Pontus Axelsson, CEO & Co-founder at iCAM Ltd, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Rather than trying to be the first in every possible market, Pontus Axelsson's interest, at iCAM Ltd, lays more in refining the product of his current markets and in adapting to the compliances - follow his story below.
How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the gaming space?
Back in 2010 my friend and I built an e-commerce selling apparel and accessories online. We ran it for a few years but it was always as a side project while I was working in the development of data centres and optical fiber.
I have been around SEO and websites for quite a while. However, it was first a couple of years later when I moved to Malta and came to know some wonderful friends that I developed a deeper interest in affiliate marketing. Initially, I set up sites in crypto and online casino in New Zealand for myself, later we launched a project for off-page SEO called Linkpirates.com.
Right now, I am also fully engaged in another constellation developing a new affiliate project in Spain and LATAM with casinosgeniales.com called iCAM (IBERIAN Casinos & Affiliate marketing). It begins with these markets but the intention is to open up for other markets as well.
How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
With iCAM we try to work project based, where budget and workload are separated from other projects within the company. Right now, we are focusing on setting up good workflows for the new projects as a lot of them are currently in the start-up/growth phase. We are also trying to establish new relationships with operators for the long run.
What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
We'd love to collaborate more closely with operators to create unique and fun content, not only for the sake of adding a special offer on a certain affiliate site. One of our goals is to create a sphere around the affiliate sites with channels like YouTube and other communities. There are a lot of ways you can add value to the user other than showing a list with specifications.
On the administrative side, there are a wide variety of tangled up deals and clauses to take into account when negotiating with operators. It would have been wonderful to see some kind of transparent industry practice emerge for affiliate programs in general.
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?
We are always open for different ways to scale the projects, either more rapidly, or by acquiring resources to develop a better product.
I am personally not in this for the sake of exits, but I'm generally trying to keep an open mind for all alternatives.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
There are a lot of things you need to do well when approaching affiliate marketing. Initially you can get a long way just by reading up on SEO and marketing. These days it is pretty easy and cheap to get started and have a website up and running.
In order to get ahead, you need to be quite competent in almost all fields. If you are lacking certain strengths like development or copywriting, it is probably a good idea to either look at outsourcing, or to team up with someone that can take on those pieces of the workload. This way you will be able to focus on your strengths.
What sets you apart from other affiliates?
We have a vision to create marketing projects that does not only qualify as something you spend time on. We would like to end up in a place where the end user likes to be engaged and recurrent in our platforms and offers.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
It plays a big part for us, of course. Automation and ways to streamline tasks is where you can cut a lot of time and distress in-house. If you have a time efficient foundation where you can get a quick and easy overview of the project status, it will be so much easier for you in your day-to-day decision-making.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2020 and beyond?
I think automation will take a big leap in the industry. Ways to industrialise data entry, casino offer implementation, even end user topic relevance will probably all be innovated within the upcoming future.
Cryptocurrency and micro transactions will also be much more integrated with iGaming both for in-game features and payment.
Is the grass greener on the other side - have you considered going down the operator route?
It has for sure crossed our minds but it is not relevant at this stage.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority in 2021, and why?
Everything is pretty exposed these days and it seems that everyone tries to be the first in every market there is. There has been a gold rush in finding the next big market these past years; however, for me the interest lays more in refining the product of our current markets and adapting to the compliances.
For 2021, with iCAM we aim to establish casinosgeniales.com well in Spain, and we will try to get into Argentina as well. We are launching another site which will target markets in Europe and North America later this fall as well.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
There are some interesting geos there that I would like to take a look at like Japan and India. But to enter these markets it is not only about to add a translated version to your site. The customers there tend to approach reviews and offers a bit differently than in the majority of the western markets. You need to have a more visual approach on your site, etc.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
We haven’t really had a severe nightmare in the sense that a catastrophe has happened. We have had several big hits with suppliers not delivering what is promised, operators not complying to deals, or strategies not working out as expected.
What are the main challenges for the sector in 2021?
To compete in an overheated vertical in general.
To be able to see different ways to stand out in a sector where everyone pretty much sells the same product (in the same way).
To stay on top of guidelines/regulations if your main marketing sources are SEO and PPC.
What are your predictions for the future of the sector?
Further regulations and lower player values as a consequence. There will probably also be even tighter openings to get exposure.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
For me, it's superior in terms of getting to know new potential partners or clients in a short period of time.
It's great that everything we do is digital, and that you can have the world as your workplace. The fact that you can set up a shop in a market on the other side of the globe is also an amazing thing that comes out from working online. On the other hand, I tend to lower my head and grind behind the computer most of the year and these events really help to get the networking part done efficiently.
You almost always tend to stumble upon old friends and everyone tends to be in a good and somewhat relaxed mood, I love it!
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
Yes, I have attended the conference in Malta a couple of times. I have also attended SiGMA road show in New York and some iGatherings. I would definitely consider attending other conferences organised by SiGMA.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all business is done between people, not just companies!
- Favourite holiday? In summer, I like to head up north for some hiking, during winter I love to go skiing, racing some snowmobile, and attending some after ski in the sun.
- What is your favourite sports team? Liverpool FC and Pittsburgh Penguins.
- Favourite sport idol? There is only one: Fernando Torres, particularly in 2007-2011.
- Which quote do you live your life by? Good luck is when opportunity meets preparation, while bad luck is when lack of preparation meets reality.
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