I’m excited to be standing on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Ivan Montik

Posted: Nov 19, 2021 11:30
Category: Casino, Deep Tech, Online,
Posted: Nov 19, 2021 11:30 Category: Casino, Deep Tech, Online,

SiGMA News catches up with SOFTSWISS Founder Ivan Montik. SOFTSWISS took part in SiGMA Europe this week, where they presented their innovative iGaming solutions to Malta Week attendees

You were one of the first believers in crypto, introducing Bitcoin to SOFTSWISS in 2013 – what made you place your trust in it from the beginning?

When I first heard about Bitcoin, it was in relation to Satoshi Dice, probably the most popular cryptocurrency game ever, which was sold for $11.5 million (126,315 BTC at the time) and made big news back in 2013. Later I started looking into bitcoin more closely, I spoke to my friends to better understand how the technology works, and I was really impressed with the horizons it might open for different businesses and spheres.

Although at the time it was still far from becoming part of ecommerce and retail, let alone finance. But it was already clear that it had great potential – at least in gambling. To me, Bitcoin and online casino looked like a perfect match. In 2013 SOFTSWISS was just beginning to conquer the iGaming market and there were many things to learn and many obstacles to overcome. Building relationships with regulators and banks took time and wasn’t always smooth and easy, and the difficulties we faced convinced us even more of the numerous advantages cryptocurrencies had over fiat currencies. 

In the past, we’ve seen changes in interest around cryptocurrency. Are current levels of enthusiasm here to stay? 

ivan montik sigma

Cryptocurrency has faced its ups and downs. The hype around Bitcoin after the Satoshi Dice transaction was followed by a certain stagnation, but then we witnessed the “second coming of Bitcoin” in 2017, when giants such as Mercedes, Microsoft, Wikipedia, Reddit, T-Mobile, Tesla, to name just a few, opened up for Bitcoin. Then again came a drastic meltdown of 2018 when the rate fell 75% from its maximum value.

It is quite obvious that in such a situation people became hesitant towards the future of cryptocurrencies and many small businesses and startups didn’t survive the crypto-winter. I know these were hard times for those who invested in Bitcoin, as it seemed to be at a standstill, but I kept advising on keeping the investments. Those who did were rewarded. In the fall of 2020, we already knew that the crisis was over and witnessed the birth of new large businesses. The currency’s reputation has been restored, the current level of public interest is really high and I think it’s going to be stable now.  

Which cryptocurrencies have been the most popular for the SOFTSWISS game aggregator? And why do you think this is?

Bitcoin still keeps the leading position and takes over 80% (86.6% in Q3) of our cryptocurrency turnover. I believe this is due to the trust it has gained over the years, the other currencies have yet to reach the same level of trust so far. 

Would your background in economic management have affected this trust? What attracted you to online betting in the first place?

My economic background definitely helps understand the market and see the perspectives of different industries, as well as evaluate our own chances to succeed. However, even being aware about the lucrative perspectives of online betting, the idea to enter the iGaming market came quite spontaneously after launching our first product, online auction.

We had a team of top notch professionals who had no prior experience in gaming software but were perfect in programming and could bring any project to life. Market analysis showed that gaming is worth investing into, so we gave it a try. Of course our team contributed greatly to creating a gaming platform to meet the highest industry standards. 

The decision to develop a Bitcoin casino platform was its logical continuation. I’ve always been advocating for blockchain and cryptocurrency technology, stating that it’s the future of the world economy and the most efficient way of replacing the outdated tracking and reporting systems, eliminating plenty of the back office work and presenting a perfect ledger of all transactions.

With the first advent of bitcoin, the expectations were that crypto would fast become the payment of choice at online casinos. But takeup wasn’t fast – what do you think were the reasons?

Like any other industry, iGaming needs time to adjust to the new reality. Technologies develop faster than anything else and the market needs to understand how they work before starting to use them. So acceptance and trust need time. However, there are people and companies who are open to innovations more than others, they are called visionaries. They take certain risks but the risk of being at the forefront of innovation is always rewarded – others just lag behind.  I’m very proud to be a visionary myself and excited to be standing on the brink of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution and contributing to it with the job my company is doing – the development and commercialisation of blockchain and Bitcoin as the most innovative technologies of the XXI century. 

How is SOFTSWISS supporting those companies which may be a bit hesitant when it comes to crypto? Do you have any products / solutions which support crypto payments?

SOFTSWISS crypto casino package provides ideal support to those who want to enter the crypto gaming market. It provides secure payment processing and is very simple in terms of administration on the operator’s side. The selection of currencies is quite extensive and includes Bitcoin,  Ethereum, Dogecoin, Litecoin and Tether, but others can also be added upon request. The solution is absolutely secure financially and guarantees 100% protection of the casino funds and completely safe transactions. 

Apart from the crypto casino platform, SOFTSWISS also supports cryptocurrency operators through its Game Aggregator. It provides access to over 11,000 games from the world’s best game providers. Within our Aggregator, we also work with casinos operating third-party platforms and help many dice projects turn into a real online casino by providing them with a variety of games and advising on the operation strategy.

If someone is still hesitant, the SOFTSWISS team can provide extensive consulting on how to bring a cryptocurrency project to life. 

What are the key benefits to offering crypto payment methods for operators? 

I would put security as number one. Since the payments are irreversible, there are no cashbacks and much fewer attempts of fraud. Also, changes to the blockchain are extremely difficult and if made, are immediately visible to others. This transparency serves for better security for both operators and players and ensures more trust from the players’ side, which is a big asset. They can make sure that the game is absolutely fair and the results are never falsified. 

