SBC News interviews Shaun Pyrah

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Following on our 2nd place in the EIG 2013 Barcelona pitch competition, SBC Business Correspondent Mark McGuinness met with our Director of Strategy to discuss the convergence between social games and real money gambling.

Please see  www.sbcnews.co.uk for the original article.


SBC: Shaun it was a pleasure to meet you at the EiG Start-Up Launch pad. For all our readers can you tell us a little about yourself and why you decided to start Six Faces?

Shaun: Thanks Mark.  I was literally raised on racing & gambling.  For me, and my colleagues, it’s an all-consuming business and passion.

Over the past 20 years we’ve worked in some of Australia’s leading wagering organizations, in areas of retail distribution, sales & marketing, product development, and strategic planning. In that time we’ve shifted from State-run Totalizators and on-course bookmakers to a booming national industry. Instead of slow moving monopolies we now have fierce domestic competition, industry globalisation, and relentless, fast-paced change in technology and consumer behavior. All familiar sounding issues, I’m sure.

After a lifetime as customers, and years of working on the inside, we saw these dynamics as opportunity to pool our experience and tackle some looming industry issues.

For operators, we believe we can deliver insight, product innovation, and sustainable competitive advantage.For customers, and particular a next generation audience, we absolutely know we can build a better gambling and gaming experience.

Six Faces isn’t about shaving 0.5% off operating costs or rationalizing infrastructure and jobs, though we certainly understand and value that stuff. We’ve always admired the sort of innovation and disruption that Betfair introduced, and it’s cracking that next ‘big idea’ that really motivates us, and where our skill set is best suited.

SBC; Tote betting (pari mutuel) is one of the world’s predominate legal forms of gambling. Why do you think it has been slow to adopt change given the competitive threats of other perhaps more mainstream gaming products?

Shaun: I think the industry found it easier to ride self-propelling trends for sports betting and mobile. Tote betting was seen as unfashionable and boring; for an older, hard core generation. Not surprisingly, a subsequent lack of innovation and investment have pretty much kept it that way.

Not that there hasn’t been significant change, simply that the emphasis has been on distribution, price, and promotion. The tougher task of product development has been restricted to basic line extensions: Win becomes Quinella, becomes Exacta, becomes Trifecta, becomes First4 – Doubles become Trebles, become Quadrella, become Pick6. This path has ironically evolved a pipeline of even harder core products, products that completely fail to excite a generation brought up with technology, social media, and computer gaming.

Thankfully ugly is only skin deep, and underneath the jaded face of parimutuel you still have the attraction of high margin, risk free pools. In a price-competitive market, with spiralling CPA and increasing overheads around book and risk management, these have to be extremely attractive attributes. Combine this with the opportunity of engaging a connected, global market of social gamers and we think the time is right to take a completely fresh approach to pool betting.

SBC: You mentioned in your presentation Swopstakes which is an innovative new skill based social gaming product. Who shall this bet appeal to and do you think it bridges the gap between pool betting and gaming?

Shaun: The industry discussion has been largely focused around “monetising social”. This is traditional, operator-centric thinking and an approach that’s already struggled. It’s our view that converging markets require a convergent solution, so we flipped the opportunity to focus on socialising real money gambling – to build the bridge from both sides.

SBC:So where’s the sweet spot?

Shaun: Lotteries have the universal appeal of life-changing prizes but the experience is sterile, with next to zero engagement and outcomes based on pure chance. Wagering provides opportunity for skill and excitement but little or no chance of a life changing prize. Neither have anything remotely resembling real game mechanics or community driven social.

Swopstakes changes all of that.

For consumers, Swopstakes is a completely interactive gaming experience. The results are based on real sports and racing events events with life changing prizes, guaranteed winners, real-time player vs. player engagement, with the combined elements of skill and chance. We were naturally delighted when the cross-segment appeal was validated in an independent research study conducted by Vision Critical. For:

  • lotto/lottery players, it’s a game of chance
  • regular wagering customers, it’s a game of skill
  • analysts and pros, it’s a game of value

In terms of socialising real money gambling we’ve gone beyond ‘like’ and ‘share’. Swopstakes is social by design and incorporates true game mechanics, with the winners, prizes, and achievements, a direct function of the real-time interaction between the player community.

To round out this process of “socialisation”, the underlying platform incorporates a player to player affiliate scheme, gifting, and options for free-to-play and play-for prizes games.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly for operators, Swopstakes is a differentiated offer based on high margin, risk free pools.

SBC: Mobile betting is a big driver in the industry. What’s Six Faces view on mobile gaming commerce as it relates to your own product development?

Shaun; Nailing mobile is clearly critical for all forms of commerce. It is quickly becoming the wagering device of choice – even betting at home and in-store. For future customers it may well be their only device.

Treating mobile as a low cost distribution channel falls short of the target, and the same can be said of early industry initiatives around social. The trick is delivering a stand-out UX that plays to the strengths of mobile, without simply shoe-horning the desktop experience onto a smaller screen.

We’re gamblers, gamers, and big fans of 2nd screen entertainment. We all invest enormous time and energy in understanding the context in which games are played on mobile, and what constitutes excitement and fun. With mobile in particular we focus on value-add entertainment that enhance connection with the under-lying events, and the wider player community. Win or lose there has to be a positive take out for all players, especially if we’re wanting them to play again.

SBC: You have showcased the business at EiG and had a good response from the industry, resulting in the company coming a highly commendable second place in the Start-Up Launch Pad (congratulations), what’s next for Six Faces?

Shaun: Barcelona was our first major opportunity to announce and demonstrate Swopstakes to the wider industry. Feedback was tremendously positive and confirmed we have a unique game offer and truly fresh UX.

We’re currently working towards an Australian launch in Q1 2014, coinciding with the start of our domestic football seasons and the Autumn racing carnival. This will position us for a big push during the World Cup.

We’re also very busy chasing down interest for overseas distribution and investment. Swopstakes is designed and built for a global market and can be adapted to all forms of sports, racing, and fantasy sports. Being pool based the game can scale quickly without the risks and overheads of fixed odds.

SBC: Lastly who came up with your memorable company name of Six Faces ?

Shaun: Glen heads up design & innovation within the company – Six Faces was his concept and we’ve had lots of fun with it. Short answer, there’s six of us, and few us have faces worth mentioning!

 

 

 

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