In a deep dive interview with Gaming Eminence, we sat down with Jonathan Power, CEO of Voxbet, to delve into the transformative journey of Voxbet within the betting industry. Power discusses the impact of voice technology on bet placement, challenges faced in technological adaptation, and the emphasis on user experience. Voxbet's commitment to innovation is evident in its vision for the future, foreseeing voice technology revolutionising the industry and freeing up space for personalised experiences. The interview provides insights into Voxbet's strategic initiatives and the CEO's perspective on the dynamics shaping the betting landscape.
GE) With a history of serving Tier 1 operators with the text betting platform, how has Voxbet's relationship with these operators evolved with the introduction of voice-to-text technology? What feedback or specific demands from operators influenced the decision to invest in voice technology, and how has it impacted the existing client base?
However, Text has now been superseded and surpassed in the present day by the appeal and increasing demand for Voice, as evidenced by the emerging younger cohorts of players who wouldn't dream of sending a bet over SMS! They send voice messages over WhatsApp, instead of the comparative drudgery of typing out their messages, and it’s a one-way tide of adoption.
These users love Bet Builders. This preferred "bet of a generation" is the most profitable bet (considering the demand and built-in margin) that an operator offers - and yet it’s the hardest to place. That’s got to change. Voice effortlessly solves for this problem, rather than trawling through endless menus and markets to find what you want. And it’s indicative of a wider paradigm shift which has been slow to come to betting.
So, in order to articulate this shift in audience appetite, we are building new relationships with different people at the established operators with whom we have been working for well over 10 years. And that's exactly what we wanted to achieve. It sets up an exciting year ahead.
GE) The Onionsack Text Betting platform was noted for increasing the frequency of bets placed. How has this trend translated into the voice-to-text era? Have you observed any changes in user behaviour or frequency of interactions since the adoption of voice technology, and how does it compare to the previous text-only approach?
JP) With Text, we saw bet frequency double and revenue increase 17% when we took SMS costs away for the customer and made the product faster, free and easier over Instant Messaging. But it’s still too early to measure with Voice to be honest. We have not got Voice fully into the market yet. But this is another important question, as it gets to the heart of what innovation has become.
People want these metrics. Yet, if they existed, the innovation would have lost its ability to make a bottom-line difference. Metrics come with proliferation. It’s why all operators look so similar.
I’ve been in the industry since the Noughties and, as best as I can make out over the past two decades, you can count the legitimate innovations on the fingers of one hand (and have a couple of digits left spare!): the advent of in-play betting on sports, followed by cash-out functionality, and then the arrival of the aforementioned Bet Builders, or more recent in-game multiples, if you’re feeling generous. Beyond that, I’m struggling.
What you can say about an industry which is actually far slower to adopt change than one would might naturally suppose, though, is that once a game-changer arrives and proves its utility, it is universally adopted across the board, often within a matter of months, and almost in copycat fashion. Establish the use cases, then you can leave the proving grounds confident of success. It should be thus with Voice.
From an operator's perspective, though, the reality makes innovation a hard proposition unless they can have it long enough to be rewarded for being an early adopter. After all, the operator who made a leap without these metrics deserves a reward for their vision. And the industry is crying out for these visionaries.
GE) Moving from text to voice technology involves significant technological adaptation. Can you shed light on the challenges faced during the integration of voice-to-text engines into Voxbet's platform? Additionally, what notable successes or unexpected benefits have emerged as a result of this technological transition?
JP) When we began this journey, we assumed we had an easy road ahead where we would just plug into the multi-billion existing voice tech available and put that into our proven text engine. Big Tech's voice capability is awesome. But we couldn't get it to work properly in the narrow lane of betting, with all of its unique jargon and varied lexicon of specific phrases. We quickly found that the AI built into these e-commerce platforms would change what was being said into something that simply didn't make sense in the betting dictionary. And that’s before we even get to the myriad different possible pronunciations for racehorses’ names!
To fix this, we had to build the engine just for the betting vernacular. And that's been a huge undertaking. Knowing a customer is speaking a bet makes the problem of understanding it much simpler to solve. But it also meant the tech wasn’t out there to bridge the gap in this narrow domain of discourse. Well, thankfully, it is now.
