How It Has Overcome Challenges and Positioned Itself for Growth
As technology is increasingly integrated into diverse industries, digital sports betting activities add an exciting new dimension to sporting events. Since 2014, Australia-based PlayUp has steadily expanded its presence in the online sports betting and entertainment arena. Daniel Simic, PlayUp’s Founder and Global CEO, shares perspectives on the company’s evolution. He acknowledges that PlayUp has overcome its share of challenges. Finally, Daniel Simic has developed a roadmap for PlayUp’s continued global market expansion.
Origin of the PlayUp Concept
During the past few years, online betting has become increasingly prevalent in the sports world. As regulations have eased and technology has enabled online betting platform development, numerous companies have entered the industry. However, each business offers a defined range of products within its vertical. The company rarely ventures outside that arena for product innovation.
Recognizing this, PlayUp CEO Daniel Simic saw an opening for a single platform that catered to both online bettors and online sports entertainment fans. From this, says Daniel Simic, the PlayUp concept took shape. “Why PlayUp? Because I believe the vision that we have now, which is based on creating a one-stop betting shop with social interactivity such as peer to peer betting, doesn’t exist on a global scale.
“I also believe the companies that are already embedded in the industry don’t have reason to truly innovate because they’re already successful in their own right. The big players have company structures that are very vertically defined and from experience i can see how this affects innovation and decision making,” Daniel Simic explains.
PlayUp Navigates Two Significant Challenges
Daniel Simic’s astute market analysis identified a clear market void. He began building out the PlayUp concept and put the wheels in motion to bring his idea to fruition. The process began around 2014, and the company will fully take shape by the end of 2022. Along the way, Daniel Simic encountered two major roadblocks to his plan.
First, Daniel Simic underestimated the need for a well-defined marketing plan and clear strategic position. He believed that a good product could succeed via organic exposure and word-of-mouth referral business. Today, he understands that companies in the highly competitive sports betting industry need aggressive marketing, especially in digital and must have a point of difference to stand out from the competition.
Secondly, Daniel Simic recognized that PlayUp needed the agile technology inhouse to quickly respond to emerging market opportunities. “So to get people to spend their money on our site as opposed to others, you need to have something that’s different, something that’s better, and a reason for them to play with you.
“So to do that, you need to have a company structure that can change and adapt to new products, features and regulatory updates. So that was a big challenge and it took many years to build a solid in-house software development team” he says.
For perspective, PlayUp has already rolled out its platform into the Australian market and is planning a US launch in early 2023. Before that, the company has been using third-party software to power its sports betting operations in New Jersey and Colorado.
How the COVID-19 Pandemic Drove PlayUp’s Growth
The COVID-19 pandemic’s spread led to widespread business shutdowns and a global economic downturn. Sporting events, and many sporting-related businesses, were also negatively impacted. In fact, some of PlayUp’s competitors completely ceased their operations.
In Australia, horse racing did not stop and was only partially affected by Covid. Naturally, locked-down sports bettors were chafing at the bit for more events, so PlayUp debuted a fantasy sports online product geared to this audience. Daniel Simic explains how this strategic product introduction kept the income flowing in during a challenging period.
“And we kept generating revenue on our sports fantasy platform whilst there was no sport. Those products that we built still run till today, which are now an additional product on top of the sports [that] went back on again…So COVID actually supported the growth of our business and fast tracked new products,” Daniel Simic remarks.
PlayUp’s U.S. Market Entry Brings Opportunities and Challenges
While laying out PlayUp’s expansion plans, Daniel Simic likely had the United States market on his radar for some time. In March 2021, PlayUp received approval to operate in the state of Colorado. This marked the company’s first entry into the country’s increasingly lucrative sports betting market.
In October 2021, PlayUp received an operational license for the New Jersey market. Just outside New York City, the New Jersey jurisdiction comprises the country’s biggest sports betting market.
Strategic Connections and a Strong Logistics Focus
In retrospect, Daniel Simic says gaining entry into the United States market requires a mindset shift and a meticulous attention to detail. As with other emerging business opportunities, making strategic connections is the key to opening doors.
Once each door is cracked, PlayUp must navigate each state’s gambling and sports betting regulations to obtain an operating license there. Daniel Simic succinctly summarizes the process.
“So entering the American market, it was, let’s just say it’s hard to break. But once you’ve made the right connections with the right people, we’ve found that to be very resourceful in getting more market access across the entire United States.
“So in the United States, every state is almost like a country. They’re all different and isolated. Each state requires an individual setup, each having their own rules and regulations. In effect, every state is almost like another Australia,” he explains.
Market Access is the Overarching Goal
First, PlayUp gained market access in certain key states. Next, the company leveraged that success to get the ball rolling in additional states. Daniel Simic also emphasizes casinos’ role in the licensing process.
“The whole idea is getting the market access. So we were able to get market access very early in some of the key states such as New Jersey. And from that we’ve leveraged that access, which is hard to get, plus hard to get live because of the legislation and the regulatory requirements, but we’ve passed those tests.
“So that has then allowed us to get market access in other states, and we keep those relationships up with partnerships with, for example, Caesars. So in the U.S., you have to partner with a casino or a race track to be able to offer a betting product.
“So we’ve partnered, particularly with Caesars, in market access in many states. [This] is not only sports betting, but we’ve now expanded our market access to include iGaming, which is basically online casino products such as slot machines, roulette, poker, table games, those sorts of products,” Daniel Simic concludes.
PlayUp has Ambitious Expansion Plans
Looking ahead, Daniel Simic is eyeing up the Indian and European market. He also plans to build out new products on PlayUp’s proprietary technology platform. Recently introduced in the Australian market, the platform will soon be approved for United States’ players use. At that point, Simic foresees a splashy launch fuelled by an intensive targeted marketing campaign, which will primarily be just online.
Daniel Simic says PlayUp’s new product offerings will integrate two key components. “We’re focusing on new products, and two of our core strategies are building product that is low entry fees to enter.
“So pool-based entry, where people come in obviously an entry pool where people play against each other. So it’s peer to peer gaming environment that we’re trying to build that allows people to play at a very low cost to win larger amounts of money.
“We’re trying to add to the experience by not just betting to win large sums of money, but betting for enjoyment and betting with smaller amounts of money , and engaging with other people around the world,” Daniel Simic summarizes.
Daniel Simic’s Desire for Excellence Drives PlayUp’s Growth
Daniel Simic’s business achievements stem from his entrepreneurial spirit and belief that he can always do something better. “I entered this market by investing into it. I believe this industry is filed with big opportunities…I believed that there [were] gaps in the market, and I could foresee a pathway to doing it better or different to others.
“I’ve learnt through my years of experience the importance of controlling costs whilst building the dream especially if you operate off investor funds. So I’ve learned to balance between growth and cost. [I believe this] is not only a skill, but it takes many years to learn.
“So I guess what defines me is my ability to find an opportunity, bring an idea or concept to fruition, and the foresight to maintain a helicopter view at all times with a clear vision of what needs to be delivered to produce a positive result. I believe I have those traits and also the right business acumen and skillset to drive PlayUp’s growth well into the future” Daniel Simic concludes.