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Exclusive Q&A with Phil Hubner Chief Business Development Officer at Challengermode

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

 

Retired players become media commentators, or selectors, or coaches, or the sports administrators. That is the trend in most sports.

What about esports? What do esports players do once they retire?

We have with us here Phil Hubner, the Chief Business Development Officer at Challengermode, who was a successful esports player too.

He talks about his esports playing days, his struggles to build a career, his company and the career options available of esports players in the industry.

Q. We shall begin with your esports career. How did your attention turn to esports and how it developed?

A. Like a lot of people in the industry, my introduction to gaming and esports began at a very young age. My first memory of gaming was in 1996. I was 4 years old, sitting in my 21 year old uncle’s lap, watching a screen light up with flash rockets, lasers and machine guns in Quake. And then playing my first ever casual match against my brother and my uncle’s best friend.

By 2005 I’d spent almost all of my free time playing video games, with the whole of 2004 spent perfecting my craft in DotA. That meant watching videos of the best players in the game, spending my days on IRC networks chatting with some of the top players and getting tips and tricks from them. I was part of the professional German esports organization “mousesports” which accounted for my first real experience with esports. There I managed the team’s scrimmage and tournament schedule and substituted as a player on the roster; primarily in practice matches.

A short 4 years later, Heroes of Newerth was released – the first real successor and stand-alone version of DotA. I spent my days playing at a top level, there didn’t seem to be much of a chance of making a living from esports in either game. Teams weren’t very supportive, there were no actual salaries being paid out, and the prize money wasn’t enough to sustain competitors unless they won every single tournament that ran. This was the point I decided that playing, whilst an important part of my free time, wasn’t going to be the career choice for me. I wanted to do something bigger, more impactful, and most importantly something that would allow me to pursue a full-time, paying career within this industry.

Q. Could you narrate your transition from an esports player to an industry professional? What are the challenges that you faced?

A. The first step towards making a career outside of being a player involved turning my industry knowledge into a stint in journalism. In 2010 I wrote an email to the up-and-coming esports publication ESFIWorld (now sadly defunct), arguing they should consider reporting on MOBA games like Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends. The CEO welcomed the idea and I joined the team there as a Content Director – an unpaid position – whilst finishing high school.

In 2011 I covered my first industry events – “The International”, and CeBIT, where the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship took place. I threw myself into these events, striking up conversations with the tournament operators, commentators, hosts, players and more. I recorded interviews, wrote articles, and attended after-parties – producing over 130 content pieces in a span of just 5 days. But this still fell short of “making a living” in esports. Like many people who want to turn their passion into their career, the main challenge was finding a role that could support me financially. In 2011 I was still a broke student with hardly enough money to buy food at these events. One night, our hotel room got cancelled, forcing us to go back to the hostel we had stayed the night before, who allowed us to sleep on the floor in their storage room – not the best example of a successful esports career!

But this experience did allow me to make a name for myself within the European esports industry. I wasn’t famous by any means, but I knew people. One of these people was Michal Blicharz (as of my writing this the VP of Pro Gaming at ESL Gaming) who was the man with the plan on the Intel Extreme Masters. I asked whether there were any openings for internships or junior positions within their company. Within a week I got an offer, quit school and in March 2012 – exactly a year after my first ever live esports event – I attended my first event as an intern under Michal, where I would soon become a Junior Product Manager. With a paying role under my belt, the main challenge became embedding myself fully in the rapidly growing and constantly changing industry, an industry at the forefront of digital marketing.

Moving away from the editorial side of the esports industry – In 2015 I started working with Ben Goldhaber at the time Content Director at Twitch, handling content marketing for Twitch in Europe and managing their mighty social media accounts with millions of followers. I moved to London, and shortly after pitched a new role and department to the current VP of Marketing at Twitch: International Marketing. Following this I saw many opportunities in both the rising esports industry, and the newly discovered land of opportunities that was influencer marketing – managing half a dozen streamers and influencers. This led me to my first role in Business Development in helping build up the Italian esports organization QLASH.

Q. Let’s now move to your career at Challengermode. What exactly does Challengermode offer and what’s your role as Chief Business Development Officer?