I suppose the advantage for us from this time-consuming development, is that we’re now miles ahead of anyone who might want to follow us into this realm, having completed this huge task successfully. And while we have also filed a patent on how we solved this problem, we know a patent is sometimes only as strong as your pockets are deep when it comes to defending it!
The other significant advantage for us, but for the longer term, is we see myriad applications for vertical-specific voice tech, like in many other industries. But that’s on the long finger!
GE) Voxbet set out to prove that placing a bet online could be as easy as speaking it. Can you elaborate on the steps taken to ensure a seamless and user-friendly betting experience with the voice-to-text feature? How has this focus on user experience contributed to Voxbet's differentiation in the market?
JP) We started with the brand tagline "Speak-Type-Bet". But that will naturally change this year. With Text, we couldn’t revert back to the user to confirm the bet. SMS was too expensive to do that. However, Voice is in-app. So, we show what we think you said and the user confirms it. So our tagline in 2024 will be "Speak-Tap-Bet". After all, with this step-change solution, it really only takes seconds - even for a multi-leg bet builder!
We have two lines of attack when it comes to differentiation. Firstly, younger people – i.e. the next generation and all those to come who have demand Voice. We’ve discussed them already.
And secondly, prolific customers. Over the last year I've somewhat brazenly claimed that, “50% of your income comes from 1% of your base.” We didn't make that up - the stat was endorsed by our Board who have massive operator experience. But we expected some to say, "yeah, but we are different.” No-one has as yet. The gearing implicit in that stat is just incredible: if you could double your “1-percenters”, you’d increase income by a third.
But "1-percenters" are no longer just the high-stakers. They're prolific in the number and the frequency of bets they place. And for every one of those bets, we can reduce the time it takes down to a few seconds. No other industry innovation is being aimed at this highly-geared cohort. We are going to crack that nut in 2024 and the bottom-line difference for our operator partners will be huge. This prolific group, who deliver so much business, must not be shoe-horned into the same endless-menu system as the occasional player. They need and deserve better. And if you provide it, more of these bettor-types will come your way, especially if you have an early-adopter advantage.
GE) Having successfully integrated voice-to-text technology, what is Voxbet's vision for future innovation within the betting industry? How do you foresee the continued evolution of technology influencing user interactions, and what steps is Voxbet taking to stay ahead of the curve and remain an innovative force in the market?
JP) I'm old enough to remember what browsing the internet was like before Google. Yahoo and AOL offered menus just like the modern sportsbook. But look at how Google changed our world. As to our little corner of the planet, about 95% of a betting site is taken up with content - whether it's interesting or not.
Having compressed the entire browse function into a simple search bar with a microphone, it isn't hard to imagine what you could do with the subsequent freed-up space. Indeed, it's already been done.
It opens up two paths. For the operator, it affords them the space they need to properly personalise the experience. If Spotify offered me the same volume of content that wasn’t of any interest to me as a sportsbook does, I'd stop using it immediately. This is now an achievable reality for sportsbooks.
The other fork is for content creators, aka affiliates. Once they can offer a betting experience that doesn’t turn their content into something encumbered by click bait, more akin to an adult-entertainment site (or so I’m told), then their content can do the work and the customer can speak or type any bet that the content inspires. This will also allow real media companies to become far more prominent in the betting industry.
About our contributor
Jonathan Power is a seasoned professional with over 17 years of experience as the Managing Director at Voxbet, a sports betting platform in Dublin, Ireland, where he has led the company since March 2006. Voxbet revolutionizes the sports betting experience by incorporating voice and text commands. Prior to Voxbet, Jonathan served as the Managing Director for Orygen, a specialized technology consultancy, from 2000 to 2003, overseeing major business and technology change programs for clients such as Allied Irish Bank and JP Morgan. His career also includes a role as a Consultant at TI Software from 1997 to 1999. With a comprehensive background in technology consultancy and sports betting management, Jonathan Power has consistently demonstrated leadership, strategic vision, and a commitment to excellence throughout his career. Visit https://voxbet.com/