eSports betting is one of the most discussed and observed topics in eSports. Venture capitalists like Binary Capital, Advancit Capital, Freelands Group, 500 Startups, Indicator Ventures and Tabcorp already made huge investments and even big names like Mark Cuban or Ashton Kutcher couldn’t turn a blind eye to this rising eSports market segment.
One of the beneficiaries of this trend is eSports betting provider Unikrn which was founded in 2014 and received two noteworthy investments by several investors in the amount of $10M in total.
We sat down with Rahul Sood, CEO at Unikrn, to discuss the development of the eSports betting market, the challenges it has ready for those who want to be a part of it and the next milestones of his company.
Rahul, in 2014 you were able to gather $3 million for Unikrn. In June 2015, several investors – among them Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks – have invested additional $7 million in Unikrn. Ten months later, what is the status quo of your company?
Rahul Sood: Well, we’ve made significant progress in a couple of areas. First, our Sportsbook is the most comprehensive offering in the market for eSports, not to mention we settle matches faster than anyone else. We have also created a really strong content platform, and we continue to generate high quality eSports content so our fans and customers can learn more about the players in eSports.
On top of that we launched Connekt, a new way for gamers to connect their gaming accounts to the Unikrn platform. When our Connekt customers play games they are rewarded with Unikoins which they can use to make picks, and also redeem for prizes in our marketplace and auctions! Let’s just say we’ve been busy.
What are the next milestones?
Rahul: The next milestone for Unikrn is to evolve the Connekt platform. As we continue to bridge the gap between hardcore gamers and those who love Sports you will see much more from Unikrn in the next 12 months
In terms of eSports betting, who do you think are your strongest competitors and why?
Rahul: I think there are a number of players in eSports betting that have come to the market. The typical players like Bet365, William Hill, and Pinnacle – on top of that there are some fringe players who are wholly unregulated. With all of that said, Unikrn exists to bring light to eSports betting – we’re implementing best practices across the board, from account verification to safeguarding competitive integrity. We are partnered with Tabcorp in Australia and the UK, and we have a number of new licenses coming up.
Licensing and regulation seem to be a key factor for the growth of eSports betting. What are the biggest challenges in this new market segment?
Rahul: At Unikrn we firmly believe that regulation will help support responsible eSports betting. With that said, the biggest challenges are related to working with local regulators, securing and maintaining licenses, etc. Beyond that, the software we create is unique, and not easily recreated. Unikrn is first and foremost a software company, and we use software to develop the most comprehensive eSports book in the world.
What does Unikrn differ from its competitors?
Rahul: Unikrn is really an eSports and Gaming company at its heart. All of us play games, and live eat & breathe eSports. We partnered with Tabcorp because they bring a level of credibility, sustainability, and responsible wagering that we would not be able to replicate. Unikrn strives to build the most comprehensive offering for our fans.
Most of our competitors are betting companies who decided to add the line item eSports to their portfolios. Those competitors just don’t get it, they don’t understand the audience like we do, they don’t play the games like we do. On top of that there are competitors out there who offer betting on virtual items in a completely unregulated and unlicensed environment. It’s shocking that it exists still and no one is saying anything. Unikrn exists to bring credibility to this space.
I am a big believer that in the future everyone is a gamer. That’s a huge statement, but it’s also a huge opportunity. As long as we stay true to ourselves I think we’ll be successful.
It seems like traditional sports betting providers are discovering eSports as well. Betway, for example, offers eSports bets on a regular base. How do you evaluate this development and what does this mean for Unikrn?
Rahul: Look, anyone who sees an opportunity is going to try and take advantage of it. You cannot be relevant in eSports by simply dropping numbers in a sportsbook. If there are large reputable organizations who want to get into eSports betting, Unikrn is more than willing to partner with them. Right now we see many competitors scraping our odds – unfortunately for them this is unsustainable.
At the early start of its business, Unikrn contracted an all-female Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team. How does this fit to your business plan or business philosophy?
We support women in eSports, however we need the tournament providers to do the same at scale. The more each company gets involved, the more likely the ecosystem for women will survive. Unikrn is a believer in building balanced teams, we are supporters of women in tech and women in eSports.
Do you aim to be a top contender from a sports perspective or does the team fulfill marketing purposes only?
We support multiple teams at the moment, I don’t imagine we’ll get deep into team ownership. We’d much rather partner with great organizations and help them thrive.
What developments do you expect for 2016 in terms of eSports betting?
I think you’ll see more people dip their toes into the skill side of esports betting. I also think casinos around the world are interested in the space and Unikrn is in the perfect position to help enable this ecosytem.
Thank you for the interview.
- eSports Betting Summit 2016 recap by calvinayre.com
- Unikrn: Official website
- Rahul Sood: Blog
- Owner of the Dallas Mavericks invests $7 million in eSports betting platform Unikrn
— eSportsMarketingBlog (@eSportsMBlog) May 19, 2016