Exclusive interview with European Gaming Media.
Could you briefly narrate the story of Singular, from its beginning in 2009 in Tbilisi to its present state as a global gaming technology provider?
The story of Singular started back in December 2009 in Tbilisi, Georgia when it was officially formed as a company by two longtime friends (friends, since high school) George Shamugia and Akaki Meladze. Initially, Singular was involved in social gaming and during the course of 2010 – 2011 has produced several popular mass scale social games. During the second half of 2011, Singular did few social games (Dice Poker, Fantasy Football) for the local online gambling operator Adjarabet. During that time Adjarabet had just started their online operations. Soon they became the leading Georgian casino operator, and Singular played a huge role in this.
This was the first exposure to iGaming for Singular. We instantly saw a big opportunity for us in the iGaming field and in 2012 fully pivoted to iGaming. Singular’s experience in Social Gaming field empowered the company to swiftly enter the iGaming field and provide a truly outstanding solution, which was innovative and forward-looking. Since then Singular has developed bespoke iGaming platform, Sports-betting platform, Poker, and some casino and live casino content.
During the next few years (till the end of 2014) Adjarabet fully migrated to Singular’s solutions across all verticals: iGaming platform, SportsBetting, P2P games including poker, casino and live casino content.
In 2013 Singular opened its first office outside Georgia, in Skopje Macedonia. The decision was mostly dictated by the rapidly growing demand for Singular’s products. At the end of 2014 Darko Gacov, who was previously heading Adjarabet’s online operations, from day one, joined Singular as one of the partners. In 2015 Singular moved its HQ to Malta and exhibited for the first time on ICE London. 2015 is the year when Singular started the expansion of its client base and soon it had clients across every single continent covering the regulated markets for online gambling.
Throughout the years, innovation has always been our focus, and at the end of 2018, this was recognized by the Venture capital fund – Vereeni Investments. Singular joined Vereeni Investments’ newly unveiled €100 million tech fund ‘Level Up’ which focuses on innovative companies within the fintech, media, iGaming, business intelligence, software development, crypto and blockchain verticals. This has initiated a number of growth plans which have the potential to further expand Singular’s presence, not only geographically, but also in new industry directions.
Singular provides the full spectrum of iGaming and land-based technology solutions to gaming companies, ranging from the front-end website through the games to CRM and back-end features. Could you share a couple of success stories of gaming companies that use Singular’s platform and services?
There are few examples that can be mentioned here, but one solid example is Adjarabet, the Georgian operator which, having being fueled solely by Singular’s technology, became the fastest growing online gaming company on a global level and dominated the local market. We empowered their transition from retail to online by successful digitalization of their brick and mortar roulettes and streaming them online – a bridge for players trust.
This year, Adjarabet was acquired by Paddy Power Betfair who want to prolong the utilization of Singular’s platform for several coming years thanks to the continuous innovation of the
solutions and our tailored approach for each operator which only confirms our dedication to helping our partners grow.
There is a buzz in the industry about the new sportsbook that Singular is developing. It is tipped to be the most innovative of its kind. Could you tell us more about it? When is the launch scheduled?
In September this year, we are planning to release a completely new sports-book which was engineered from scratch and will set a new standard for sports-betting in the iGaming Industry. The product is the result of long and thorough research of the market with a high focus on changing players’ demands. Also, we believe that these shifts in demand provide lots of opportunities to change their experience as well. This release is our attempt to redefine what Sports-betting platform should look like and offer in terms of functionality.
Our new sports-book will take user experience to the next level with some bold moves, with in-play first approach, a platform that automatically adapts to each player’s needs and gives them personalized game experience, based on their activities and interaction patterns with the platform.
Your development centers are located at Skopje and Tbilisi – not, for instance, London, California or Malta. Was it a deliberate decision to stick with the supposedly offbeat locations? What are its pros and cons, if any?
When we started the Singular Story our goal was not only building a successful business but contributing towards building a more robust software community in our home country. Making a decision to start a company far from the innovation hubs bear its own risks, especially when your goal is to compete on a global scale. But, I think those are the decisions that make the journey worthwhile. You’d be surprised how skillful and ambitious talent pool these “offbeat” locations have. So, everything started in Tbilisi, Georgia where our first development base was opened and where today we have a strong and innovative team of engineers. Also, the development base in Skopje, Macedonia tackles all sports-book related development and innovation processes. Opening office in Macedonia for us was a straightforward decision. First, Macedonia offers a good pool of highly qualified backend java engineers. Second, the
fact that Darko Gacov, one of our partners, is from Macedonia gave Singular easy access to that market. The latest addition to our development bases is Tallinn, Estonia, which is one of the tech hubs of Europe. For this reason, finding top-notch software engineers there is easy.