Further advantages are faster transactions and lower transaction costs. A Bitcoin transaction costs 100 times less than a fiat currency payment.  With no third parties involved in payment processing, the deposits and cashouts are almost instant. It also saves a lot of time and paperwork which you face working with banks and merchants. 

But now there seems to be a resurgence of faith and we’re seeing a new crypto casino crop up almost every other week. To what do you attribute this change of heart?

The number of crypto projects grows in direct proportion to the cryptocurrency exchange rate. With Bitcoin reaching its maximum in the winter of 2020/2021, existing casino operators who were reluctant to invest into the new technologies started taking it more seriously and finally realised that they need to adjust to the quickly changing market to stay competitive. New startups also take the risk because they see larger companies invest into crypto. Another factor is that the regulatory bodies in our industry are becoming more loyal to cryptocurrencies, which provides operators with a sense of security. 

How important is it for the success of a brand to have a cohesive team behind it? What role does management and direction play in achieving this? Share your experience of building a strong team and managing a company of several hundred employees.

You can’t do business alone, it’s all about teamwork. When I started SOFTSWISS, I was lucky to have people beside me who shared my values, not just in the way we do business, but also personal values. When we grew bigger, it became crucial to communicate those values further to each and every new employee. That’s about building the corporate culture, setting common goals and making sure that the corporate values are shared. When you have the right people in place, effective management is less of a challenge.

The agile management methodology has proved to work best for us. It brings the benefits of flexibility, scalability and quick decision making. Now the company consists of several autonomous teams, each with their own goals and the right to decide on how they reach them. Of course, the key decisions on the business strategy are taken by top management, however, we avoid the traditional hierarchical structure because it slows down all processes. We just can’t afford to be slow in this constantly changing iGaming environment.  

What would you say are the ethos and brand values of SOFTSWISS?

I’ve already talked about people as our core value. We appreciate each of our 900+ employees and pay extra attention to the retention strategy and personal motivation. Besides people, we put great focus on the high quality, reliability and security of our products.

Quality is more important than quantity, and we’d rather launch one quality casino brand and help our client grow, than launch a number of short-term projects which won’t survive the competition.  Stable performance, top-notch features, and an innovative development approach made SOFTSWISS the market leader, so we are working hard to keep this reputation. Finally, top client service is what our company is known for and what we try to communicate to all people joining the team. We are in the same boat with our clients and their success is part of our success, so we are always there with technical support, tips on marketing or general industry consulting.

How have you seen players’ expectations changes in the years SOFTSWISS has been in operation? How have the company’s values transformed in more than 10 years?

Our company values are very stable and don’t change much over the years, but our goals and development strategies definitely need to be adjusted according to the new market trends and player expectations.

Players become more demanding in terms of the game design and animation, they get used to the impressive effects created with new technologies. They also want a wider selection of games and like being treated individually, e.g. having their personal casino rooms with customised content and bonus programs. In other words, they don’t just come for pure gambling but want to be entertained and kept on the edge of their seats, and that’s what the software and game providers like us are working on.

Players also expect better service now, so we focus even more on the quality of first-line support. Artificial intelligence is very helpful here as it helps create smart casino assistants which solve players’ issues more quickly and efficiently than the outdated bots. 

What makes or breaks a new player in the industry? What factors are important for business success in the iGaming industry? Which ones have played a role for SOFTSWISS?

Apart from having a high quality product to present to the market, which goes without saying, a new market player definitely needs to be open to taking risks and facing the fast-changing conditions of the market. iGaming is very dynamic. It’s heavily dependent on the regulation, which makes your marketing strategy quite unstable. You can’t rely on just one geographical market as it might suddenly close, so you always need to have a plan B and never stop investigating.

I think flexibility and open-mindness is what helps SOFTSWISS stay among the market leaders. We are constantly looking to extend our business geography and penetrate new markets. This way when one door closes, another one opens. The same goes for the product line: you have to always be ready to surprise the market with something new. One stable product is good but not enough.

That’s why we are adding new things to the portfolio: Jackpot Aggregator, Sportsbook and Affilka, our own affiliate system, the Game Aggregator and other products make SOFTSWISS a one-stop service for casino operators, that makes us really competitive. 

Is the industry keeping up? Or is future-proofing going to be a problem? What is the next step?

The industry is working hard to keep up, adopting cryptocurrencies and employing artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to improve user experience and enable advanced fraud detection. However, I think the industry is not fast enough to use the new technology, even if it would obviously benefit from it.

The idea of a Bitcoin casino has been out there since 2013, but only a couple of gambling jurisdictions officially recognise crypto payments, thus consciously refusing the benefits it brings into the industry. The companies are also slow in implementing new technologies. The AI and ML technologies could have gone much further. Virtual reality has been a big topic and a VR casino is a long-anticipated phenomenon, but the technology enabling it is still at the concept stage. I wish the companies were taking more risks and implementing more innovations, and the regulatory bodies were open to accepting them. 

As we edge closer to 2022, How can casino companies make the most of the opportunities presented by the crypto space?

Again, I stress the importance of taking risks and giving it a try, although with the stable position of cryptocurrencies, it’s no longer a big risk. I strongly believe that in 2022 we will witness new growth in the crypto space and companies who have been out there for a longer period of time or are just making their way in the industry will get a solid return on investment.

You are also a big believer in responsible gambling. What are your thoughts about transferring the principle from a belief into reality?

We are already transferring it into reality by providing the operators working with SOFTSWISS platforms with the complete set of tools and features to help implement the principles of responsible gambling.

The Malta Week event took place at the MFCC, Ta’ Qali, Malta between the 16th and the 18th – bringing together gaming, emerging tech and marketing affiliation for one super conference.

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