How I Built a Million Dollar Startup in Online Gaming

Million Dollar e-Gaming Startup

In 2003 I was hired to build an Affiliate Program for an Online Casino.

The company was a small startup competing against 150 other casinos with the same or similar software, and deeper pockets.

Challenge accepted.

I’m a sucker for the underdog 🙂

 

After a couple months sending countless emails and chat messages there was a little traction, but nothing to get overly excited about.

And then my boss walked in and asked me if I wanted to go to a conference in Amsterdam…

Damn right I do!

 

Visions of the red -light district, pretty blondes in ponytails and picturesque canals had me sold.

I’d figure the work part out.

So, with a very small budget I jetted off to my first Casino Affiliate Conference.

 

The Challenge

 

We were a small startup and a booth at the event was around $10K, that wasn’t going to happen.

The admission to the event hall itself was around $1,500.

Sitting in a big hall with 300 people who can’t talk is not my idea of progress. It seemed like a waste of money.

I was not there to watch some B-grade and the odd A-grade speaker tell me shit I can find with a 5-minute Google search.

I needed to meet people, network, build relationships and grow my affiliate program.

I headed to the bar to strategise.

And then it hit me…

 

The bar is 20 feet from the event hall.

When all those people are finished listening to “another lecture” they’ll be begging for a beer.

They’ll come crawling into the bar on their knees, battered and bruised after sitting through that much pain.

So yes, I decided to get a big table in prime position and 5 minutes before the interval, I ordered 10 of the biggest cold beers you’ve ever seen.

 

As event attendees entered the bar I offered them a beer on me.

I was not concerned if they were competing casinos or affiliates, it was about synergy, networking and data mining.

When the beers on the table got down to 3, I automatically ordered 10 more.

It became a standing joke and from then on, I never ordered less than 10 beers.

After 6 rounds of beers the energy was great, and relationships were made.

Fellow Affiliate Managers asked me why I’m buying beers for them, the competition doesn’t normally do that.

Well that’s naive in my opinion.

 

What do I have to lose buying a competitor a beer?

Very little if I keep my mouth shut.

But I have a lot more to gain if I can get info on which affiliates are producing for them, who is full of shit and a time waster etc…it’s all upside!

Which leads me to another point for conferences….

 

I very seldom talk about business.

After a few beers with my target affiliates I would flat out tell them I’m not there to speak about business.

The opposite of what everyone else was doing.

 

I would tell them I want to get to know them, build a relationship and then we can work out the fine print.

That strategy worked because firstly it was true, and secondly, they get begged all week long at conferences, I was not going to be in line with my hand out.

I was however going to entertain them and create a positive association.

 

Back to bar beers…

 

Each little interval event cost me around $300.

I did 3 back-to-back for a total of $900 over the two days.

From those 3 afternoon beer sessions I made relationships with 7 top affiliates.

Do you think they wanted to stop at the bar when they were in Amsterdam?

Of course not!

 

These were A-level Super Affiliates who knew everything they could learn inside a conference hall.

They wanted excitement…

 

These guys are super switched on digital marketers and programmers who don’t spend much time away from their computers.

 

So, I rounded up 4 per night and took them out on the town.

These guys have no shortage of cash but also no idea how to use it.

They had never greased the hand of a monstrous doorman at a nightclub to get VIP entry. That was not in their makeup.

It was of course in mine, being the adventurous sole that I am.

I put on a show and made sure they had lifetime experiences.

 

I also dragged them to bed at 6am in the morning, knowing they would miss their planned meetings with other casinos.

All part of the big picture 🙂

 

Conclusion

The 7 relationships I made at that event were worth around $3M per year to our company.

It was just the start of my conference entertainment strategy.

 

The industry talk of the nights out and missed meetings caused by yours truly was the stuff of legend.

It worked so well that affiliates would call me before the next conference to secure a spot on the entertainment train.

It was so good that other Affiliate Managers would offer to pay for the evening if they could join.

It was brilliant. 

 

And all that started off 10 cold beers at the Grand Krasnapolsky Hotel in Amsterdam.

 

Of course, the bigger picture of continued success and relationship building is more than a beer story.

I knew I could service the clients, no problem.

 

I introduced skins to the Casino world so Affiliates could promote a blue site if it converted better than our green site for example.

Before that they would just say sorry, you guys don’t convert and be gone.

Not on my watch.

 

The second big innovation was to restructure the way commission was paid.

The base model was on revenue earned but that by itself does not tell the full story.

What if the affiliate refers one big player and no more?

As soon as he/she leaves there goes all the money.

We needed numbers for security, so I invented a sliding commission scale, the more players you refer, the bigger your piece of the pie.

It worked brilliantly and most of the top operators still use it today.

There were a number of other little innovations but none of them would have been possible without building great client relationships.

 

If you’re in the relationship building game I highly recommend actually giving a fuck.

Don’t look at the client as another rev number on your bottom line.

Get to know them as much as you can.

Listen and get insight, then you plan solutions that really meet their needs and not only get a great client, but potentially a great friend.

 

If you need help building an Affiliate program, shoot me your questions, happy to help.

If you have any tips, please let me know, I will credit accordingly.

 

Wishing you success.

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