Hot 50 2015 – Upstarts and Explorers5th February 2015 7:37 am GMT
STEVE BEAUREGARD – CEO GoCoin
If anyone can turn BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies from the niche concern of internet radicals into a mainstream payments business, it is Steve Beauregard. He is the credible face that is needed for the investment community and regulators to take crypto seriously. Thus far, credit card companies, banks and payment processors have failed the gambling industry in the US. If GoCoin can disrupt their hegemony by streamlining payments and doing it at a fraction of the cost, then cryptocurrencies will have arrived. GoCoin has estimated that a remarkable 80 per cent of crypto transactions are related to gambling. That stat alone makes GoCoin a company to watch.
DENNIS DIACONESCU – COO Odobo
Dennis Diaconescu is described by those who know him as someone not particularly comfortable in the limelight, but he plays a key role in ensuring Odobo functions properly. This is no mean feat when working with an ever-growing roster of developers and iGaming clients. A trusted lieutenant of Odobo CEO Ashley Lang, who he worked with at Mansion, Diaconescu officially oversees technology, but his impact is felt across the business, where he is the driving force in getting anything done that needs doing. Those that know him expect great things at Odobo or elsewhere. Diaconescu is one to watch.
FREDRIK ELMQVIST – CEO Yggdrasil
Having started Yggdrasil with a skeleton team, Fredrik Elmqvist has seen the business expand rapidly, going from start-up to established business in a flash. Its parent company Cherry has even moved to shift its focus away from land-based to online in part due to the subsidiary’s success. The big challenge in 2015 will be to expand beyond its key Nordic markets and sign up more partners in other jurisdictions.
DANIEL KAJOUIE – PRESIDENT & CEO Imperus Technologies
Daniel Kajouie’s quest to develop a truly converged real-money and free-to-play gaming solution has taken a major step forward with the $100m acquisition of Best Casino operator diwip. The company, formerly known as ISIS Labs, was forced to delay the implementation of its marketing strategy due to the unfortunate coincidence of sharing a name with a militant group in the Middle East. Kajouie will be looking to ensure the rebranded business can hit the ground running in 2015.
OHAD NARKIS – CEO BGO
Any man trusted by affiliates-turned operators Alex Holt and Richard Skelhorn to lead the business they built from the ground up is undoubtedly an impressive type – the fact that Narkis and the founders impressed Playtech enough to convince the supplier to pump £10m into BGO, even more so. Ohad Narkis certainly has a potentially tricky job on his hands to establish BGO as a leading casino business in the crowded UK market, but supported by Holt and Skelhorn, and with a career that has seen him work for the likes of Williams Interactive and PokerStars, few would bet against him.
HENRIK PERSSON EKDAHL – PARTNER & CO-FOUNDER Optimizer Invest
Put simply, Henrik Persson Ekdahl rarely gets it wrong. He founded Betsafe before selling it to Betsson. He then founded Betit and sold it to GVC Holdings after just five months in operation for a scarcely believable €23m. Few companies have grown so fast and sold so quickly. Persson founded venture capital fund Optimizer Invest in 2012, which has a huge stable of B2C online businesses, including his latest hit gambling company Casino Saga. With Persson on board you can expect it to be snapped up some time soon.
NIGEL ECCLES – CEO FanDuel
With regular fixed odds sports betting still banned in most of the US, fantasy sports has taken off as the acceptable face of gambling on sport. Fantasy sports were carved out of UIGEA, and the sports leagues have grown more comfortable with fantasy, in no small part due to the success of DraftKings and FanDuel. Nigel Eccles launched FanDuel about four years ago and led it to overwhelming market leadership. He raised $70m in a finding round in the latter part of 2014 to take the company on.
JASON ROBINS – CEO DraftKings
Jason Robins has driven DraftKings on from a position where it was just one of 20 companies chasing FanDuel to being the clear number two. The two companies now tower over the competition in a manner similar to PokerStars and Full Tilt at their peak in poker. With DraftKings raising $41m in 2014 and an increasing number of states becoming more comfortable with the legal situation of fantasy, you can be sure that both companies have an extremely bright future indeed.
FILIP SÄFBECK – CEO ELK Studios
First there was Net Entertainment, then there was Quickspin and now there is ELK Studios. Filip Säfbeck has recruited a great team of developers to build mobile casino games. While other studios continue to build desktop games then adapt them to mobile, ELK has taken the LeoVegas approach of building for mobile. Desktop does not even get a mention on the ELK web page. This is early days. ELK has only produced two games, but it has already signed up the cream of Nordic operators. Betsson will launch The Lab and The Fish in January. Others such as LeoVegas and Mr Green will follow. One to watch.
ANDREW SHARLAND – MANAGING DIRECTOR Fresh8
Emerging at a time when operators are looking to streamline marketing operations, Fresh8 looks set for a stellar year. Its proprietary algorithms scan articles and push betting options to customers, helping monetise content and increasing player spend. Managing director of the business, Andrew Sharland, serves as the face of the company, already agreeing deals with the likes of Sky Bet and Perform.
GEORGE WESTIN – CEO Casino Saga
George Westin is one of those Swedish wonderkids who just keeps on helping to build successful online gambling companies. His CV takes in Boss Media, Betsson, Betsafe, Casumo and now Casino Saga. His l atest project takes the online casino as social adventure theme pioneered by his old pals at Casumo to new heights. Westin has a vision.
PINI YAKUEL – CEO Optimove
Facebook was originally viewed as a low-cost acquisition channel for companies to market their services, and for social casino operators to acquire players, only for high competition to send costs soaring. While numerous marketing and optimisation solutions have emerged to help companies reduce costs, few have garnered as much praise as Optimove. As founder and chief executive, Pini Yakuel is the man behind the technology and has created an easy-to-use and effective system that irons out a lot of the complexities of social marketing.
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