It’s not easy to have a successful and leading business, but probably even less so in an industry as complex and ever-changing as the iGaming one. However, that’s exactly what Ivan Montik, founder of SOFTSWISS, has done with the gaming solutions provider he launched more than a decade ago. “The company has been my primary focus and my biggest passion since 2009,” he tells Yogonet. “It wasn’t easy, as I had absolutely no experience in the industry and had to learn everything from scratch.”
The company has now become a staple of the iGaming industry, empowering partners and clients in a number of areas, including online casino, sportsbook and affiliate marketing. Part of this success responds to the constant introduction of new features, including an early adoption of cryptocurrency in 2013, and the utilization of AI within operations. “SOFTSWISS remains at the forefront of innovation and provides the market with new technologies and ideas,” Montik says with confidence.
In this interview with Yogonet, SOFTSWISS’ founder reflects on his experience within the industry, the company’s values and goals, and future expansion plans. Montik also discusses new technologies and the opportunities they open to operators, plus how his company leverages these developments within its own portfolio.
You have achieved several personal milestones within gaming throughout your career in the industry. How much would you say your personal experience has shaped the company and how do you assess your experience in this industry thus far? What new personal achievements would you like to reach in the future?
My personal achievements are all closely connected to SOFTSWISS, as the company has been my primary focus and my biggest passion since 2009. I have invested a great deal of time into studying iGaming and becoming an expert in this industry. Now I can say that the owner’s personal involvement is extremely important in the early stages of developing a business.
It wasn’t easy, as I had absolutely no experience in the industry and had to learn everything from scratch: gaming jurisdictions, regulator requirements, player preferences and rules of creating successful games, secure payment processing methods, complicated bank relationships, etc. iGaming turned out to be really complicated, but I was lucky to have people by my side who supported me in all questions and never gave up.
It is really motivating to see brands powered by SOFTSWISS get industry awards in such nominations as ‘Best Casino of the Year’, ‘Players’ Choice’, etc. SOFTSWISS itself became the ‘Best Customer Service Company of the Year’ (2021) according to the International Gaming Awards (IGA) and 5Star Starlet Awards. That makes me very proud of what we have achieved together.
Now we have reached 1,000+ employees, and that’s my big personal highlight, but also a big challenge. Running a company of this size requires certain changes in the management strategy, but staying flexible is my favourite motto, so I’m ready for further growth. We will keep reaching out to new markets, developing country projects, expanding our product line with new high-end products and delivering top technology solutions to our customers. At 40, I feel very energetic and motivated to keep my company at the forefront of innovation.
The company has been vocal in its support for Ukraine amid the current geopolitical scenario, and has asked its colleagues to join its initiatives in this regard. How would you define the company’s values, and what impact can SOFTSWISS make through its actions?
Our corporate values basically reflect the main human values, and the industry or type of business doesn’t much matter here. We definitely put our customers as our top priority and focus on providing them with the highest quality service. To implement these goals, we need to take care of the relationships within the company and create an effective corporate culture. People are our main asset and I strongly believe that mutual respect within our teams and sincere support among our colleagues are the basic things we should start with. We are striving for open and honest communication with timely feedback and try to teach our employees to share the responsibility rather than compete.
We are trying to support the initiative and show people that a swift decision resulting in a mistake is still better than a delayed decision and a lost benefit. We try to be flexible in our processes and solutions, as the agile approach has proved to be the most effective one in running a company of 1,000+ people. Freedom of speech and opinion is also absolutely essential for the effective functioning of a company. Suppressing people’s opinions can only result in permanent dissatisfaction and lead to aggression.
If the world leaders would try to manage their countries based on the values above, I believe that we could avoid many mistakes and even tragedies, like the tragedy we are witnessing now. We are vocal in our support for Ukraine because now it’s absolutely important to call things by their names. What we are facing now is the war against humanity and no political motto can justify it. Many representatives of the IT business and iGaming, including SOFTSWISS and our partners, immediately reacted to the situation and took decisive actions to help people in Ukraine in all possible ways, from sending armour to helping evacuate women and children and providing them with shelter in neighbouring countries. We know each case of a life saved through our effort and will continue investing our time and money to help this disaster end sooner.
What plans does SOFTSWISS have for global expansion in 2022 and how will it approach new locations entered last year?
We are growing both in terms of the new offices and new geographical markets. For a company of 1,000+ people, it is hard to stay in one place. Besides, we need to keep competitive in the job market and offer the most comfortable conditions to our employees. Now people at SOFTSWISS can choose to work in Poland, Georgia, Malta, Estonia or Belarus, at any of the company offices. We also hire local specialists in these locations.
Expanding the geography of the markets is also our top priority. With the licences in Serbia, Greece, and Nigeria, we are reaching out to these promising regions and planning to launch country projects in cooperation with our partners in the near future.
What global trends do you, as a long-time representative of the iGaming industry, see in gambling right now? What should you pay attention to now, so that you won’t be left behind in 5-10 years’ time?
