In the previous two years Relax Gaming has emerged as one among the business’s hottest aggregators however the firm’s roots return a decade, chief govt Tommi Maijala tells Gaming Intelligence.
Relax Gaming chief govt officer Tommi Maijala is pretty content material. 2020 may need been an annus horribilis for many of us, however for Relax Gaming it’s the 12 months that the firm really took off.
Revenue for the 12 months shall be up round 50 per cent on 2019 and the firm now employs 205 workers throughout its places of work in Estonia, Sweden, Malta, Gibraltar, Serbia and Finland. During the previous 12 months it has closed offers with the likes of GVC Holdings, Paf, Svenska Spel and Veikkaus, amongst many others. It has grow to be everybody’s favorite aggregator, with 45 video games companions and a staff that may fortunately combine six or seven new shoppers per 30 days.
“In 2018, we had been primarily a provider for tier two operators,” says Maijala. “But throughout the final 12 months we’ve got actually been getting consideration and attraction from tier ones.”
Furthermore, its Money Train 2 slot was its most profitable sport launch but with day one sport win tripling the firm’s earlier file. Sixteen gamers gained the most payout of fifty,000 x their stake throughout the ten-day launch interval, whereas greater than 5,000 gamers have claimed a prize of 1,000 x their wager – the variety of winners a direct results of the file quantity of gamers having fun with the sport.
“It is fascinating to see the growth with the high quality of the video games. Looking at the first video games like Erik the Red, and the place we are actually with Money Train 2. It might be the slot of the 12 months and what I’m listening to from operators is that it’s been one among the high three launches ever. So, we’ve got come a great distance from these early days.”
Maijala attributes the progress to the recruitment of chief product officer Simon Hammon from NetEnt in January 2018 and the subsequent growth of a devoted sport growth unit in Serbia and Sweden. It is straightforward to overlook that the firm’s first slot, Erik the Red, was launched as not too long ago as September 2018. The distinction in high quality between that first launch and Money Train 2 – simply two years later – is astounding.
“We are desirous to do even higher,” says Maijala, “so let’s see the place we’re in 12 months time.”
The secret of Relax’s success is a mixture of its good know-how and its good folks. Partners repeatedly inform Gaming Intelligence how straightforward the Relax staff are to work with – that it’s a refreshing change from the one-upmanship and exhausting negotiating type of some others.
“I believe we’re a fairly laid-back organisation,” says Maijala on Skype from his son’s bed room. “We are purpose oriented and we need to succeed however we don’t actually have a lot center administration.
We have native govt groups and they’re empowered to make choices with out having to confer with central administration.”
However, the appreciation for Relax’s tradition and its easy-going character wouldn’t exist if it was not backed up by first rate know-how.
“If we return ten years, Relax was primarily an Estonian tech-driven firm with out even a gross sales staff. The DNA of the firm has all the time been about driving the know-how and testing new technological points. That is the spine of the organisation. Others are transferring into the aggregation enterprise, having been video games studios, however we constructed a platform and are constructing on high of that, so the technical basis is really strong and agile.”
Of the firm’s first 100 staff, round 70 or 80 had been builders. Founder and now chairman Patrik Österåker was the chief know-how officer of iGame. At coronary heart he’s a techie and has all the time been eager “to cherish that know-how tradition”, based on Maijala.
Relax’s success would possibly appear to be an in a single day success story, however Gaming Intelligence first met Österåker nearly ten years in the past, when Relax had simply launched its Fast Poker product. He shaped the firm with Jani Tekoniemi in March 2010, when Relax was spun out of B2C operator iGame, which was subsequently acquired by Kindred Group (then Unibet). The ties between the three firms stay shut.
“iGame was the mothership after which Relax was spun out, and PlusPay was spun out and is now a part of Trustly, and the relaxation was bought to Unibet,” explains Maijala.
If iGame was Relax’s cornerstone shopper, then Unibet was the one which put it on the map. Relax created Unibet’s standalone poker product, which was launched in 2014, after which repeated the trick with bingo in 2015. Unibet made a big funding in the firm and the pair have loved a mutually useful relationship ever since.
Maijala joined Relax from Kindred in November final 12 months, having beforehand served as CEO of iGame. He changed Daniel Eskola, who had joined from Kindred in January 2018. Maijala says that Eskola’s determination to step into the chief business officer place when Maijala joined as CEO was the set off for Relax’s most up-to-date run of success.
“Daniel needed to go exhausting on the business aspect. He might see that his strengths lie in relationship-building and gross sales. It was an excellent determination for all of us. Now we are able to see the consequence of Daniel constructing the gross sales staff in a correct method,” says Maijala.
His devotion to the business staff, with devoted account managers and salespeople, has been transformative. When the firm first launched, gross sales was nearly an afterthought, and later it was nearly outsourced to Quickspin. In 2015, Relax agreed to develop a platform and distant gaming server to permit the common slots provider to straight combine with operators. It piggybacked off Quickspin’s progress. (The slots provider, by the way, was additionally based by Unibet and NetEnt alumni.) That was the starting of Relax’s evolution into aggregation.
Back in 2015, 80-90 per cent of Relax’s income got here from bingo and poker, however the aggregation enterprise has mushroomed, and on line casino video games now account for round two-thirds of the firm’s income. As it grew to become the dominant a part of the firm, the govt staff recognised that the firm’s gross sales and account administration (or lack of) had grow to be a bottleneck, proscribing additional progress.
For the first 5 years of its existence it had grown fortunately via contacts in Malta at firms resembling Betsson, Kindred and LeoVegas, however in an effort to unfold its wings and goal extra tier one operators, it wanted that push.
Eskola and Andrew Crosby, the latter previously head of on line casino at Mr Green, headed the account administration staff and the business aspect of the enterprise.
Crosby and James Watson had been the sole shopper help executives then, however as director of account administration, Crosby now has seven in his staff, with two new account managers becoming a member of the firm in the week we speak.
Eskola’s burgeoning staff was boosted by the arrival of Nadiya Attard from NetEnt in April to function director of gross sales.
“We have round 100 operators reside and 45 video games companions, so it takes plenty of devoted assets to be on high of the sport,” says Maijala. When we interviewed then-CEO Eskola in 2018, the firm was on the verge of this transformation. It had simply recruited Hammon and launched its first slot. It was simply opening in Gibraltar with a view to concentrating on the UK’s tier one operators. With that mission completed, what’s subsequent for Relax?
The gross sales effort of 2020 has left Relax with a robust pipeline of shoppers to combine in 2021. Maijala, a lawyer by coaching, says compliance shall be one among the huge challenges for the 12 months forward, with lots of the new tier one operators demanding extra advanced integrations.
The firm not too long ago signed a take care of German land-based operator Loewen Play and might rely Interwetten amongst its shoppers. A brand new State Treaty guarantees all kinds of difficult restrictions. Last 12 months, Relax relaunched poker for Unibet in casino-free France, and Maijala says Spain and Italy characterize targets. The US market is additional off, he says, however will occur as extra states regulate. Relaxed they might be however Maijala and his colleagues look prone to stay busy as the firm enters its second decade.