A. Challengermode is an esports platform with a big focus on the grassroots levels of competitive gaming, and a vision to make esports as accessible as possible. In effect, that means we build technology that makes playing in and offering esports competitions seamless. I joined Challengermode in 2017 as Head of Business Development, where I was largely responsible for onboarding the very first partners at the company, as well as devising the company’s partnerships and business strategy. I came to this after working in a wider variety of positions around esports, from marketing and communications to product management to business development and strategy. In my current role as CBDO I draw on a lot of that experience to translate greater accessibility in esports into greater value for stakeholders all across the esports ecosystem. I also manage two key departments within the company that deal with acquiring and then supporting partners such as game developers, tournament organizers, esports teams and brands.

Q. A number of young people become esports wizards. Could you tell us the career options available to them once they hit the esports peak and start the downhill journey?

A. I wouldn’t call it a downhill journey. I think it’s more of a natural evolution to go from player to industry professional. Hopefully my previous answer goes some way to highlighting the breadth of roles that are available in the industry away from the bright lights of being a competitor!

My experiences may be a few years old now, but if you look at the esports industry today, there are a few obvious steps one can take after putting down the mouse and keyboard (or controller) and wanting to fulfill a role within the industry with the background of being a professional player. There are many living examples of players that have turned to commentary and analysis for example. Using their in-depth knowledge of their game to dissect other players’ performances.

Another route that many have gone is to become a coach. Much like in traditional sports – years and years of playing will have honed your understanding of the game, problems for individual players to overcome and will have given you a keen read on other teams, their strategies, and their weaknesses. Similarly though, this is only the correct path for the few players that in their playing careers tend to be actively engaged in strategy and tactical choices.

For those with a more entrepreneurial nature, a common trend you’ll see is the formation of a new esports team or a company within esports that solves a problem they may have uncovered during their days as a player. You’ll find many, many such examples dating all the way back even to some of the oldest esports organizations such as SK Gaming or Ninjas in Pyjamas, but even more so in newcomers such as TSM, G2 Esports or 100 Thieves.

If none of those are the right way to go, luckily the rise of Twitch and the continued success of YouTube have provided any retiring player with an outlet and opportunity to continue their careers even beyond their competitive days. For many viewers, there’s little more entertaining (and educational) than watching players who play at the top level of their game. What’s better than getting an opportunity to directly engage with, chat, and ask questions to a retired star player?

Q. From a personal point of view, what are the advantages an esports player looking for a career in the gaming industry has, compared to a non-player?

A. Put simply – industry knowledge. Esports is still a very young industry and every year more companies enter the sector than there is talent available to staff them. Professional players, retired or not, will have some of the keenest eyes when it comes to authentically speaking to the esports audience. It’s not just an audience for them after all, it will have been their life for the past few years. This means there will always be in-roads for these individuals when looking to move into the business of esports.

Many of them however will experience a heavy reality check when starting this next step of their journey: while they may have a keen understanding of the audience, they might not have many skills directly applicable to their new roles. Be these in marketing, operations, recruiting or what have you. There’s good news though: their diligence, discipline and ability to become the best at something will easily translate into other fields outside of the games they played for so long. Besides from the industry knowledge, the soft skills are easily transferable.

Q. Again from a personal perspective, is the industry welcoming enough to the esports players? Any comments on that?

A. Whenever a professional player retires, that person should be seen as a top candidate not necessarily to join your executive team and lead the charge, but at the very least someone that will no doubt be a fast learner and someone that can intently focus on whatever is put in front of them. It is up to the universities, colleges and companies in the space to provide these paths for these players; but likewise up to these players to identify and accept where they stand within a professional context, how applicable their skills are, and where they may be lacking.

I have no doubt that anybody capable of being the best out of millions of players in any given game will likewise be capable of being the best at many other jobs and tasks thrown at them; that they will learn them quickly and learn how to excel at them, and if we do a good enough job at telling the stories of former professional players and their careers, we can give hope and inspiration to current and future pro players, whilst reassuring companies that former professional players are likely to be top-tier hires if provided the right guidance and opportunity.