The most vivid trend that I see is the transfer from offline gaming to online gaming. It started more than a decade ago and will last for quite a few years. The land-based casinos will continue to lose profit and online gaming will be gaining popularity. The last couple of years of lockdowns have shown us how to work from home and we also mastered home entertainment. Many players seem to be comfortable with online games and do not strive to get back to the real-life experience. Fast penetration of mobile technologies into iGaming will strengthen this trend.
Crypto gaming also stays on top of the major industry trends. 2021 was a real breakthrough year for crypto. Our internal analysis showed that last year’s growth was really amazing compared to 2020, and the share of crypto bets to fiat currency grew significantly. As the trend will obviously continue in 2022, iGaming won’t miss a chance to use all of the benefits that crypto brings to the industry.
As crypto gaming gains momentum, does the company see operators actively seeking crypto solutions? What should they take into account before engaging with these technologies?
Operators’ interest in crypto solutions continues to grow. Many fiat-currency businesses are trying to jump in and get the benefits of the promising trend. The most popular mistake many of them make is an underestimation of the traffic costs for a crypto casino. They are much higher compared to those of real money casinos, because the sources are different and the competition involves various kinds of crypto projects, not just gaming sites. So, before getting into this business, it is crucial to evaluate your capability for traffic acquisition.
Continuing to talk about technology and innovation, what other trends, such as VR or AR, or the increasingly popular metaverse, should we expect to gain a footprint in gaming this year?
Talking about 2022 in particular, I don’t think the year will be a breakthrough in terms of VR and AR in gaming. There have been very few cases of using the technologies in online casinos so far, and I don’t observe any particular interest in them either from the operators’ or the players’ perspectives. With this lack of demand, the technologies are not developing as quickly as they could and there’s very little content involving VR or AR for online casinos.
I can foresee the metaverse gaining more popularity in the next several years and stimulating the mass development of VR and AR technologies. However, mobile gaming still remains the present and the near future of online casinos. People are getting more and more attached to their mobile devices and are trying to manage their major activities with smartphones. There’s still a very large potential for development in this sphere, and it’s definitely too early to speak about the next generation of devices and technologies.
How does SOFTSWISS leverage artificial intelligence technology in its software and how do the company’s products benefit from it? What advantages does the ability to analyse user behaviour and other similar analytics reports have to the industry?
Several years ago we created an R&D department at SOFTSWISS. Its main purpose is to investigate how artificial intelligence can be used in iGaming and to consult other departments on how to implement the technology in the most efficient way. AI has proven to be very effective in terms of improving online casino security as it can detect certain fraudulent intentions and take automated actions to prevent cheating. Our research has also shown that AI technologies are essential for analysing human behaviour and customising the gaming content according to the achieved data.
Approaching every player individually and providing them with a custom-tailored gaming experience can significantly increase their lifetime value which is basically what the operators are struggling for. However, the technology doesn’t work the same for all projects and markets. Our experience has shown that for certain markets the human approach, in which managers analyse player behaviour and adapt the casino settings manually, is more effective than the machine learning approach. To put it in a nutshell, I believe that 90% of the future online casino operation will be performed by AI, but 10% will still need a more personalised human touch.
iGaming regulation is changing quickly, sometimes leaving operators behind. In what ways are they being affected, and what do you see as essential for a market to have in order to provide proper conditions to its operators?
Being flexible and open to innovation is absolutely essential for a modern regulator. Online gaming is a fast-evolving and highly technological industry, with new trends appearing every day and new projects entering the market, and the regulation should keep up to date with these changes. Unfortunately, very few jurisdictions can boast flexibility and an open approach to providing operators with adequate working conditions.
Unlike the industry itself, jurisdictions take really long to introduce the necessary changes, preferring stagnation over innovation and making it hard for the operators to offer new gaming experiences to players. Among the local regulators, I can only mention Estonia as a forward-looking jurisdiction. The Estonian local licence offers operators conditions similar to those of .com licences, which are more flexible and well adapted for the modern gaming market conditions. Other jurisdictions still have a long way to go.
SOFTSWISS has made a series of key announcements for its Affilka platform and the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook, which greatly improve the products, in addition to expanding the client list. What are the key new innovations SOFTSWISS is implementing within its portfolios, and how do they benefit clients? What impact do you expect them to have in the market?
SOFTSWISS Sportsbook and Affilka have both been developed to react to our clients’ growing demand for these products. Our aim was to make their online gaming business more attractive for players and more efficient from a management perspective. We used our profound understanding of the market trends and user needs to create the products that could complement the SOFTSWISS Casino Platform and games and provide our clients with a one-stop service for a successful online gaming business operation.
Some features implemented within the products are unique and completely new for the market. For instance, Affilka offers built-in payment processing, easy integration into any platform via API, ultra-flexible commission constructor and the possibility to have multiple brands under one affiliate program. The recently launched Reports API enables easy and convenient day-to-day communication with partners and provides real-time statistics on brands, marketing campaigns and player activity.
The independent research performed by our clients before choosing Sportsbook and Affilka showed that their functionality cannot be compared to that of any other product as it provides operators with strong competitive advantages and helps strengthen their position in the industry. As always, SOFTSWISS remains at the forefront of innovation and provides the market with new technologies and ideas. I expect other providers to follow the trend and implement our best practices within their products.