INTELLIGENT CAPITAL AND STRATEGIC DIRECTION FROM GAMING AND GAMBLING EXPERTS


Q: What’s your Elevator pitch?
A: We have created the leading online platform to bet on eSports. We’ve built proprietary computer-vision, machine learning and predictive modelling technology that allows us to create unique betting opportunities, offered by no one else.

Q: A brief history of the business please.
A: Jordan and I have been close friends since we were 11 years old. Although we went separate ways, our varied technical, academic and professional achievements complement each other’s skills.

Jordan and I spotted the vast ‘underground’ market for eSports betting. In September 2015 we both quit our jobs and set out to build the home of eSports betting. We started coding in my living room, then joined Entrepreneur First, Europe’s leading accelerator. After creating our core deep-tech, building the MVP and gaining some demonstrable product traction we set out to raise our seed round.

Our seed round is moving towards building out the product, getting our UK gambling licence and growing the necessary team to execute the vision.

Q: Tell us about your team?
A: A year ago Jordan and I worked in my living room, and in 12 months we have grown to a team of 15, with offices in London. Everyone uses their initiative and we all know that perfection is the enemy of progress. The team wants to build the business and everyone is focussed on ways to push ourselves further. This could be keeping an eye out for talent, or coming up with innovative ways of growing the user base.

The team is roughly split into 3 sections. Our two largest teams are engineers and traders, and the third group is operational. Our engineers build stuff that matters, from products loved by our users to bleeding edge algorithms for data-collection and predictive modelling. The traders are all experts on their chosen eSports, comfortable with numbers and able to make fast decisions. Our operational team makes sure everything runs smoothly, from customer support to regulatory obligations.

The team’s skillsets and backgrounds are very diverse, but we’re bound by a mutual love of eSports.

Q: What is your culture and how do you hire?
A: Our office culture is very relaxed, yet everyone is expected to take ownership of their responsibilities. We take a strengths-based approach to personal growth and development but we’re aware that we’re a small company so everyone wears multiple hats. We never micromanage and wouldn’t have time to anyway! We don’t like to glamorise start-up life and want the abandoned warehouse office thing to be temporary. It’s important to us that our people have opinions, but they must be flexible when new information come to light!

We have company socials every month and eat lunch together most days. Our staff socialising is not quite typical….Our water cooler chat is more likely to be about the number of magic spells cast in a match than how many goals were scored!

What we look for when hiring is pretty simple. We want people who are good at what they do, who see accountability as a good thing not something to be scared of, and most importantly, people who are motivated by building cool stuff.

Q: What are your interests outside of work?
A: Obviously I play eSports, DotA mainly, and I run the largest amateur DotA league in the UK. I spend much of my free time at the gym and hanging out with my friends.

Q: What have been or are your biggest challenges?
A: Hiring a team was definitely more challenging than we expected. Also applying for our gambling licence required a lot work.

One of the biggest challenges of our immediate future is ironically linked to what motivated us to start this business in the first place. The vast unregulated, ‘underground’ gambling market for eSports has hurt the broader eSports industry. This means that we, as a company, need to put in a lot more work to make sure that integrity is maintained for eSports tournaments.

Q: What’s it like working with Velo?
A: They have been invaluable business partners. They ask tough questions and make sure I think carefully when making big decisions. They’ve opened up doors and provided us with unique insights that come with experience and strong relationships within the sector.

Jordan and I didn’t have a background in gambling so we wanted to make sure our first significant investors were able to add serious strategic value as well as capital. They’ve delivered on that and have continued to support us in building the business.

Q: What advice would you have for a start-up founder?
A: Things won’t always go according to plan, make sure you keep company with people who are continually challenging you. I always find that people who ask “what if?” are particularly helpful. It is always better to have ‘known unknowns’ rather than ‘unknown unknowns’!

Q: What is one thing that keeps you up at night?
A: My perpetually growing list of to-dos….feels like a horrible game of whack-a-mole.

Q: What would you say is the biggest lesson you have learned while running BlinkPool?
A: Prioritising. Understanding what needs to be done when is very different to understanding what needs to be done.

Q: What was technically the most challenging part of developing BlinkPool?
A: Most of the difficult work for us has come from building our computer vision algorithms to extract data in real-time. Our computer vision algos need to run at speeds of at least 30fps, which is a fundamentally difficult problem, given the volume of data that needs to be collected from the eSport feeds.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started BlinkPool?
A: That the underground illegal eSports betting market was going to be shut down when it was!

Q: We mentioned elevators. Who would you choose to be stuck in a lift with?
A: Scott Adams, I’ve always found his material hilarious and his writing thought-provoking.

Q: You are based in London. What’s that like as a place to get a start-up to get going?
A: You’ve got great talent, great food and a strong start-up ecosystem. Honestly I can’t imagine it getting much better for me. Obviously, you’ve got Silicon Valley, however, we’re a gambling company and London really is the number 1 place in the world to build a gambling start-up.