Q. What are the potential roles and positions in the gaming industry that particularly suit esports players?

A. Using some of the roles I mentioned previously as examples, commentators and analyst roles lend themselves well to the kind of esports competitors that are naturally charismatic and have an ability to speak concisely. Players choosing to go down this path are often at the mercy of the audience. When it comes to coach roles oftentimes this is a natural fit for team captains, those who have been on the frontline in leadership positions before have an understanding of what different team members need and how to handle group dynamics.

Many retired players have found ways into game balance and later game design teams either for the very same games that they were once competitive in, or for new games in the same, unexplored genre. After all, who understands MOBAs better than someone who has played one for tens of thousands of hours?

Ultimately what roles in the games industry that suit esports players depends greatly on the player themselves. What skills they have and what interests them. There are myriad roles out there for players with a solid industry knowledge base to get involved across art, design, marketing, communications, business, finance etc. It all comes down to what they want to do.

Q. Finally, as someone who has experienced it from both ends of the spectrum – as a player and then as an industry professional – what are the changes you would like to have in the esports vertical in the future?

A. What may be missing today is a safety net catching and training those players that don’t fall into the categories I’ve mentioned above. Those that aren’t as entrepreneurial or self-driven, and those that maybe want to step one further step away from the game itself than a role as a commentator, analyst, coach or game designer would allow them to. I’d like to see more organisations taking responsibility for the futures of their current talent. Not just for the sake of the competitors themselves, but for the sake of the industry as a whole.

 

Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Kevin Gosschalk, CEO of Arkose Labs

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

Arkose Labs has carved a niche for itself in the online fraud-fighting front by launching something that nobody has done before: by offering financial guarantee against credential stuffing attacks for the users of its security system.

Kevin Gosschalk, CEO of Arkose Labs, talks here about this confident initiative. He says this move stems from his belief that “security vendors should stand behind their products and services in a real, tangible way.”

He also offers his insights about the impact of credential stuffing in general and specifically in gambling and gaming industry.

Read on for his forthright and succinct views on fighting online frauds and a host of related topics.

Q. Let’s start with a quick introduction of yourself. Could you tell us about your education, career and interests?

A. I am a native of Brisbane, Australia — born and raised –and graduated from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with a degree in Interactive Entertainment. Prior to founding Arkose Labs, I worked in biomedical research where I used machine vision technology for the early detection of diabetes. I later developed technology that assisted adults with intellectual differences in social settings. I believe my unique background brings a bit of a unique mindset to fighting fraud.

Q. How do you look back to the days of founding Arkose Labs? What was the vision when founding Arkose Labs?

A. The original vision was an ambitious one, but one I believe we can achieve: to make the internet safe for all good users. Online fraud is the biggest issue facing businesses and consumers today. I didn’t have a background in the fraud industry prior to starting Arkose Labs, but experienced these issues as a user of the internet. We want to be aggressive in fighting fraud and eliminate it rather than mitigate it. In the 5 years since the company started, we have made great strides in achieving our goal. We grew from a two-person startup in Brisbane to a company that now employs hundreds with offices in multiple continents. We also just closed our biggest quarter ever. The company has been on a great growth trajectory.

Q. Do you think credential stuffing is going to become one of the biggest financial threats for online businesses? Do share the reasons if you think so?

A. We believe it already is one of the biggest threats to online businesses today. This is because they are simple attacks to carry out, but the potential financial motivation is very high. There is an organised, underground cybercrime ecosystem that provides cheap and easy access to freshly stolen data and the latest automated tools, allowing fraudsters to attack enterprises at scale.

The low barrier to entry means that only a small percentage of these attempts have to be successful to turn a profit. Once they have compromised an account, attackers have many different ways to monetize it. They can steal money directly from the account, resell accounts or personal information, use the account to launder money, and much more.

Q. Are gambling and gaming industry particularly vulnerable to credential stuffing? Our readers would be eager to hear your insights into this.

