Friendbet is a new social gambling startup based in Paris and London. They recently launched a beta version of their site in both France and the U.K., and are among a handful of companies to have obtained a online sport betting license in France.
Here in Edinburgh, our close proximity to The Company Formerly Known As HubDub (aka FanDuel) has given us a decent insight into what it takes to succeed in the online gambling industry. Indeed, FanDuel has conspicuously chosen to target the U.S. market. Is there room for a new gambling website in Europe? Is there a market for it? What makes Friendbet different? We spoke to Maxime Speroni, Marketing Manager at Friendbet, to find out.
[Note: the information below has been edited for brevity and clarity.]
Who’s working at Friendbet?
There are five of us working on the project, plus our developers.
Timothee Luneau and Charles Antoine Idrac created the company one year ago. Timothee previously worked as a Strategy Consultant at Arthur D. Little, and had the idea for the website when he was organising the office bet during World Cup 2006. (He took his time to develop it :-).)
Charles worked in marketing at Come & Stay (a French web agency), and was originally an engineer. I joined the team six months ago with another, Max, to help develop the website and work on the commercial launch, and we have Caroline, who’s been with the team from the beginning as a communications expert.
You officially launched in April. How long has the team been working on Friendbet?
Timothee and Charlie created the company in May 2009, and secured a UK Gambling License shortly thereafter. In the meantime, they started their first capital round to develop the website. A second capital round was finalised before the commercial launch.
In May, we worked days and nights for four weeks to apply for the French license (the French market only legally opened in June). We received the French license last week. This is probably our greatest achievement, since there are only 10 companies authorised to operate sport betting in France.
We are still running a semi-private beta, but the website should be live before the start of the Premiership and the Premier League in August.
Have you learned any interesting lessons, or had any particularly good advice along the way?
The first lesson was maybe to persevere when everybody was telling us it was not possible, particularly with the French license. Other candidates for the license were large multinationals (some of them have more than $1B turnover). Everybody advised us not to spend money and time on this project, but an entrepreneur must not be afraid to jump into the dark. It’s definitely not easy, but it is a must.
By contrast, the betting industry in the UK is a very well-structured and closed sector. There are few differences between the bookmakers, and not a lot of room to innovate. We learned to fight for our vision because we thought that betting amongst friends was not represented by the actors present on the market. For us, when we think of betting, we do not think of bookmakers offering odds, we think of betting with our friends, supporting our team, sharing banter, and having a laugh.
Last, but not least, we learned that working days and nights and only eating pizza with the team is not very healthy, but it is always good memories.
Now that you’ve launched, what’s your biggest challenge?
I see three challenges for the days coming:
1) Recruiting our first users;
2) Making sure they have the best experience possible because they are the ones who will promote our product;
3) Continuing to develop the website according to users’ expectations, sorting out all the great ideas, and choosing the most pertinent for our future developments.
You have a lot of controls in place to try to prevent people from becoming addicted (in a bad way) to gambling on your site. For instance, you allow users to voluntarily restrict their access to the site, and place a maximum on the amount users can bet each week. Why did you choose to implement these controls?
Addiction is a big problem and I was confronted with this when I was working in a bookmaker. What is great on Friendbet is that you do not bet exclusively for money; you bet to make your point to your friends, to show who is the daddy and to share banter.
On Friendbet, there are absolutely no possibilities to bet alone, so the risk of addiction almost does not exist. Traditionally, betting is often practised in a very lonely way, and that is a risk factor. Our goal is to make sure this activity has the conviviality it deserves.
In reality, most of our users will probably bet in other places as well, so we wanted to truly inform them that gambling involves the risk of addiction. That is why we set up all these limitations. Across the industry, several bookies are now setting limits as well, and informing the customer of the risks (Betfair, Betclic), and many improvement are being made.
What should people do if they want to check out the site?
We opened the beta this month. Anybody can enter our beta version using the Facebook connect button: https://beta.friendbet.com.