to keep almost all production in-house, with 17 full-time employees and additional freelancers. The work mainly consists of improving our products and the user experience, but we also continue to build communities via social media.
What has been the most difficult challenge with such a quick expansion?
I think we have tackled most challenges, and while part of me is surprised by that, part of me is not. Of course, when you try to keep all production in-house you get a lot of advantages, such as full control, but it also means that you need to hire the right people.
Therefore, recruitment has probably been the most challenging part.
However, with a lot of hard work and a quite a few unsuccessful interviews, we have managed to hire several talented people for key roles, which has helped to create a great team spirit.
A lot of affiliates focus mainly on online casino, but you have chosen another approach?
We do both online casino and sports betting, but did start out with the sports betting and feel that it is closer to our hearts, which means we have always had a greater focus on betting. This has also meant that we are more successful within sports betting, even though we have a casino presence in almost all markets where we are active.
A factor that is playing a bigger part for all affiliates within iGaming is compliance. How has this worked out for you?
We always strive to have a transparent relationship with both our readers and operators and welcome markets that implement license systems and more strict compliance policies. We have made it a priority to meet the ever-changing terms set by the authorities and operators, and it has worked well for us so far.
Which markets are your main focus?
Sweden is still our primary market, and since myself and the other founders are Swedish, we are based here. However, we see potential in a lot of markets, and at the moment we are expanding into several others, with Germany leading the way.
What makes Germany a good market?
Germany is a healthy economy, and it has a large population with a significant interest in sports. Therefore, there is a demand for sports betting. And even though it is a difficult market to enter, we have proven we can do it by providing the best product possible. Our German flagship is MyWettbonus.de, a site that is highly appreciated by our visitors.
What is in store for Leadstar Media in the future?
The world of sports betting is ever evolving. Things can change in relation to the political landscape. This opens up new possibilities, and we are always on the lookout. The USA is interesting for us, but so are emerging economies, such as India or Brazil.
We are always looking for new ways to expand our business by both finding new recruits and new markets. If the past few years have been an indicator, we know we can make an excellent product for any given market. This is both the core of the business and our main area of expertise.