A. Yes, the gambling and online gaming industry is a high target for credential stuffing attacks. One reason for this is that they are usually linked with a bank account or payment mechanism, so fraudsters look to compromise these accounts to gain access to that information. A compromised account can also be used to launder stolen money. Unlike bank accounts, these accounts are generally less protected; users may not have two-factor authentication enabled as they would on a financial account, for example. Online gambling is becoming more popular by the day, which means there is an ever-increasing amount of accounts for fraudsters to target.

Q. Arkose Labs is the first and perhaps the only company that offers a financial guarantee against credential stuffing attacks? Could you tell us the thought process behind such an unprecedented offer?

A. We believe security vendors should stand behind their products and services in a real, tangible way. Companies count on us to protect their most valuable data and keep their platforms safe from account compromises. We launched this warranty to show we are a true partner with our clients and we are putting our money where our mouth is. We feel offering such a warranty gives clients peace of mind that 24/7, we are there to help them defend against evolving attacks. This warranty provides commercial assurance that Arkose Labs will deliver the most robust protection against credential stuffing attacks available on the market today. It includes up to $1 million recoverable for covered losses and a 48-hour remediation SLA (service level guarantee). We do this in a user-centric way, without impacting good consumers’ experience.

Q. From the outside, the credential stuffing guarantee appears an incredibly brave move. How confident are you in your technology and processes?

A. We are incredibly confident. We would not have launched this warranty if we did not believe we could back what we say. We have years of experience protecting some of the largest, global enterprises from credential stuffing attacks.

Q. Have the credential stuffing attacks intensified on your systems after the warranty? How was the response from the hackers and ransomware attackers towards the announcement?

A. We have not seen any noticeable increase in attack intensity due to the warranty announcement. There is always a constant stream of attacks that we protect clients from. We do see a seasonality increase in attack intensity during Q4 and we anticipate heightened attacks during the holiday season.

Q. What are the systems and technologies Arkose Labs has developed to prevent the credential stuffing attacks? Could you talk about the journey through the technology development?

A. The Arkose Labs platform performs sophisticated real-time analysis of traffic to look for even the most subtle indicators of fraud. However, this is done without collecting large sets of personal information, as they can cause a privacy and compliance headache. Instead, the platform focuses on behavior, device, and network characteristics and how they are connected

Arkose Labs classifies and segments traffic based on the risk profile. Triaging traffic, based on whether it is likely to be legitimate, a bot, or human fraudster, provides actionable intelligence that can inform the system of any secondary screening required.

So the platform combines risk assessments with challenges, by leveraging a continuous feedback loop to improve fraud detection rates, while decreasing challenge rates for good users. Embedded machine learning will provide advanced anomaly detection and evolving protection, taking the burden away from in-house teams.

Q. Let’s shift the focus to the effect of the pandemic, lockdown and work-from-home on ransomware and credential stuffing attacks? What were the trends of online frauds during the Covid-19 days?

A. Not surprisingly, online fraud spiked during the height of the pandemic and related lockdowns.  Since so many more people were online, to buy everything from toilet paper to cars and everything in between, there were many more targets for fraudsters to take advantage of. Furthermore, with massively increased traffic levels, it was easier for fraudsters to “blend in” with food traffic. Even as we are slowly moving past the pandemic, consumer digital habits acquired during the time have become permanent, and as such we are seeing permanently higher levels of digital traffic as well as fraud attacks targeting digital accounts.

Q. Arkose Labs has been growing tremendously and winning laurels along the way. What are the developments and expansions in the pipeline for the near future for Arkose Labs?

A. At Arkose Labs we are always innovating. We take feedback from our clients and use that to continually improve the product. We plan to continue to grow our team, expand into new geographies, and innovate to defend against the latest evolving fraud trends.

Q. Finally, what are your advises and suggestions to businesses, especially those in the gaming and gambling sector, on how to tackle online frauds and threats like credential stuffing?

A. The key is to really understand how fraudsters attack you and how they make money. You almost have to think like a fraudster.  The way a fraudster will attack a gambling platform, and how they monetize such attacks, will differ from attacks against an online banking service, social media site, or streaming service. Work backward to figure out how they get money out of your platform and how to make that more difficult. It could be by making it more costly to buy proxies by utilizing robust IP intelligence. Or device fingerprint forcing them to invest in more software. You can trigger additional step-up measures for suspicious traffic. It’s important to not just rely on passive signals, as fraudsters can not only get around those, but it also can lead to false positives.

