With more than 33 years of professional experience, you have tirelessly worked both in the land-based gaming and, mainly, the iGaming sectors. When you take a look back, what balance can you make of your career? What issues were you able to learn and which ones to teach in all of this time?
I think I was very lucky to have landed in an industry that I loved at the right time. The disruption the iGaming industry unleashed on the unsuspecting land-based businesses (and equally upon their regulators) was not just challenging, but a lot of fun. I suppose the first lesson I would emphasize in any business is be wary of what you wish for. In the pioneering early online days, we lobbied so hard for recognition and regulation and as more and more countries have created point of consumption regimes that regulation is now both claustrophobic and market impeding. Second lesson: politicians generally hate gambling unless it is connected to lotteries or horse racing. The playing field for us as an industry is never going to be even one because we will always be deemed to be offering toxic products. Third, the press loves a good/bad gambling story with the loosest of connections to reality. It is therefore critical to stay on top of government/press sentiment in any market so as not to offer products or advertise in a way which is bound to provoke a response even in the absence of specific laws or regulation. Notwithstanding those challenges, the online industry remains bracingly inventive, in the same way as we now see crypto businesses starting to thrive on the cusp of regulation. So the fourth and final lesson is to try to anticipate the Uber market disruptor. The land-based businesses mostly whinged about the online industry (and very successfully in the U.S.) rather than face the inevitable: customers wanted to play online and some (not all) may consequently not travel to gamble. Trying to stifle the competition is a waste of corporate energy; better to learn from it.
In these ten years as a company, Skywind Group has experienced enormous growth, closing alliances, launching games, expanding in Europe and beyond, and opening new business units, such as the Live Casino. How would you describe the evolution of the company and its current position as an important B2B iGaming software provider?
We are extremely fortunate to have a visionary founder Teddy Sagi, who has created and curated the four pillars of our business: 1) content (over 350 games), 2) platform (Skywind360), which includes our highly configurable promotional tools, such as Lucky Envelopes, 3) Live and 4) sportsbook. Our technology is new, but our collective industry knowledge is long standing. Since 2018, we have secured seven licences and also certifications in a further nine jurisdictions, an ambitious strategy by any standards. We are privileged to partner with the biggest brands and are committed to the highest industry standards. We have an army of aligned talented people with unquenchable determination and ambition. It is a privilege to work here.
What ‘being a leader’ means to you? How do you share your ideas to your collaborators to achieve planned goals?
A key concept is never forgetting that you are a service provider too and that the job entails doing everything to the best of your professional ability for everyone. We have a very flat management structure with everyone in constant dialogue/contact. “Closed Door” meetings are not our style and employees are actively encouraged to share ideas/ask questions. Despite the fluidity we do set individual and business KPIs which we regularly review so nobody operates in a vacuum or feels undervalued.
In a world in which more and more industries are opening up to diversity and equality in their internal structures, the role of powerful women committed to their jobs is always to be highlighted. Being yourself an example to imitate for other women in the sector, how do you think it is necessary to continue working to reduce gender gaps, be even more inclusive and stimulate those young women who are thinking about entering the gaming industry?
Companies have to get their maternity/paternity policies fixed by ensuring that the entire workforce is motivated to make flexible working the norm. I could also never fathom why my childcare costs were not fully tax deductible, but since only governments can fix the latter, it is for companies to come up with inventive ways to get women and new parents back to work, especially post COVID-19. Besides, few companies have crèches, for example. As for the gaming industry, it is not for the faint-hearted whatever gender you are/identify with, and for every big mature business operator in the sector there are still those who think sex (normally female) sells. Change is happening though, and we can only do it from within the industry. We need to call out bad actors, but it does not need to be a witch hunt.
Skywind Group decided to join as the official main sponsor of the G&M News European Summit event in Cadiz, Spain (April 5-6th), where, among other activities, it will offer an exciting Lucky Envelopes tournament. Then, Skywind will also be present at ICE London and other events. Why in-person modality is so relevant when it comes to showing products and closing business deals?
Summits and shows are the heart and soul of the industry. We are a convivial and welcoming group who readily share information with each other, an attribute which we have not really lost since the bunker days of Curacao/Costa Rica/Kahnawakee. We are also a relatively small number group of people who move around the industry. It is so much easier to sell or be sold to in-person, with people who are your friends and/or former colleagues, and in a social setting. In this sense, we are very much looking forward to Cadiz for G&M News European Summit. We are hoping our Lucky Envelopes tournament will also add to the fun of the event. Plus, we are all sick to death of video calls and travel constraints.
What are the future projects of Skywind Group and how will you keep on guiding the team to continue leading and innovating in the industry? Is Latin America a region of interest for the company, within those plans?
We have a core team to which analyses the cost/benefit/strategic need of new markets, both as standalone projects and those where we think local partnerships are critical, which the team then presents to and debates with management. We canvas our operators’ views too, and if Latin America is important for them, it will, by extension, be important for us. As for innovation/guidance, the whole team is constantly learning from each other and from our sector peers. There is no room for complacency in any industry, but particularly one like ours, where innovation can be quickly replicated and market share lost.