Malta is the place where Singular is headquartered, and all the Singulars processes and activities are governed. The reason behind the opening HQ in Malta is simple – Malta is almost like the Silicon Valley for iGaming industry. It goes without saying that every single iGaming company must have some sort of presence in Malta.
San Francisco base, which is also a new addition to our team, works solely on a new iGaming product which will primarily target the US market only and initially will be launched as F2P (free to play).
On the cons side, having distributed teams across several locations with time zone differences requires a lot of effort to keep everyone in sync.
Could you tell us more about the regulated markets that have Singular’s footprint? What are your strategies to tackle vastly different and constantly changing legislations even across Europe?
Let me name a few markets: Europe, Nigeria from the African Continent and recently regulated LATAM market. We have quite frequent release cycles for almost every product, which makes it easy for us to adjust to new regulations almost instantly. The strategy we have in place to tackle vastly different and constantly changing legislation lays deep within the architecture of our platforms. Our solutions have modular architecture on the granular level, almost every aspect and functionality of them is fully configurable. In other words, every single module is a standalone service and fully configurable. This allows us to adjust and be compatible with almost every jurisdiction out there. It’s true that this kind of architecture requires more time and resources during the development time, but its flexibility fully pays off during operations. Almost no two deployments of our platform look the same thanks to the highly configurable nature. This does not only allow us to tackle different regulations required by different markets but also enables us to deliver a fully customizable and flexible platform to our clients. Ultimately, this helps our clients to stand out from the competition.
The USA and, to a lesser extent, Japan are the happening places at the moment for the sports betting service providers, especially the US Supreme Court’s verdict on PASPA Act. How do you see these developments and the role of Singular on these markets?
At this moment our primary focus is on the U.S market. It will be quite a challenging market because of its nature and will require a lot of innovation and leading-edge approaches. Good thing is that we, at Singular, love challenges while challenging markets and innovation is in our DNA.
At this moment, every single Sports-betting solution provider out there tries to directly launch their existing solutions in the U.S. In our opinion, this is a huge mistake because all the existing solutions are primarily focused on Europe. The U.S. is a totally different market and requires a tailored approach. The U.S. users’ demands and expectations in terms of the sports-betting experience totally varies from what we have in Europe or even in Africa or Asia. That is why we took a different approach for the U.S market and currently are in the process of developing new product tailored for the U.S. market. The launch is planned at the end of this year or beginning of next year.
Singular has been nominated for two categories in recently held Malta’s iGaming Excellence Awards 2019: Best iGaming Online Product of the Year and Best Gaming Online Betting Platform of the Year. What are awards and recognitions that have come by in your a decade-old journey?
We aim to continuously roll out new engaging features. We are simultaneously addressing our clients’ specific requirements, but we are also proactively innovating the solution. The nominations and awards are the cherry on the top. In addition to the nominations for Malta’s iGaming Excellence Awards 2019, our solutions have been nominated in four categories for the EGR B2B Awards 2019:
- Sportsbook platform supplier
- Innovation in sports betting software
- Live casino supplier
- Sports betting supplier
In the past 4 years, Singular’s Gaming Platform, Sports-book Solution and the Live Casino have been repeatedly nominated in number of categories by SBC Awards, EGR, G2E Asia and others. We feel extremely proud and grateful to receive recognition from the top authorities from the industry for all the hard work, year after year.
Finally, look at your crystal ball and tell us about the future! What is your take on the direction in which the industry grows, in the light of frequently emerging disruptive technologies? And what are the new products and services that Singular is going to launch?
Big data and Machine Learning is a science by itself and it is no wonder that more and more companies start referring to data as “the new oil”. It simply creates vast opportunities not only for player personalization and targeted marketing but also for discovering trends and patterns that were not visible before. If someone does it right, they will have a significant edge over their competition and it will not take long for this to have an operational effect. If you have a platform that can collect, process and package the data in relevant information and of course personnel that can interpret the data in a strategic and operational capacity for different departments, it has the potential to directly affect the success of the company.
As mentioned before, this September we plan to roll out our new Sports-betting solution. This release will be an inaugural step of an innovation process across the entire product portfolio. Through leveraging big-data and machine learning, we aim to create personalized player journey at a higher level. Also, at the end of this year, we plan to launch out U.S. centric F2P iGaming product.
We started designing the concept back in 2013 with the ultimate goal to empower operators with opportunities to offer each player a unique experience. We have a lot of modules and services that provide tools that enable this, starting with our segmentation engine, and continuing with our CRM. This approach also spreads across the rest of Singular’s products like sports-book and casino integrations, so that personalized experience is also applicable to the content delivery. However, segmentation and personalization are not “one-time – we did it” thing. It is perpetual work in the direction of improving the approach and experimenting with new and better technologies, constantly.