By making the ratio unbalanced on how much time and money fraudsters have to spend on attacks versus what they get out of them, ultimately they will move on and do something else. That’s the most effective way to stop fraud.

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Lars Kollind, Head of Business Development at iSoftBet

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Exclusive Q&A with Lars Kollind, Head of Business Development at iSoftBet
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

We present here an insightful interview with, Lars Kollind, Head of Business Development at iSoftBet.

He talks here about his career, his role in iSoftBet, the expansion plans and the impressive content that the company offers. He particularly emphasizes on the aspects that iSoftBet focuses on before entering a new market. He also describes the variety and quality of games content at the company possesses.

Here we go!

Q. Let’s start with a brief intro about yourself. Tell us about your career and interests. Our readers would love to hear that.

A. Hi! I’m Lars Kollind, Head of Business Development at iSoftBet. In my role, I work closely with our commercial and marketing teams to build and strengthen internal and external relationships, further develop sales. I leverage customer needs & insights to implement strategies that increase revenue – always on the hunt for new business opportunities, including entering new markets.

At iSoftBet, all our activities tie into our corporate values of curiosity, respect and passion as we look to bring amazing gaming experiences to players in regulated markets all over the globe.

I have spent more than a decade in senior commercial, sales and marketing roles within the gaming sector for some of the industry’s largest suppliers.

Q. You joined iSoftBet in November 2020. How has been the journey so far? Could you describe some landmarks?

A. It’s been a period of tremendous growth, both for me as an individual and for the company. I can say that I adapted easily, thanks to the very welcoming and involved team at iSoftBet. As for highlights, my most important success has been the introduction to Latin America. Another important landmark would be iSoftBet’s content going live with Jokerstar in Germany. We have a lot more in the pipeline, and I’m excited to see how we will progress in this sense.

Q.  Tell us more about your partnership with Jokerstar in the German market.

A. The German market offers some very interesting opportunities and we’ve worked hard from a regulatory standpoint to be able to bring real value to operators there.

Jokerstar gives us a platform to reach German players in what is still a market that is in the process of finding its feet, and we are eager to see what we can achieve. It is a third-generation casino operator with more than 165 gambling halls in Germany, over 1000 employees and a whopping 200.000 customers each year, now testing the waters in the online environment.

The partnership allows us to reach a wide audience and we’re more than excited to see how our games will perform with Jokerstar.

Q. There have been recent news reports about iSoftBet’s expansion plans in Latin America as well. What’s the present position and what would be the next steps?

A. It is no secret Latin America is a hugely exciting continent, having an expected GGR of over $2.5bn by 2025 in regulated markets [as per Vixo GamblingCompliance], with so much expectation as more markets embrace frameworks. We’ve grown strongly in the region with a number of key commercial deals, including Dotworkers, Doradobet and Universal Soft in recent months, with plenty more to come.

We’ve recently signed with MeridianBet as well, a partnership that will see our top slots live across Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Malta, as well as Peru in Latin America. Of course, we look forward to expanding even more in these areas, as well as entering new markets in the coming year.

Q. Now, could you enlighten our readers about your expansion plans?

A. Besides continuing to deliver amazing slots to the iGaming industry, we are also focusing on our aggregation platform. It brings an incredibly diverse array of content to market with impressive velocity, which can be extremely useful to operators in emerging and newly regulated markets.

We pride ourselves on entering regulated markets swiftly and safely, with our methodical, detailed approach seeing us now live in 20 jurisdictions, most recently Greece, with two more countries in the pipeline. We will reveal more in the coming months, but there’s plenty to look forward to.

Q. Let’s shift the focus on to the games and solutions that iSoftBet offers. What makes your company stand out in the reasonably crowded gaming content space?

A. Aggregation is an important aspect of an offering for operators today and we’re dedicated to offering the most dynamic range of games for our partners to truly excel, including exclusive content in certain territories. We offer extensive benefits for both operators and providers in this sense, fostering long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships.

