Three years on from entering a crowded, competitive field, Strive Gaming has built a foothold in the North American market. As its roster of clients expands, president Damian Xuereb aims to ride the market’s evolution through a new wave of growth.
Strive Gaming president Damian Xuereb is sure of one thing. “Strive was certainly not a first mover in the US,” he says. But the US market is approaching its sixth anniversary. Strive Gaming has been in play for just half of that.
Established by Xuereb and CEO Max Meltzer, both veterans of the post-PASPA gold rush, Strive knows the market. Coming in three years after the first bets were placed, it has watched what works and what doesn’t.
“We had the advantage of understanding the state-by-state nuances in each market,” Xuereb continues. “We had the opportunity to do our research and ensure we built a product that meets not just the current state, but the future state or requirements, as and when we roll out into more and more states.”
Strive is building a future-proofed offering as the US market works to wean itself off promotional activity and bonuses as drivers of acquisition and retention, to focus on developing a product that resonates with the consumer. “Seeing the challenges that our competitors and operators have in the market; we are able to address that,” Xuereb explains.
“We’re also able to drive real value for [a business]. Utilising our Infinity Rules Engine really gives operators the opportunity to drive higher lifetime values through personalisation and contextual engagement. This also allows them to run their gaming operation with lower overheads through automation and build contextual campaigns across all verticals and channels.”
A focus on North America
Crucially, the Strive platform was built for the North American market. It’s a product designed to solve the nuances and challenges of regulatory demands, player journeys and a player experience unique to the region. Its management team of Xuereb, Meltzer and CMO Jamie Shea will not lose focus as opportunities emerge in other jurisdictions.
“We won’t get distracted by other regulations,” Xuereb says. “We’re not chasing the regulated market in Brazil, we’re not chasing the Dutch or German markets.
“That means our business and our product will continually evolve around the North American player experience.”
That positions Strive for North America’s product-focused evolution. “Players do mature, player experiences do change and it is the operators’ responsibility to ensure they engage their players with meaningful experiences.
“We are seeing a trend of new, non-traditional enterprises enter the gaming space as well as major brands moving into sports betting and igaming, including those with backgrounds in broadcasting and merchandising as well as businesses with complementary assets,” he says. “The new age of PAM is to extend outside of conventional gaming verticals and to unify the operators’ assets, creating an intelligent ecosystem built around player behaviour.
“Consumers shop a brand, not a channel. As a technology provider it is our responsibility to ensure a consistent experience for the players.”
Three years, eight clients
Xuereb prides himself on the diversity of partners Strive launched over the past three years. It started out launching Desert Diamond and Golden Nugget Online Gaming – part of DraftKings – in Arizona. There’s also Betsson’s Betsafe, PointsBet in Canada and, most recently, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians’ Four Winds. Further clients are signed up and yet to be announced.
Its roster ranges from locally established tribal operators to international competitors, with a US market-leading client thrown in for good measure. In each case this requires a migration; PointsBet, for example, is supplementing its own tech. Four Winds is replacing another PAM. Why go through the process to extricate themselves from a platform and move to another, with all the inherent risks?
“We’re seeing our operators gain meaningful market share,” Xuereb says. “Desert Diamond in Arizona is a local tribal operator and they’re really mixing in with the big hitters in the space, beating out some of the national guys. With the right technology behind a brand, local operators can compete.”
Single-state operators have struggled to compete with the market leaders, but Xuereb argues this is exactly what Strive aims to help them do.
“We want to enable operators to compete at that level,” he says. “It’s not just about earning a sliver of market share. Small operators deserve a bigger slice of the pie, especially when they can offer a local flair and an equally player-friendly experience.
“We know not all customers are going to have the marketing budgets of the big guys,” he continues. “That means we need to do more as a platform provider. We need to work harder, smarter. We need to provide our operators with all the tools that enable them to really compete.”
Doing something different
This could be through real-time bonusing, deep integrations with sportsbooks, cross-selling from different verticals, or running unique promotions in partnership with local brands.
“Differentiation is key,” Xuereb says. “If everybody had the same product, it would just become a race to the bottom.
“This is really where we want to encourage our operators to reward differently, to reward smarter. Ensuring you reward the right players is key, and reward them at the right time with the right amounts.”
A cookie-cutter marketing plan only serves to raise the risk of bonus abuse, he says. Instead, Strive aims to help partners refine and adapt their strategy to genuinely connect with their players in each market.
Again, it all comes down to the importance of evolution, Xuereb says. “Strive brought technology to market that solves some of the fundamental challenges for operators when they are looking to launch a brand.
“But our investment didn’t just stop there, our product has continually evolved.” Its roadmap is influenced not only by its experience of the market but by what customers want to achieve, “whether it’s offering different front-end experiences, different cashier options, whether it’d be our hybrid cashier or working with preferred partners to create a unified waterfall experience in the payment space.”
The omnichannel evolution
As a three-year-old business in a six-year-old market, Xuereb sees huge opportunity to grow. Sports betting may be in 36 states, but icasino is only in seven. As the market expands, players will mature and market sizes will increase.
“We’ll continue to see more positive datasets come from the market around the halo effect that digital has on land-based,” he predicts. The most progressive operators will work to create a unified omnichannel experience, to unlock hidden value and grow player loyalty.
“This is really the space where Strive can help operators stand out, whether it’d be integrated into their land-based system, or through creating a single sign-on, or even creating of a unified loyalty scheme across both land-based and online.
“So I very much expect to see operators really harmonising their ecosystem and in creating these consistent omnichannel experiences.”
Xuereb wants to redefine what a PAM provider is to an operator. Having established itself in a region dominated by brands with in-house technology and multinational competitors, Strive is proving first-mover advantage isn’t as strong as an optimised, North America-centric product.
“We have a unique asset in our Infinity Rules Engine, which can unify whatever the channel, whatever the vertical, and can even extend outside of non-gaming verticals,” he adds. Now it’s established, Strive is gearing up to lead a new phase of growth.