Q: Aside from yours, what’s the one business you wish you had founded (preferably something less obvious than Apple, Google or Uber)?
A: I like businesses that have a fundamental impact on how we behave, whether that is how we do business or what we do with our free time as well as having ‘virality’ baked into it. On the business front, I think Trello have done an amazing job. A great, simple tool that has a value proposition strong enough for an individual to use alone. It becomes even more powerful when you get your team members to use it. Great business.

Suraj Gosai, CEO, BlinkPool

Blinkpool is an eSports betting platform designed to bridge the gap between betting and the eSports audience. The London-based business has combined proprietary AI technology with an innovative gambling mechanism to create unique in-play betting opportunities.

Founded by data and research specialists Suraj Gosai (CEO) and Jordan Douglas (CTO), the platform asks viewers ‘hyper-contextual’ questions in real-time while an eSports game is being played. These ‘quick-fire’ betting markets are live for a period of 15 to 45 seconds, mimicking the fast paced nature of the games the audience enjoy watching and playing.


Q: What’s your Elevator pitch?
A: VideoJam is a technology company developing powerful, mass data-driven and automated SaaS solutions tailored to power video transactions and monetization across multiple platforms.

Q: You have been through a 180 degree pivot, what was that like?
A: I was lucky enough to gain the support and backing of MauDau’s backers and incept a video venture from scratch, only based on strong faith and a feeling that programmatic video is booming, broken and deserves more than the tools that were out there when we started.

The market and landscape has evolved significantly since Q1 2015 when we made our first steps into this vertical. Yet, programmatic video is still a complete jungle and the only way to have more and more advertisers and marketers of all types step up and take on more video budgets is by providing them with tools like ours.

Q: Tell us about your team?
A: We have been lucky to build and refine over time a commando team of super passionate, diversified and talented people, each of them bringing their own unique personality and approach.

Truth is when you start a business it’s crucial to build a team of ‘A’ type people. But it’s the hardest thing to do, especially when you’re trying to keep things lean and mean. After extensive acquisition efforts and talent hunting, we are proud to have the best team we could wish for. The ultimate ‘A’ team is a result of perseverance and refusal to compromise or lower the bar – and a lot of betting on long-term investment.

Q: What is your culture and how do you hire?
A: We keep a very open, honest, and straightforward approach and culture and I think that this resonates with candidates and people who get to know us or just hear about us. It’s the small things such as printing on the wall a few sentences about the difference between winners to losers, asking the reader to take a side and sending a strong and clear signal that we are not into compromising on things.

Q: What are your interests outside of work?
A: I love running (we have a VideoJam running group and nailed the past TLV half marathon and 10K tracks), I also love wind-surfing and spending time with my wife and kids, either on the beach or travelling locally and abroad.

Q: Between you and me what’s it like working with Velo?
A: They are super solid, farsighted, and loyal backers who give a VC meaning to the saying: ‘when going gets tough, the tough get going’. I personally found their business acumen, sincere and honest approach and relationship to be a driving fuel to our venture, to our board room and to my ability as CEO to steer the venture forward, knowing they’ve got my back.

Q: What advice would you have for a start-up founder?
A: Whatever you do, never compromise on character and values of people you recruit. We made such a compromise twice because we were eager to move faster and we ended up getting a good and super short honey moon and a terrible ‘marriage’. Certain skills come and go and can be gained or developed, but character, values, and real talent are there to stay and we’ve found those to be 10X more rewarding. So, choose your co-founders and team wisely, choose you investors carefully and sprint ahead!

Q: What is one thing that keeps you up at night?
A: It’s never one thing! My kids… Thoughts on product, and balancing priorities between short-term urgent tasks and long-term projects that will get us to where we really want to go. No lie about it – running a tight start-up is no picnic and there are times that you feel that if you had 3X more budget to work with you would have progressed 10X. Yet that feeling is not always true and many times you realize that you can do much more from a limited budget than you’d think and that spending more doesn’t necessarily mean progressing more linearly.

Q: What would you say is the biggest lesson you have learned while running VideoJam?
A: That you live and die by the people you chose to work with and investors who stand behind you. We tend as entrepreneurs to think so much on end users, product needs and so forth. But the biggest thing and driver to worry about is people. That comes both in the form of co-founders, core-team and backers who really back you up and let you fly rather than slow you down and distract you or discourage you continuously.

Q: We mentioned elevators – who would you choose to be stuck in a lift with?
A: Mark Zuckerberg. It just can’t get more inspiring than the determination, vision, and farsighted goal setting.

Q: Aside from yours, what’s the one business you wish you had founded (preferably something less obvious than Apple, Google or Uber)?
A: Slack! Fantastic product that came out of solving a real pain and adding huge value.

Uri Lancry, Co-founder & CEO, VideoJam.tv

VideoJam.tv is a video technology company with the mission and vision of unlocking programmatic video.

While video content streaming, mobile usage and programmatic trade are growing at unprecedented rates, current ad serving and user experience are greatly behind and things just don’t make much sense for end users and marketers.