Our aggregation platform allows us to bring unmatched value to our partners. Bringing more than 8,000 games from more than 85 suppliers in the industry to operators via one single integration, our platform makes a huge amount of content available to them, while they can also use our collection of advanced player engagement solutions to enhance gameplay even further.

Both our proprietary games and our aggregation partner’s games can be elevated with our engagement tools – tournaments (iNgame), achievements, free spins, jackpots and cash drops, regulatory widgets, data analysis, with more to be revealed soon.

By combining all these, we’re able to bring a highly impressive collection of content to audiences.

Q. New technologies and innovations come up in a number of verticals related to gaming: Crypto currency, blockchain, machine learning, big data analysis, you name it. Is the rapid emergence of such innovations a challenge or an opportunity for a business developer?

A. Not only do we work in iGaming, but we are a tech company at heart, and keeping our finger on the pulse of developments is vital. Our CTO, Neal Garman, recently released a white paper detailing our seven-year plan, where he outlines the important steps not just iSoftBet, but the industry needs to make to ensure we remain a vibrant entertainment sector.

In such a fast-paced environment, it is no surprise to see more innovation occur and we endeavour to do our best to lead the conversation.

Q. Finally, a question on iSoftBet’s tagline: Serious Fun. That’s really a cool one! How did it come about?

It is all about aligning with our new company ethos. “Serious Fun” comes from us ensuring to deliver our partners and our people fun experiences in a professional way. The talent, creativity, and dedication of our teams make this possible, all while following our mission and vision, and respecting our values.

Our vision is to create amazing gaming experiences and our mission is to deliver high quality products that inspire, innovate and entertain, by always placing our people, partners and the player at the heart of what we do. Our values are Respect, Curiosity, and Passion, representing the core of our company culture.

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Sujit Unni, Chief Technology Officer at Paysafe

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Exclusive Q&A with Sujit Unni, Chief Technology Officer at Paysafe
Reading Time: 8 minutes

 

How important are payment methods and speed of payment processing important for customer experience in online sports betting?

We talked with Sujit Unni, Chief Technology Officer at Paysafe, which had conducted a survey among US punters. He provided insightful and detailed answers on this and several other questions.

Read on for some fascinating perspectives on the past, present and future of the payment process and its role in online sports betting.

Q. Let’s start with the recent survey that Paysafe conducted among US sports bettors. What are the key takeaways from the survey?

A. Here are some of the conclusions we came to after surveying sports bettors in eight regulated US states:

Available payment methods influence players’ decision to use a brand: To fully capitalize on the growing opportunity of online sports betting, sportsbook operators should strongly focus on the player experience at the checkout. The payment methods that are available and the security of said methods are critical for players when it comes to evaluating which brand they choose to place their bets with.

Transaction security factors highly into choice of sportsbook: When asked to identify which criterion was most important when depositing funds with a sports-betting brand, bettors said the security of the transaction was more important than any other characteristic.

Easy and fast payments are critical: Just as important to players is the speed and ease with which they receive their winnings when they wish to cash out. According to four fifths (79%) of US sports bettors we surveyed, they have a negative impression of the sportsbook when their expectations related to cash out speeds aren’t met. This can result in the sportsbook taking a large reputation hit. A poor reputation spreads among players and can result in a significant brake on its growth.

The online sportsbooks themselves must be fast and efficient: It’s important to make sure the sportsbook’s payment platform is moving quickly and efficiently. The easier it is for a player to access payouts, the more likely they will be to continue using the platform. Those who adapt to these demands will position themselves well for significant growth.

Q. Everybody talks about the speed of payments. How does speed factor into the mobile process as a whole, and how does it contribute to the overall success of an online business, especially an iGaming business?

 

A. iGaming is changing more rapidly right now than ever before. Mobile’s role in this evolution is huge, given apps’ potential for speed and the strong relationship we’re able to build with end-users: We’re right there, in their pockets, whenever they pick up their phone.

But proximity alone is not enough. End-users will grow bored or burnt out if their experiences are slow, or if we’re not constantly offering new experiences and improving what’s already available.

