Acroud CEO Robert Andersson talks change, affiliation and life-work balance with Ramona Depares
Robert Andersson is not one to beat about the bush. I walk into the Acroud offices at The Strand and start firing questions – many of them, annoying.
Without missing a beat, he replies to all of them. I can see why, for many organisations – iGaming giants like Catena and Enlabs (now Entain) – he was the go-to man when changes needed to be made.
And Robert certainly has strong beliefs about change – as the CEO for Acroud for the past 18 months or so, he has been responsible for plenty.
“The iGaming business is in desperate need of innovation,” he tells me bluntly. “Take affiliation. When the industry exploded some years ago, everyone stumbled on this simple money-making formula. And everyone was making a lot of money.”
What happened then?
“Everything stayed as it was. There was no innovation. Until suddenly, not everyone was making a lot of money any more,” he says.
This cannot be said of Acroud which, after what I call a challenging period – Robert prefers to call it a period of change – has rediscovered the dynamic approach that made it so strong in the first place. What is Robert’s strategy there?
“Acroud is moving towards becoming a software-based affiliation company. We have started following a different strategy and now, these past few months, we have proof that it is working,” he tells me.
These breakthroughs, he adds, were only possible by taking some tough strategic decisions. How does he describe these strategic choices?
“The company sorely needed to empower the people who have the guts to take hard decisions. Sometimes, this involves killing your own projects, and you have to be able to do that. I drive change and implement it when needed. That’s what I do,” Robert says.
Change is not something that is always easily welcomed. Robert agrees, adding that those who resist it are likely to organically fall by the wayside. But tough decisions do need to be taken too, he emphasises, if a company is to be turned round.
The company has, in fact, branched out into other forms of affiliation that are not necessarily tied to iGaming. This includes the acquisition of affiliation aggregator Matching Visions.
“We are following a strategy that allows us to target different verticals. For example, we will soon be finalising a new eSports streamers product, which we plan to launch soonish. It’s a completely new revenue model that can be quite disruptive, and is not necessarily tied to gambling. We’re very excited about it as it has the potential of changing the core of how Acroud functions,” Robert continues.
He expands on this, explaining how the industry would benefit from a culture of low investment innovation, an approach that has turned out to be a game-changer for Acroud.
“The company now is lighter and more agile. We create different projects and what sticks, sticks. Some work, others will be let go.”
Of course, this is very much what Robert does, taking the helm at companies that might have somewhat lost their way and bringing forth a turnaround. He has taken companies like Catena public, overseen the effective dissolution of others, created exit strategies for others still.
Which brings me neatly to my next question – with Mergers & Acquisitions being so big across the iGaming industry, and with Acroud undergoing quite the upheaval – is Robert setting the stage for an exit strategy for shareholders?
“We are a listed company. Shareholders who want to exit already have a framework that allows them to do this easily. Our focus is on building shareholder value. This can lead wherever – acquisitions, someone making us an offer… The company simply needs a share value at its core, then this might lead to… wherever,” Robert repeats, rather smoothly I think.
This is an approach that is undoubtedly high-energy and that doesn’t come with a fixed formula. Indeed, one might argue that it is precisely the lack of a fixed formula that renders Robert’s approach so successful. What motivates him?
“For me, it’s not about the specifics of the industry. I love building companies and company culture, I enjoy the leadership and strategy aspect. This is what motivates me. It’s a stimulating challenge,” he replies.
I turn the conversation to more personal matters. Robert currently divides his time between the Malta-based Acroud office and Spain, which is where his wife and kids are based. So where is home?
“I’ve lived in Malta since 2015, so this is home. But of course, home is also where my family is at the end of the day.”
Doesn’t the commute get tiring?
“It’s not the usual lifestyle, granted. But I’ve devised a system that works. During the weeks I’m in Malta, it’s very much full-on work, meeting people and so forth. Plus training, of course. I’m a very outdoorsy person, I love wave-surfing, the classic way on a board, something I have been doing for 25 years. I ski, I climb, I run…”
In Spain he makes sure to keep aside good quality time with the kids.
“Actually, the whole work-life balance thing worked out better than when we were all based here, and I’d be late at the office everyday. We weren’t getting much quality time together, back then,” he tells me.
So what’s up in the next few months?
“Christmas decorations?” he tells me, poker-faced.
“We have some great launches coming up. But more about that later…” he concludes with a smile.
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