For the latest Income Access Q&A, we met with Simon Pilkington, CEO at the KaFe Rocks Group. We discussed his journey in the iGaming industry, the exciting developments taking place in the US iGaming market, and how Time2play.com is shaking up the classic affiliate business model.
Income Access (IA): Thanks for taking the time to meet with us Simon. To begin, can you tell us a bit about your background in the iGaming industry and how you came to be in your current role?Simon Pilkington (SP): Thank you so much for wanting to speak with me. My journey in the iGaming industry began in 2008 where I started off as an affiliate manager on the operator side. Since then, I’ve held roles within iGaming/sports media and data companies running their consumer betting affiliate sites, ran my own small affiliate businesses, been involved with a start-up sportsbook and then found myself at KaFe Rocks in May 2018, which has been my most amazing experience to date. Having joined KaFe Rocks in 2018 as the Head of International Content, I was asked to become the CEO in Feb 2020.
During that time, I’ve worked across different functions from commercial, marketing, product, affiliation and operations, which has given me a broad knowledge and grounding in the industry.
IA: You’ve been with KaFe Rocks Group for over three years now. What have you learned during your time there?SP: The learning curve has been a steep one, especially coming in as the first non-founder CEO of the company. It adds a different type of pressure, but all of the founders have been incredibly supportive, which is no surprise as this is a theme that runs through the company.
While it’s always been my philosophy to believe in and empower people and that the results will follow, I’ve really seen it first-hand with KaFe Rocks. It’s impressive how powerful it can be when you create a strong and diverse culture!
It’s been a fairly crazy 18 months with a combination of external elements such as Covid, algorithm updates and mass regulatory changes, alongside internal elements as we look to rebuild our foundations for further growth. I’ve truly learned how important it is to keep a level mentality and expect rapid change and the need to be proactive around these changes.
IA: As an affiliate in 2021, where do you believe the greatest opportunities lie?SP: I think the industry is still ripe with opportunities and there are some more obvious ones such as the US market, where we’ve recently launched our USCasinos.com asset, as well as our new destination brand, time2play.com. There’s a lot of excitement around this market and long-term potential it has, but of course there are plenty of challenges to overcome here.
With all the major players jostling for position in the US, I think it also leaves opportunities open in other areas. For example, I believe Latin America can become a very exciting proposition and I expect us to grow further here.
I think over the coming years you will see the affiliate side of the industry maturing further, as data and data sharing between partners and affiliates will become a bigger talking point.
We truly believe that there is a need for a destination brand in the market – somewhere where users can return to and know that the information that they’re getting is the most trustworthy and transparent out there and where all the informational and product needs are met.
IA: Time2play.com is looking to take a different approach in the USA to the classic affiliate business model. How are you looking to do that?SP: I’m so excited about our future and a big part of that is Time2play.com. While our core focus traditionally has been SEO content affiliation and we continue to have great success here, we believe that there is a huge opportunity for a true destination brand to thrive in the industry.Time2play.com is our destination brand – we have a vision of users bypassing Google long-term and coming to T2p to begin their betting and gaming search there.
The aim is for it to be the most trustworthy brand out there and that this will resonate with the userbase. It will only be present in regulated markets and even in its current early launch state, transparency will remain front and centre. Users will know that our commercial model will not allow for manipulation of rankings, and they will be exposed to the most comprehensive ranking system that’s ever been established in this industry, combining different types of rating.
The most innovative part is our Playscore, where we uniquely highlight what other key sites are scoring a particular brand as an aggregated score. Using this alongside our own double-locked Expert Rating, and our user-generated rating, gives the user an incredibly comprehensive score.
As we move forward, we will develop our product offering further, expanding into new markets and channels where we can offer the user more, give them reasons to return, and ensure that we’re the number one destination brand for the iGaming industry!
IA: Overall, the US market is an exciting one, as new states open up to legalized gambling. What do you look for when determining what operators to work with?TS: The USA is definitely an exciting market and it’s one that we believe will form a strong part of our portfolio going forward, along with a variety of other markets.
When it comes to partners, it’s a similar approach to working with them. Firstly, we’re fortunate that we already have so many strong partnerships and relationships in place that when an operator moves into a new market, the likelihood is we already have a strong starting point for a relationship.
The key is in the potential to form a true partnership, where both sides work hard for the mutual benefit of the relationship. One of our core values is that we’re ‘For the User’ and when it comes to potential operators, if they’re not well set-up operationally for a specific market, then it makes it harder for us to form that initial partnership as we know the user is not getting the best product.
However, it allows us to really give strong feedback to operators and the best ones take it on board and improve their offering off the back of it. All of our market teams are localised so we have local experts who can give great feedback here.