Increasing the speed of our processes and the user experience is critical in that every second of load time anywhere within the app literally costs every company money, especially in iGaming, which is less of a considered purchase than traditional mobile shopping or eCommerce. iGaming customers are making fluid, real-time decisions; the more time they have to wait to get to the next step, the less patient they become and the more likely they are to drop off.

Speed is a function of many factors, and there are a number of processes that power the payments experience. We work with mobile DevOps platform Bitrise to increase the speed of all of the mobile processes that power the user experiences leading up to and including payments, as well as the behind-the-scenes operational processes that influence our ability to release updates to the app stores more frequently and faster.

The payments part of the mobile process is a particularly expensive place to be slow. Out-pacing competitors in that process is what’s creating the winners in this space.

Q. What are the ways by which Paysafe tries to accelerate its mobile processes and e-payments?

A. If you look at it from a very high level, the two primary ways we accelerate our processes and e-payments are through having the best talent and technology.

We stay competitive on the talent side by attracting and – just as importantly –

retaining the best people in the world in this space. We have been able to build on their expertise to constantly improve the speed at which we deliver value for merchants and consumers alike.

When you are investing in this level of talent, it’s important that you are not wasting their skills on things like troubleshooting, waiting around hours to test builds, or doing manual fixes to problems that could be automated.  So, on the technology side, our mobile engineering teams use Bitrise to test all new code, reduce build times from hours to minutes, identify issues that might interfere with the user experience, and so on, before submitting releases to the app stores.

Our goal is to always do everything as fast as possible, without sacrificing our standards of quality and security.

Q. It looks like the ‘slow and steady’ will not win the races anymore. But could the focus on speed–especially in payment processing–be detrimental to the fraud-prevention measures?

A. Building on my last answer, it’s imperative to not sacrifice security to save time. I will say that one of the upsides of investing in technology like Bitrise is that it allows us to get the best of both worlds: Speed and security. In our mobile engineering processes, for example, Bitrise allows us to automatically run a number of security tests and checks that were previously slow, manual labour. Now they take up less time, are more consistently executed, and actually free up the team to work on innovations for our merchants and consumers. That’s not to say that there aren’t manual checks involved anymore, but those are fewer and more meaningful.

Q. Could you talk about the recent innovations that Paysafe brought to the payments ecosystem?

A. Given the nature of our business we are constantly evolving our value proposition and anchor around our philosophy of customer outcomes. We tend to think of innovation around key pillars including:

  1. Evolving our business to be a true cloud-based platform that supports multi-sided markets. This allows existing customers and merchants to access new features and stay engaged with our platform. The recent introduction of Openbucks, a product that allows store gift cards to be used at point of sale at other merchants in the Paysafe network, benefits customers who can now use restricted gift cards across a wider merchant base, and allows our merchants to accept a non-traditional payment method.
  1. Building out hybrid-business models with the wider finance eco-system through the launch of capabilities like pop-up banking with traditional banks like TSB. While serving as a revenue stream, this also allows banks like TSB to optimize their branch footprint and enables customers to access simple transactions using the Paysafe network.

We have also spearheaded a suite of embedded finance offerings with partners like Amazon and Google. Our offerings of cash to digital, digital wallets and processor agnostic payment methods makes us one of the few firms that can offer industry specific open loop and closed loop solutions.

Q. Allow me now to bring a customer perspective. What benefits do companies, especially those in the iGaming sector, gain from integrating the accelerated payment solutions of Paysafe?

A. Given our “born in gaming” origins, we believe we are one of the few payment platforms in the market that has a full suite of solutions to support both store based and online operators. This means our combination of brick and mortar, wallet, and cash solutions allow customers to seamlessly transact and play across the in-store and online offerings of our gaming merchants.

Solutions like our single integration API give our gaming merchants access to payment processing platforms that are accessible in multiple geographies through different processors, a host of local payment methods and a global network of banks. This in effect improves the customer experience and reduces revenue losses from declined transactions.

Effective risk and fraud management is a key differentiator, given the deep expertise and geographical coverage we provide the industry. Our investment in our risk and fraud infrastructure protects both merchants and customers while ensuring a seamless payments experience.

