Unprecedented global challenges have made the igaming startup space tougher than ever, but focusing on five key areas can make all the difference, says St8.io CEO Vladimir Negine. The following text was penned by Vladimir Negine, St8.io CEO.
To say 2022 has been a turbulent year would be an understatement.
From escalating geopolitical tensions to full-blown economic crises, it has not been an easy year for businesses, and start-ups have been hit particularly hard.
Big tech companies are now more actively reviewing their operations and looking for cost optimisations. Raising capital has also become significantly harder, with VC funds, family offices and private investors becoming more rigorous with due diligence prior to investing in a start-up.
For gaming startups, it isn’t an ideal backdrop, but we are fortunate to work in an industry where there are still significant growth opportunities.
As founder and CEO of casino games aggregation platform St8.io, I’ve been focused on finding this growth while navigating these unique challenges.
The experience has given me an insight into what it takes for gaming startups to succeed today. Here are five lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Understand the Problem Your Product Solves
Steve Jobs reminded us all to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. At a time when gaming companies are beginning to feel the squeeze of both competition and global economic factors, this means having a clear vision of the problem your product is going to solve.
As a software development company specialising in igaming and e-commerce, our first product at St8.io was a casino aggregation API because we’d built up a deep understanding of the market and the needs of clients.
We still see the potential for fixes to the fundamentals of igaming operations. That’s why we invest significant time and resources into business intelligence and accounting reconciliation to ensure data integrity actually helps to save time on both ends of our technical pipeline: suppliers and operators.
There’s No Correct Strategy, Other Than a Clear One
You might think that “swimming” from the red to the blue ocean is the only way to success, but not entirely. Even when launching a product in the “red ocean” territory full of competition, you can still find a specific niche and solve pains to become the best technology provider, and ultimately compete with bigger fish. This is why strategy is so important.
For instance, our focus at St8.io is on challenging the status quo and accessing the market with two primary strategic moves.
Firstly, technical debt. St8.io had to create technology from scratch in such a way that would allow scaling the business over the years ahead. It required creating a completely new backbone for the aggregation module, allowing it to provide a one-to-one technical solution to the clients without degrading the functionality of a game supplier. That is why all integrations are completed only by the St8.io team, on a very granular level.
Secondly, there was pricing. The nature of the global igaming market means some players in the space can find an advantage competing on price, rather than, say, technical and support excellence. With St8.io, we decided to take a very transparent and public stance when it comes to pricing. If we are able to remove the pricing factor from the decision-making process, then the focus switches to the quality of the service. That is when true innovation can become a positive, disruptive force.
Be Adaptable in Your Execution
The great Peter Drucker said that strategy is a commodity, but the execution is an art. Even a world-class product with a well-defined strategy is not enough if you cannot execute it in a way that solves customers’ pains. If you can’t manage it, someone who can quickly take your place.
We’ve found that adaptability to the current moment is critical, particularly for startups at a time of uncertainty.
Understand Sales as a Product of Well-run Business
Even within the gaming industry, sales funnels differ depending on product, market and a myriad of other factors. I’ve seen startups that are very sales-focused succeeding, but from our experience at St8.io, our initial position has always been to get the product, strategy and execution right first.
We don’t fully subscribe to the “build it and they will come” philosophy, but in a well-connected industry, it is true that sales will follow a product that genuinely solves a problem and does so in a way that’s affordable and efficient for customers.
Be Bold, Even During Dark Days
No one said this was going to be easy. But sometimes those who don’t want you to succeed, or factors beyond your control, will make things even harder than expected.
However, if you truly believe in your vision, don’t be afraid to take bold steps. We are still in the early days of our journey, but we’ve been fortunate to work alongside many amazing people and companies.
It’s given us the confidence to continue to push forward, and begin to dream of what comes next in 2023 and beyond.