We greatly believe that the future belongs to powerful, automated, predictive, big-data and AI driven programmatic trade we are building an engine to take us there and smart publisher and advertiser facing extensions on top of that engine. Advertisers and publishers alike are desperate for video ad serving solution that will do the right job, at the right price, in the right way, and that’s what we are working on.

We’ve built a powerful ad-server-player solution, integrated it with prominent DSP’s and SSP’s and we are gradually adding product layers, determined to make publishers and advertiser lives so much better. From our Video Lab and agency sand-box to our white-label/SaaS ad serving solution our hearts and minds are where smart video serving is!

We are backed by a few of the top investors and investment houses a venture can wish for. From Diwip’s co-founders, through Velo Partners and Entree Capital, we have solid and super farsighted and supportive backers, who have huge faith in building game-changing IP’s and winning teams.

ADDA52

Q: What’s your Elevator pitch?
A: Adda52 is the largest poker portal in India, aiming to grow the game and provide the best poker experience in India.

Q: What’s your history? How did you get together?
A: Mohit Agarwal and I are childhood friends. We met at DPS R.K Puram School in Delhi. We kind of kept in touch when I moved abroad, but only started to discuss business ideas on one of my trips back to India. A year later I quit my job and we started a company in the space of CCTV analytics and integration with RFID based systems. We successfully exited the company in 3 years, but we didn’t want to let go of our working relationship, and so we co-founded another start-up in the online poker space.

Q: Tell us about your team?
A: Our team comprises 120 young and energetic individuals who continuously challenge us to break with tradition. They see opportunities where others see roadblocks. We are a process driven organization with a flat structure and empowered individuals.

Q: What is your culture and how do you hire?
A: We like people to participate in work areas other than their own. We emphasise team ownership rather than a strong leader, and we have implemented the Agile Methodology philosophy throughout the business.

Q: What are your interests outside of work?
A: I like spending time with family and friends. My favourite leisure activity is a beach holiday.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge?
A: The biggest challenge that I have faced is the negative perception of poker and card games in India. Although people around me have changed and appreciate what we have done, we are still a long way from changing the perception of the game.

Q: Between you and me, what’s it like working with Velo?
A: It’s been great. They have truly acted as advisors by drawing from their global business experience in online gaming.

Q: What advice would you have for a start-up founder?
A: Follow your gut – but look at the data first.

Q: What is one thing that keeps you up at night?
A: I worry that a negative perception spike might overshadow the legality of Poker in India.

Q: What would you say is the biggest lesson you have learned while running Adda52.com?
A: Always have your eye on the burn rate and understand the customer life cycle value.

Q: What was technically the most challenging part of developing Adda52.com?
A: To choose the right technology for UI. As the online world evolves, UI technology changes rapidly and you have to be at the cutting edge, like shifting from flex to HTML5 and then to angular HTML5 and then to Native app development.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started Adda52.com?
A: How hard it is to acquire users if mainstream online channels like Google and Facebook are closed to you.

Q: You have recently announced an exciting sale to Delta. How do you see yourselves transitioning into a large group?
A: This remains to be seen! We are currently in discussions with the management about how to best integrate into the group.

Q: We mentioned elevators – Who would you choose to be stuck in a lift with?
A: My twin daughters and my wife.

Q: You are based in Delhi. What’s that like as a place to get a start-up going?
A: Delhi is exciting. It has a vibrant start-up culture, probably the best in India after Bangalore. In fact, our area is known as Silicon Gully (Udyog Vihar) and is home to many prominent Indian start-ups like Snapdeal, Paytm, Zomato, Jabong, Foodpanda and Adda52, amongst others.

Q: Aside from yours, what’s the one business you wish you had founded?
A: I always dreamed of starting a two wheeler taxi service in India to solve road congestion and the dire infrastructure situation.

Anuj Gupta, Co-Founder, Adda52

Adda52.com is India’s most innovative online poker platform. The ultimate destination for Texas Hold‘em and Omaha, Adda52.com was founded by Anuj Gupta and Mohit Agarwal, who developed their platform to provide a safe and accessible environment for online poker players. Using advanced algorithms to expel users with malicious intent, and allowing users to play directly from their browsers, Adda52.com is the leading provider of protected and convenient online poker in India. The platform allows players to pay safely using online banking; to withdraw their winnings instantly, and to play on all mobile tablets and PCs.

Bringing engagement to the game through promotions, and by hosting prestigious online tournaments, the business continues to evolve in tune with player demand and the progress of technology. Adda52 LIVE allows players to enjoy live poker games, and a partnership with World Poker Tour® offers Indian poker players the opportunity to qualify for select international WPT events via official satellites on the Adda52 website.

With a clear vision into the future of online gaming, Adda52.com is constantly growing its platforms, and developing ideas for a multitude of new hybrid apps and software. Working with cutting-edge technology and some of the world’s leading creative thinkers, the business continues to sit at the forefront of online gaming solutions.

Exploring emerging technologies and harnessing the thriving creativity of India’s top hi-tech talent, Adda52.com continues to uphold its position as a leading online poker platform.

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