Q. The new technologies in the payment space have blurred the boundaries of national currencies to an extent. What are your thoughts on the influence of the laws and regulations of different countries on the growth of payment processes, especially for a highly regulated industry like iGaming?

A. The world is definitely a smaller place from a payments perspective today than it was five or six years back, largely enabled by the rapid adoption of disruptive technologies like blockchain, API driven ecosystems, and standardization of messaging services.

Like any financial service, payments are heavily influenced by regulation – and fortunately in a good way for the most part. Governments have been quick at recognizing how critical a scalable and democratized payments infrastructure is to drive economic growth and, as a result, we see regulation being enacted in in many markets. This is helping build out global payment ecosystems – for instance, UPI in India, Open Banking in Europe, or FedNow in the US. As this ecosystem continues to evolve, we see the emergence of trends like pay by bank and local payment methods continuing to grab market share from the card schemes, which will benefit both consumers and merchants.

iGaming is still in its infancy and, in certain markets like the US, can ride this wave of an open payments ecosystem to provide a far superior experience to its customers. Regulation in gaming is still evolving and it will look to more mature markets in Europe for insight as it starts to put in place legislation for the industry. Paysafe is leveraging its established presence in the EU to bring insight and product offerings to the US market that allow our gaming partners to not only grow their business in line with established legislation but also to build and offer products that consider future legislation that we think could be enacted.

Q. What is your take on the growth of mobile payments over the last few years?

A. Smartphones are a part of our daily lives today and are to a large degree considered indispensable. In the few years leading up to the pandemic, we were already seeing steady growth in mobile payments.  The onset of the pandemic accelerated that growth by as much as 75% in some segments.

Some of the key drivers are:

The influence of digital transformation: As industry sectors, particularly financial services, have increasingly been disrupted and transformed, the mobile phone has emerged as an important customer engagement channel. As customer behavior matured to using mobile phones as a transaction medium, the need to support payments drove adoption.

The rise of emerging digital economies: The other big influence was the rise of emerging economies. India, for example, had a head start in becoming a digital economy with its population armed with mobile phones before they even had access to desktop computers. Countries like India that are supported by digital friendly government regulations, have a large unbanked population and an industry that’s very willing to provide payment and banking solutions, witnessed exponential growth in mobile payments.

Apps, wallets, and subscription services: As the number of apps hosted on Apple and Android platforms grew, people are increasingly using mobile phones to purchase a range of services, from buying tickets to ordering rides and subscription services. This adoption led to the creation of a full payment supportive ecosystem, including wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay, and our own Skrill digital wallet, among others) and emerging payments volumes driven by a growing library of subscription services.

Payments continue to become easy and reliable:  Having a credit or a debit card used to be the only way to make a payment on a mobile phone. However, payments have evolved to keep up with the emerging digital landscape. Today beyond these traditional payment methods, customers can pay with their bank accounts, cash, and by using over 200 local payment methods specific to geographies –which has democratized payments. That coupled with regulation to promote open banking systems and reliable real-time payments as well as faster payment infrastructure has helped drive the surge of mobile payments.

Increasingly secure and safe transactions:  Wherever there is a financial transaction there is also the risk of fraud. Because of this, mobile phones have evolved to continually make transactions both convenient and safe. Whether it’s by using face ID, biometrics or contactless payments, the ability of the manufacturers to deliver secure payments was critical in driving the wider adoption of mobile payments.

Q. Let’s conclude with something about the future. Could you reveal some of the changes that you foresee coming in the mobile space? What about the payments sector?

A. With app store operators seeing pressure from governments around the world to loosen their grips on the mobile ecosystem – especially in terms of payments – we expect to see some massive changes soon.

Alternative app stores that allow more app choices for end-users and more payment processing choices for app store publishers are benefitting both merchants and consumers.

Additionally, we expect the consumer’s need for speed to increase even further, widening the divide between those businesses that can deliver on this expectation and those that can’t.

We’re confident that, between the talent of our team and partners like Bitrise, we’ll land on the right side of that divide.

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