Can Malta extend its success in the iGaming industry to all startups?

August 30, 2017 | 3 minute read

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In 2004, Malta kickstarted the iGaming Industry with the launch of the remote gaming regulations, making it the first country in Europe to do so.

The industry today employs more than 8,000 people and totals to 12% of the island’s economy by generating €700m in income. Giant betting companies have relocated completely or opened shop in Malta adding to the ever-growing 300 gaming companies already present.

Local and international entrepreneurs are taking advantage of this and are helping Malta to become ‘one of Europe’s most striking start-up communities’, making it a digital haven for the online world.

Valery Bollier | CEO and co-founder | OulalaGames took advantage and relocated their company to Malta in 2012 to benefit from Malta’s business-friendly tax and gaming regulations. Alongside his colleague Benjamin Carlotti, Bollier launched Silicon Valletta in 2016 – a non-profit organisation with the sole aim of creating awareness for Malta’s “budding tech scene”.

“Most of us members have been through the hardships of starting up a company so we are now glad to share our experience with newcomers. Maltese people have an amazingly positive vision of the future: most Maltese believe that tomorrow will be better than today,” he says. “As a startup, it is crucial that you are surrounded by such a positive atmosphere.”

InterNation’s Expat Insider survey in 2016 agreed. Malta has been recognised as the best destination for expats to settle in, surpassing countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. It also ranked in 6th place for quality of life.

Contributing to this success is the Maltese’s ability to speak fluent English which is one of the country’s official languages alongside Maltese. This means that soon, Malta will be the sole official anglophone country throughout all European countries.

“Risk aversion is mostly around the local angel investors,” says Simon Azzopardi | President | Silicon Valletta. “There are very few who understand startup-type investments. What Malta does not have, like other jurisdictions, is a case of too much capital. Startups need to work harder for capital, which means that those tech startups that raise capital tend to be of a certain calibre.”

Martin Leonard | Founder | Crowdfund and industry lobby Startup Malta said that “(Maltese prime minister) Joseph Muscat, in an interview conducted by The Malta Independent, confirmed that Malta is a ‘digital economy’ and ‘driven by technology’. New VC firms are absorbing this information now and encouragingly reacting to this promising opportunity. The partners in the new VC firms though will, in all likelihood, come from outside Malta.”

Alberto Pelliccione | CEO | ReaQta adds that “scaling requires many factors and they range from investments, market size, talents, mentors and networks. The sector in which talents are available is mainly that of betting and gaming, which are the biggest sources of income for the island.”

Bollier believes that Malta has “strong potential” to attract foreign talent, backing up the 70% of foreign iGaming workforce. “If we are unable to find a specific skill on the island, we fly it over to Malta.” Azzopardi adds “Malta, like everywhere in Europe, talent is a challenge. Finding the right culture, attitude and quality of talent is not an easy task. I would set up an agency to speed up the process of employing third country nationals, a particularly hard-to-find resource. Europe has a problem and if Malta could win on speed and service when dealing with talent, then that will give Malta a leading USP.”

With the iGaming industry being a European pioneer, a stable tech community is growing. “The betting market doesn’t lead the local tech market, but there is a symbiotic relationship between the two,” points out Leonard. “Betting is an industry that is always hungry for new talent, new blood, new ideas and the latest new technology. That in turn attracts the best people who are savvy in new working paradigms and new technology, the sustained and accelerating change of 21st century business, as well as the new methods of social interaction and communication lost on those stuck in older ways of working.”

To help further expand the industry, Malta now has its own iGaming Academy, European Gaming Institute of Malta and offers a course focused on iGaming at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST).

When it comes to company startups, Malta has proven its worth and Bollier testifies this. “With all these business and personal factors added together,” he says, “I believe that Malta is one of the best places to live right now.”

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