Going viral from Finland & Malta – interview with Daniel Eriksson
We caught up with Malta-based Daniel Eriksson to learn more about the firm’s B2B and B2C approach to business.
White label, platform, online casino – we don’t know where to start! With your three products you cover a major part of the industry. Could you explain what each product is doing and what was the business path you went through forming them?
Finnplay was founded in 2008 by Martin Prantner, with the ambition to become a reliable, agile and trustworthy gaming platform targeting licensed customers in smaller regulated markets in Europe. Finnplay got customers in Belgium as one of our first customers. As business went along, there were coming in leads of customers who did not have their own gaming license, this then naturally grew into us acquiring a license of our own. Curacao became our first choice and with that Viral was born. We got the Curacao license in 2013. Since then we applied and received the UKGC pool betting license in 2015.
Same time as I came on board, I started working on our own B2C brand LuckyCasino.com a fun and character based casino story running entirely on our platform. This also became our base applying with the MGA and we received the MGA license 2016.
You mentioned that you’re planning to operate Viral and Finnplay under one brand. Could you shed some light on the reason behind this decision? What will be your business development strategy after this move?
To better streamline our business, and provide what is most natural for our customers. We felt it important that we only market one brand, but then rather focus on products instead of running too many labels which maybe only confuses our customers. Finnplay will moving forward provide platforms and white label offerings under the strong management of our recent hire VP of White Label Unit Carl-Anthony Degiorgio together with Finnplay’s CCO Erkki Nikunen. The corporate structure will not change due to this operational change.
You launched LuckyCasino in 2016 – how will you raise this new baby? We bet you have some ambitious plans for this year!
Oh wow yes, I’m happy with the above mentioned changes, as I have been operating the entire business up until now, and really not been able to focus fully on getting Lucky Casino to where I want it to be. I will not try to re-invent the wheel, I believe existing wheels get the job done, and I will improve the our methods and enable those in a way that is appealing for the player and create stickiness. There are some exciting new games coming up Q3/Q4 with LuckyCasino. We are also looking for investors in the newly started company holding the Lucky Casino label rights.
You started off with Curacao license and then obtained the UK and Maltese licenses. Could you tell us more about the process? Some of our readers are planning to apply for these licenses – would you have any tips for them?
I think your readers do not have time to hear the entire story about how to get going with a license application. But there are a few things, that I believe allowed us to get the first license in 6 weeks. 1. Hire a UK based consultant with a proven track record. This will help you communicate with UKGC and make sure that your responses and documentation are in line with what is expected from the UKGC to allow you to operate in the market. 2. Get organised, make sure you have people enough to write the documentation and deliver the technical features needed to answer to all the requirements in the future operation. 3. Constant follow ups, create google docs with missing tasks, use Dropbox to share documents between yourselves and communicate with your consultant in the UK everything you are thinking about before, you ever respond to the UK.
When you apply for the license there should be silence for 3-4 weeks. Then you will get a few follow up questions or clarifications needed to proceed. How you answer to these will allow you to get the license in 1 week. We got 2 follow-up rounds and thus got the license in 6 weeks.
We know that you consider applying for the recently introduced Maltese fantasy sports license. How would you describe its potential in the light of the markets you’re present on?
I think this is an untapped market in so many ways, as it connects to a much broader range of people interested in fantasy sports. Also a big difference is that it is not considered as gambling by the MGA which could potentially unlock a much larger base of players, as it will not be coded as a gambling transactions by the payment service providers.
Your team is based in Malta and Finland. Why Malta, why Finland? What are the advantages of being split in these two locations? Are there any challenges you have to overcome?
Martin, who started Finnplay, is based in Finland and has his family there. It was only natural for him to start his company there to build his dream. In reality, Viral was started before I started working with the company, but there was nothing operational in Malta at the time, and now we are employing 6 people, and will probably be 10 in Malta before the end of the year. So when Martin and I started, we decided to do LuckyCasino and have me manage the White label part in the beginning, which I have been doing until now. I think one advantage is giving staff the opportunity to travel or even relocate between different locations. I feel that Finland provides more structure and a more normal way of life, whereas Malta could be fun for a while to visit and work, and then return to Finland. Finnplay also has developers full time in Eastern Europe and Asia so there are definitely some time zone and cultural differences. I do believe we have learned to overcome them. Yangtze Meng, one of our lead developers, has even relocated to Finland since he started working for us with his entire family from China to Helsinki.
We would love to know more about the man behind all the business! You’re now involved in many different sides of the industry. What was your way to reach this point?
I’ve been a self-employed entrepreneur for quite some time, I believe since 2003. With this industry I started as an affiliate for an American poker software company in 2006, and have stayed In gambling ever since. My way to reach where I am now is the constant interest of learning something new, and the total diversity in doing a little bit of everything in a growing start-up helps keep you constantly on edge. I do however believe much more in working smart, rather than working hard. Being inexperienced and just working hard and many hours might not take you as far as if you get help and work with others who are very experienced and might have done mistakes you would do if you were taking the decisions all by yourself. I think this is where our team can constantly excel also with a wide range both in age and qualifications within our group of companies. I often think of Bill Gates quote; “Difficult tasks I appoint to lazy people.” Because I know they will find an easy way to do it. Thinking outside of the box gets you far but experience and dedication gets you even further.
With such a busy career, stress is an unavoidable part of the process- how do you combat it? Does the Maltese environment help with that or is it easier to handle in colder Scandinavia?
I have very little to complain about Malta if anything. Malta has a little of everything and the summer weekends at Baia beach club is a good source of energy. Winter times in Malta I get to run along the promenades with my son and our kick-bikes speeding like two lunatics, good fun. I go to Hilton gym 5-6 days of the week and that keeps me healthy, I have not been sick for the last 2 years. Quite incredible as I do have a few travel days per year. Night time I do enjoy a cigar whenever I have the time to spare. Whatever Sweden has to offer I try to enjoy one month of summer, and 1 week or 2 over Christmas / new years eve, the time in-between I think is quite difficult in Sweden actually.
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