When David met Goliath

An interview with Zimpler's CCO, Rhi Burns

Start-up Zimpler is a Swedish company that offers easy to use mobile payment solutions to the iGaming and fintech industries. They launched Zimpler GO last year and have now opened an office in Malta. Heading the Malta division is CCO Rhi Burns; Katy Micallef sat down with her to find out more about her plans to implement sustainable, long-term growth coupled with good, honest business practices.

You were recently appointed CCO of Zimpler and are the first hire in Malta, where will your focus lie?

My initial focus for the first few weeks was to spread the word of our new product, ZimplerGO and get clients in and ready to go live with us in Sweden as their ‘instant account’ solution. Now that we have a nice backlog of brands ready, I’m focusing on the bigger picture: updating processes, bringing new ideas to the table and lining clients up for our next markets. We have Finland coming up very soon, which is great, as there are a lot more clients available to us.

Soon, I’ll look at hiring a team here in Malta so we can meet all of our clients' needs on the island. As an ‘instant account’ solution we can take up to 100% of the cashier, which means brands completely rely on us to operate, and having a strong team to support them will be imperative.

You have a long history of experience in iGaming, what attracted you to this industry?

I’ve been in the industry for over 12 years now and I kind of fell into it. I was 18, I had to get a job to help pay my way and in my tiny little town the only available job was in the high street bookmakers. I spent 2 years at Ladbrokes, becoming one of the youngest shop managers ever and I just loved the atmosphere. Eventually, I realised gambling was moving online so I went to Betfair. Then in 2010, I headed over to Malta for some sunshine, working for Netrefer, Trustly and Catena Media as Head of Sales.

I’ve had my ups and downs in the industry. Being a woman in a male-dominated arena hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to put up with things that would make your hair curl (like mine!) but as I’ve matured, I’ve learned that there is no shame in knowing your worth and being confident as a woman. Luckily, the industry seems to be realising this too and has become a lot more accepting of women, especially in leadership positions.

But what kept me going was my love of how exciting the industry is. The cowboy years were fun, we got to test and try so many different things and now we’re entering a new era of compliance, which is great in its own way. Now the focus is on player protection, so we can all feel a little prouder of what we’re doing and in turn, the iGaming companies’ focus is now on product and innovation rather than eye-catching bonuses. This means we’re seeing more imaginative slot games than ever, much cleverer marketing and entirely new solutions, like ZimplerGO, to take the player experience to a new level of convenience.

Let’s talk about operations in Malta, what motivated the decision to open an office here? Why Malta?

Zimpler has been around for about 5 years now, in various forms.  Operating from Sweden, Zimpler has a finger in many industries, but its pole position is within Finance and iGaming. Being so far removed from the island where so many of their clients are based has held them back. The time was never quite right to take that step, make that investment on the island, but last year Zimpler launched our ZimplerGO product, which needs a much closer and stronger bond with the client in order to succeed. Being based here to meet with clients face-to-face to really build trust and relationships became paramount.

Tell me about your main product – ZimplerGO.

ZimplerGO is a new breed of ‘instant account’ solutions. This style of payment method exploded last year and the brands seeing the most growth in the tricky Swedish market are the ones who have embraced it. We came on the scene to offer an improved version of this innovative payment solution, with more flexibility, more choice and a more sustainable commercial business model for our clients. We wanted to offer a similar product, but with more innovation and at better rates and with stronger, more long-term relationships. It’s been tough, but the product is getting there. Each day we’re learning and improving and I’m super excited about the coming launches of new features and new clients.

sigma igaming When David met Goliath Rhi Burns.

You’re a start-up, what does it take to make it and how difficult has it been to establish a foothold in this industry?

We are lucky in that we’re a start-up, but with decades of experience behind us. Our co-founders, Johan and Kristofer have names like Betsson, Kambi and Klarna in their work history. They already had the know-how and some good connections, which definitely helped in the beginning. Then I came on board with my local network and experience to push things to the next level.

But really, it comes down to trust. Having a prior network that already trusts you makes you an easy choice in the new venture. Anyone you meet is a potential client, whether now, or in 10 years, so it’s important to keep that in mind when dealing with people.

And there is no denying that it’s also about hard work. Building a product, testing it, not panicking when things go wrong, but stepping up and improving, rebuilding and keeping the faith!

Is Malta a good place for a start-up to flourish do you think? Is the country heading in the right direction with its investment in tech and innovation?

Absolutely. Malta has its pros and its cons but one huge positive about this country is its willingness to accept new technology. It’s a bustling island for ideas and a great place for entrepreneurs, with so many peers around you to sense check your idea, to help you create it, fund it and ultimately get the traction you need.

How do you balance responsibility and opportunity for all round financial well being?

Zimpler believes that our main job is to increase conversion and retention. We can, together with our partners, optimise the conversion by offering the most popular payment solutions in our Instant Account solution ZimplerGO and combine this with great UX and UI and a lot of trial and error, constantly learning. Becoming the best payment company within retention requires us to make sure that Zimpler delivers end-users that don´t overspend. If an end-user is not financially well, they will churn out. That will be a loss for the iGaming company, for Zimpler, and most importantly for the end-user. For Zimpler, nudging our users to spend only what they want and can spend is crucial.

Our position in the market also brings opportunity; an opportunity to provide not only a smooth payment solution, but also, a platform to lend a hand when it comes to customers’ financial struggle. And I strongly believe that if the fintech industry embraces both their responsibility and opportunity, they will be rewarded with happier users and low retention cost.

What are the key ingredients that go into making Zimpler a company that stands out from the crowd?

Being a David in a sector dominated by Goliath is a great starting point. Whilst people are afraid of what they don’t know, they trust people that they do know, and people can’t help rooting for the underdog. If you have treated people well in the past, you get through the door to have the chance to tell them about your product and make your case.

We really want people to see that we care about the long term. I had this focus at Catena Media, and I bring it with me to Zimpler. We’ll upgrade our product based on client feedback. We’ll never overcharge, and we always want both parties to be doing good business.

What can your users expect in 2019 and beyond? Does Zimpler have anything interesting in the pipeline?

2019 is going to be amazing! I left a role I loved at a stock listed company at the top of its sector to take a chance on Zimpler and even though it’s only been a few months, I already know this was the right choice.

Right now, we are fully focused on testing and improving our product in Sweden. We want it to be the easy choice for clients, rather than the calculated risk, so we’re concentrating on getting to that point. Once we are confident in that market we’ll move into other, high demand markets.

We’ll not necessarily be following in our competitor's footsteps when it comes to new countries, so we’re hoping we’ll soon be able to offer something that no one else can.

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