Viorel Stan, Founder & CEO at GSH Online Media, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
With over 10 years of experience under his belt, Viorel Stan is propelling GSH Online Media forward by digging in with his colleagues and perfecting the business - follow his story below.
How did you first get into the affiliate space, and were you always focused on the iGaming sector?
I've been working in the iGaming industry for more than 10 years. In my early days, I was managing the sportsbook division of EveryMatrix. After several years I decided to move to the B2C part of the business and I received the opportunity of managing Jetbull, a UK facing online casino and sportsbook brand. Things went good for us and as of 2018, I was managing the entire B2C division of EveryMatrix, which included several online casinos and affiliate brands.
That’s when I finally realised the potential of the affiliate business and decided that one day I should start my own business in this area. That day arrived pretty fast, in July 2019, I made the big step, started my own company and bought some strong affiliate brands to kick start the business.
How is your affiliate business structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
The operational part of the business is structured based on GEO’s (UK, Romania, Others) and verticals (sportsbook and casino) while the development part is working in one direction, which is to constantly improve the core of our products.
My focus is mainly on the helicopter view of the business and each time I see something not performing well, together with my colleagues, we dig in and fix it.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
Our focus is set on two main markets, the UK and Romania. Besides those ones, we do have a lot of other traffic from other English speaking countries which we are monetizing but without doing active acquisition work in that direction.
There is a lot of potential in the emerging markets but our current strategy is to become a top player on the targeted GEO’s and only afterwards go also for other markets.
What makes your traffic proposition / traffic sites unique? What can you offer that others don’t? Are there any exciting plans in the works that you can tell us about?
The flagship products, BetBrain and SlotsCalendar have pretty unique characteristics. For example, our odds comparison website, BetBrain, has the biggest number of bookmakers integrated. This means that regardless of the user's preferences, there are high chances for him to find his preferred bookie’s odds displayed on BetBrain. More than this, a big part of our data is available for the users close to real-time, not within seconds or even minutes of delay as the competition
For SlotsCalendar or the IMDB of Online Slots, as I like to call it, the unique selling point is the calendar functionality which is allowing the users to see when a new slot will be released so they can plan their fun accordingly. On top of it, we also have other cool functionalities, such as slots reviews, play for fun mode and a lot of casinos and bonuses.
Is the grass greener on the other side - Have you considered giving white label casino or sports betting a go?
I have been on the other side for many years and indeed the grass is still green, but there are so many shades of green which are influenced mainly by the way you run your business. You can find operators complaining but at the same time also affiliates.
At this moment we are fully focused on becoming a top player for the targeted GEO’s. Once this objective is achieved, I might consider coming back to my “first love” by opening a dedicated division focused on managing online operators.
Are you concerned by the impact on the affiliate sector from shifting regulatory environments? (In particular UKGC, Sweden’s Spelinspektionen, and Germany’s 2020 State Treaty on Gaming Regulation)
I have been and I will always be a big supporter of responsible gambling. Each part of the Igaming value chain should focus on making the environment safer for the user and it is under the authorities responsibility to set the direction and oversee the implementation.
They should do it in a very smart manner, otherwise, they might kill the regulated industry and force the players to search for alternatives available on the black market.
What is the main thing that you’d like SiGMA readers to know about your traffic? Are you focusing on SEO? PPC? Any other traffic source?
Our main focus is organic traffic (SEO) but we do consider also opening a dedicated division to PPC.
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?
At this moment we are growing the business pretty fast without any external funding and I would like to keep it that way at least for the next three to five years. Once we become a top player in the targeted markets we will have to scale our business strongly and that’s when we might consider external funding.
Regarding selling the business, this is not the case. Of course, money is an important aspect of our life but is not our main drive, we are driven by the ambition of becoming the best in our industry and we will not have rest till we achieve this supreme goal.
What can operators do to increase support from affiliates?
Two very simple and basic things, professionalism and communication.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
I think the most essential ones for an affiliate business are:
A very good knowledge of the industry (you need to be a player to make a player happy)
Extraordinary Marketing Skills
Very good technical background
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
Speaking about online business, technology is one of the most important aspects of the business. Of course, you can grow a nice brand using a simple Wordpress but you will never become a big company out of a Wordpress website. You need strong technology behind which will allow you to differentiate and also to scale easily.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
The Asian market is extremely interesting, I have my eyes on it since I was managing online casinos but still is very problematic due to the market-specific, which is very cash-oriented.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
It is damn hard to run this business and the competition is fearless. At the beginning, I was seeing the affiliates as the lucky ones which are getting profit share without taking any risks, but now I understand how difficult it is to compete in this red ocean of affiliates.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
Tricky question, as I normally don’t have nightmares because I cannot really sleep at night :). My biggest fear is not strictly business related, it is to disappoint the few people I care about.
What are the challenges in managing relationships with multiple operators?
To build a good partnership you need to invest time and lack of time is the biggest challenge we encounter in this fast changing environment.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
Networking is by far the biggest benefit of attending a large Igaming event and in Igaming as in any other business having a strong network is very important.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
I think I attended all the SIGMA shows during the years and for sure will continue attending, especially now when it becomes one of the biggest shows in the industry.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all business is done between people, not just companies!
Favourite book ever read?
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
Where would you relocate with family if you had to pick one city?
I will choose the quietness and the amazing mountain views from the Romanian countryside.
Good, better, best. Never let it rest. 'Til your good is better and your better is best.
Favourite sport and childhood idol?
Snowboarding. Romanian football player, Adrian Ilie.
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