Tuesday August 4, 2020

Ovcharov (UltraPlay): “For us, it has always been about making our customers feel comfortable and delivering good products”

In this interview, Mario Ovcharov, CEO at UltraPlay, evaluates the history of his 10-year-old company, describes its exclusive solutions, explains why the eSports segment has grown so much and anticipates future trends in the industry.

What teachings and values that you learned in your childhood and adolescence from your parents accompany you and let you be the person and businessman you are today?
I’m from Bulgaria originally. I come from a family of hardworking people. I started working quite early when I graduated. I’ve been taught to be as polite as possible to people, to appreciate other people’s work, and to always try to find whatever is best for me, for the company I’m working at. When you are a child, a teen, you don’t develop much of your business skills, but your human behavior and just purely who you are. Business skills mostly come when you gain experience.

What were the main issues and topics you were interested in that made you decide to choose a professional career in the gaming industry?
I’m a huge sports fan. I’ve been a sportsman myself all my life. I love football, basketball, motocross, biking, swimming, many things, and then sports betting were introduced to me. That passion for sports played a huge role in my choosing of the gaming business.

You entered UltraPlay in 2014. One thing that amazes me the most about your development there is that you’ve covered a lot of areas of the company, from eSports Trading, through Marketing, Commercial, to the CEO role you’ve been designated in 2018. How important is it to have accumulated that amount of experiences that gave you a greater knowledge of the industry?
When I started at the company, obviously, it was not in the size and scale that it is right now. Back then, it was important for us to make sure we were creating a great product, to materialize ideas we had about business and trading aspects, and to transmit that to our developers for them to produce the best software possible. Following that working philosophy makes you much more confident in understanding what you have, what you sell to people, what you provide and what you still need to achieve. It’s just about understanding hundred percent of your product. And about the product, it is very important for every business to ensure there is enough data and info for clients to check anything they want to know about their own projects.

UltraPlay was one of the first companies that decided to offer a solution for eSports betting. Is that right?
Yes, exactly. That was something we decided to chase, knowing it would be interesting to present that vertical to punters, to a new audience. It has been six years from that moment.

How did you know what future trends will be, how did you anticipate to the eSports’ boom?
Well, it was a good choice. We created that product and made sure to generate a solid ground for it.

Can you please describe the Odds.gg product, the company’s eSports solution?
First of all, at UltraPlay, we are focused on creating our own proprietary platform, which serves a full turnkey solution for online betting and casino. Odds.gg is a service that provides odds to existing betting operators that need that kind of data in their sites. The product delivers pre-match and live data in real-time.

What were the main demands of the operators, your clients, before COVID-19 situation, and how did those demands change during the last quarter?
Sports betting products were the main choice for existing customers, a popular solution in terms of audience. Then, during COVID, many companies saw eSports as a good choice since it doesn’t require people to be anywhere else but in their homes, playing with a computer or a smartphone. Many people really didn’t know much about eSports before COVID. They considered it a ‘game for teens.’ But then, they understood it is much more than that, a great product for increasing their business. So we had many companies asking us about eSports, requesting our product. eSports is a community, an ecosystem. People have been playing them for many years before 2020.

Do you think that one of the main learning from this COVID situation was for companies that they didn’t have to rely on only one product (sports betting) in their portfolios?
eSports is like another sport to me: two teams playing against each other to hit an end result. When something like that happens and sports get canceled, your existing user base goes somewhere else. So I guess one great learning was to diversify your existing portfolio, including more content from different providers (live casinos, lotto games), to also have a special orientation to mobile. However, sports are still the most popular betting product, and eSports are the first option when traditional, face-to-face sports are not available for gamblers.

As a leader, the CEO of UltraPlay, how can you transmit your vision to your collaborators to achieve success?
There are many leaders in UltraPlay. I’m more focused on working with customers, presenting our company. We do have a great team, and everyone is valuable and a leader of their own. For instance, Lyubomira Petrova leads the marketing team, and she’s doing a fantastic job, as well as our other managers in different areas of the company. The owner of the company is very closely involved in all of the processes, too. I have a very open relationship with everyone in the company; I know and talk with every person in our team.

This 2020 UltraPlay is celebrating its 10th anniversary. You have been there in more than 6 of those 10 years. What’s your balance on how does the company evolved during this time, until reaching a very prominent position in the iGaming segment?
During this decade, we have done a very hard job, with commitment, dedication, and many sleepless nights, taking care of our customers in every aspect of the business. For us, it has always been about making our customers feel comfortable, confident in us as a partner, and delivering good products.

How do you foresee the future of the industry for the solutions your company provides?
First of all, the interaction of people in the online world will increase, not only in the betting segment but also in general life (administration, work, planning holidays, shopping, traveling). In terms of the gaming industry, you can have some people that are more interested in relationships, going out to a land-based casino, meeting some friends there. But others are only interested in playing, having a great experience in a safer environment. You can find an easy solution to that in your pocket with your smartphone or on the computer of your desk. In this ‘socially distancing era’, with more and more online products becoming better and engaging, I think the gaming industry will move in that direction. Many gaming operators are seeing 90 percent of mobile usage from customers; so even people that go out to a land-based casino can also play online with their mobiles. If you look into the future, 10 years from now, it’s quite obvious that land-based casinos’ attendance will keep on reducing, because the new generation of players is just so used to digital. It’s a rising, unstoppable trend. Companies will have to offer a diversity of online gaming products in their portfolios, and UltraPlay will be close to them, helping them to achieve their goals and increase revenue.


The interview is published in Gaming and Media News.