It’s entering a crowded market but Strive Gaming’s leaders see that as an advantage instead of a hindrance in a market lacking a localised solution. Cole Rush speaks to president Damian Xuereb and CMO Jamie Shea to find out why the US sports betting platform space is ready for a shake-up.
“They shouldn’t ever know who Strive is,” says Jamie Shea – Strive‘s chief marketing officer – of sports bettors and online casino players. “But every operator should know our name. We’re the silent background partner that is making sure everything is running smoothly.”
That’s the approach almost any B2B service provider must take. Strive is set up to take full advantage, giving operators a leg-up in highly competitive North American markets.
“Our core focus is around the player account management piece,” says Damian Xuereb, Strive co-founder and president. “We enable operators to serve their customers and understand player data. We help manage the end-to-end process of player activations, and registrations, and create meaningful front-end experiences.”
Strive can assist betting platforms with all aspects of their operations, including native apps and crucial back-end services.
Formed three years ago by Kambi veterans Xuereb and CEO Max Meltzer, Strive focuses solely on the North American market to address the unique needs of operators in the space and help them navigate the piecemeal regulation of the US. Strive’s first customers included two Arizona sportsbook operators: Desert Diamond and Golden Nugget. Recent sign-ups include PointsBet, in Canada, and Michigan’s Four Winds Casino.
It’s been a productive three-year stretch, Xuereb says. “Where do we stand now? Eight customers across multiple jurisdictions. We have a really localised content library of North American and premium content.”
Room for newcomers in US sports betting
Strive was far from the first player in the industry, and the hurdles were plentiful. That didn’t stop Xuereb from jumping, though.
“We view it as an advantage,” Xuereb says of Strive’s relative youth. “We can understand the state-by-state nuances in each market. It’s an opportunity to do our research and ensure we build a product that not just meets the current state’s regulations, but sets us up for future markets as well.”
As a result, Strive’s platform is highly configurable. “One day regulations look this way; tomorrow, they take a 180-degree turn,” Xuereb says. “You have to adjust.”
Shea joined Strive in 2022 after a three-and-a-half-year stint with DraftKings. She brought a customer’s perspective, seeing in Strive an opportunity to address the difficulties of day-to-day operations.
“I felt a definite frustration at the lack of a cohesive back office that allowed me to do everything in one place,” Shea says. “Strive does that: reporting, compliance, app… it’s all taken care of.”
Built for North America
Strive also strives for a home turf edge on the competition. It is a North American-only platform, built to serve the needs of a specific region in which the piecemeal regulations require hefty knowledge and compliance practices.
“Our North American focus means we won’t get distracted by other regulations,” Xuereb says. “We’re not chasing the regulations in Brazil or Germany. Strive will continually evolve around the North American player experience. And we’ve seen across a number of years that players mature.”
“Player experiences change. The onus is on operators to engage their players in support of those changes. Our product is thus finely tuned around meeting that North American requirement.”
Shea speaks to the unique needs of American bettors, and how Strive hones its platform in response.
“Think about how sportsbooks are used in other countries,” she says, “where soccer might be the biggest betting volume. In North America and specifically the US, your platform has to be ready-made for college football, NFL, basketball, and any number of other fast-paced sports. The way we bet here is very different.”
Shea remembers a story told to her once in which a bettor saw their wager converted from dollars to Euros to Pounds and back to dollars again. “The bettor placed the wager in dollars; why wasn’t it processed from start to finish in dollars?”
Another roadblock for US operators – especially smaller ones – is the name recognition and seemingly unlimited spending power of the industry’s biggest companies. Strive helps the lesser-known or more localised brands find their audience.
Competing with the US market leaders
“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.”
Desert Diamond provides an excellent case study and shines a light on a key challenge for smaller operators.
“We want to enable operators to compete at that level,” Xuereb 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, work smarter. We need to provide our operators with all the tools that enable them to really compete.”
A differentiated US sportsbook offering
Among the tools Strive deploys to elevate operators like Desert Diamond are real-time bonusing, localised player experiences as well as cross-selling opportunities with local brands.
“Differentiation is key,” Xuereb continues. “If everyone had the same product, it would just be a race to the bottom. So we encourage our customers to reward differently. Reward players at the right time and in the right amounts. It should not be a blanket marketing plan that allows operators to be opened up to abuse.”
On the topic of differentiation, Xuereb says it has become a much more important facet of online gambling operations than in the past. Once, speed was key, especially as new markets opened and operators vied for market share.
“We’ve deployed in as little as three months previously,” he says. “However, the market has evolved. We are seeing operators who want to focus less on speed and more on a quality product.”
Part of that quality is a strong uptime, which Shea says Strive excels at.
“We’ve had tremendous uptime,” she says, knocking on her wooden desk and laughing. “We were 99.5% uptime, which is a huge number. As long as you’ve got that stuff ticking in the background, the players have a great experience. Players remember how easy it was to do something, and how smooth the experience was.”
“If I log in to do something and it takes forever, I go to a competitor. Strive makes its operators the path of least resistance.”
Is igaming Strive’s ticket to the big leagues?
As for the future? Strive is looking ahead to the highly anticipated online casino boom in the US.
“I firmly believe that online casino and sports will continue to grow,” poises Xuereb. “The number of live markets will increase, and players will mature. We can help operators stand out amidst this growth with single sign-on across platforms, a unified loyalty program, and more connections to land-based gaming.”
“We’re looking forward to 2024 and we think it’ll be a fantastic year for both sports and online casino in North America.”