Ory Weihs – Founder and CEO XL Media – It’s time for affiliates to “enjoy the ride”

Ory Weihs
Entrepreneurial affiliate advice from one of the industry legends

 

XLMedia is a leading performance marketing company traded on the London Stock Exchange focused on gambling, games and financial services. Years of experience means the group’s CEO Ory Weihs, is an expert in iGaming marketing, partnership management and customer acquisition. 

He sat down with Affiliate Insider to discuss some of the key elements in ensuring that affiliates maintain strong partnerships with operators, as well as how they can produce prosperous content for the iGaming market.   

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Affiliate Insider: How would you say the industry has changed since you first started out in iGaming and what are the opportunities you see for affiliate entrepreneurs coming into this space?

Ory Weihs: If I had to use one word to describe the main changes, I would say, “matured”. The days of throwing together a simple Frontpage website, a couple of banners ads and list a few links generating hundreds of FTD’s and large amounts of money are gone. Today, we have to create value either using massive informational portals or generate real value-add using media campaigns. This can only be done with a combination of strong tech, of which XLM has invested heavily in and developing our own know how & talent – again, another massive financial investment.

In terms of opportunities, we believe there are plenty of those, mainly driven by our strong tech capabilities, how we engage with google analytics (which didn’t really exist 10 years ago) and re-regulation of the gambling sector globally.

We can now, for example, create real value add sites / develop apps and really analyze / optimise content and media campaigns. My estimation is that re-regulation will significantly increase the addressable market (of course at the cost of lower margins) and will create an opportunity for those affiliates that have invested in platforms and know how.

AI: What are the patterns or formula’s you’ve seen during your career as a successful entrepreneur that might be helpful for others to succeed?

OW: The shift in a business when it starts to gather significant momentum is one of “mentality” – it seems to just happen when the company starts to grow beyond the “one person show” into something a bit bigger. It’s the point when you realise you cannot do everything and that there are people out there better placed than you to help you drive the business forward.

A successful entrepreneur is the one that realises this early on and brings in and, most importantly, retains key talent.

Another pattern would be the dreaded “comfort zone”. I use the word dreaded as it is very easy to get trapped. Typically, when things are growing nicely on their own and everything flows positively, as it was in 2003-2004 when I was running my affiliate network, that’s EXACTLY the right time to start investing and pushing the boundaries a little.  Start thinking about new business units, new products or new methodologies to create more sustainable earnings.  Think about challenging yourself and staying on top of our game.

In my example that was starting to create and acquire informational websites, as in move from the “master affiliate’ to also being “an affiliate” back in 2005.

AI: Can you outline the five key elements for starting or running a successful iGaming affiliate business?

OW: Will try and keep this short and to the point!

  • Create a business, not a side business. Even if you are doing it part-time, apply yourself as if it is your sole income. Not just financial investment, but time, effort and so on.
  • Technology – Whether you are building websites, creating mobile apps, buying social media or PPC, think of the tech running the show and invest in it. As you build scale, adding room for expansion it will pay dividend further down the road.
  • Mingle & Party! Having solid industry relations really does help. Especially in one like the iGaming one as for some reason everyone seems to know each other! A couple of hangovers could lead to great deals in the next quarter!
  • Think sustainability. I always talk about “Omni channel” and the reason for that is not only “not to leave money on the table” but also to create a sustainable business. User acquisitions patterns changes per region / products /period and we need to have a range of skill sets to stay relevant.
  • Talent – realise you need people who could bring a lot to the table and, maybe,  even more than you.  Remember, you need to keep them happy, motivated and committed.

AI: What would you say are the top 3 skills you’ve learned as a successful entrepreneur that helped your business grow?

  • Surround yourself with talented people that challenge you.
  • Always try to think “outside the comfort zone”, in terms of trying new things, building experimental products that may or may not work but always trying.
  • Not really a skill but something that REALLY helps is to have a supportive partner that doesn’t mind the weird hours, quite a lot of travel and talking about gambling at home…

AI: In your view, what is the best way to achieve long-term affiliate success in the current competitive market place?

Try to distill all the tips from above but I think the main thing is focus on a multi-discipline tech driven approach build in a generic fashion, that is relevant not just for one product or region.

AI: If you had one piece of advice to give someone just starting out, what would it be?

Enjoy the ride! If you are not enjoying it there is no point bothering, it will not last.

AI: Knowing when to hire staff as a growing business is a tough decision to make. What advice can you give to growing businesses about investing in people to expand revenue?

OW: For me, the initial step from hiring 1 to 2-3 people was the hardest, but very soon, you realize it was one of the best steps you’ve ever made. Getting dedicated and motivated people who inspire you is the only way to grow your company. And, I would say that the  hardest part comes when you need to keep them by your side.

AI: What have been some of your best successes and failures as a forward thinking entrepreneur – and what values have you learned from them?

OW: One of each. On the success side, it has been bringing in the right partners in the right time into what ended up becoming XLM. Every time I “diluted” myself by either collaborating with my co-founders or bringing in Private equity in 2012, 2013 or even the listing in 2014 and subsequent fund raise, I seem to have ended up with a smaller part of something much bigger, which was a positive effect. The lesson was to know what the right time to bring in partners is and what skill set you want / need from them,

On the failure side, I can recall a company in the early days of video (2006). I was involved in as an investor. Idea was great, market was receptive BUT the people actually developing and running the business were not 100% devoted. Which kind of relates to what I mentioned before that the choice of good partners is pivotal and can make a great idea sink.

AI: Excluding your own, what companies or brands do you admire and why?

OW: I’m a big Amazon fan, keep adding more products and just taking a bigger piece of both the B2C and B2B sector by making themselves a fundamental part of any business. Forward thinking company.

Netflix are bridging the gap between distribution channel and production. Like many companies I like taking the full food chain really makes a difference.

AI: What kind of culture exists in your organisation and how important is it to build a culture within a brand.

OW: I believe our team has managed to maintain a connection to our core customers, which are young, vibrant and diverse. We now employ more than 20 nationalities and really do expect our teams to challenge themselves and their superiors with new ideas. Our system pushes people to grow and we constantly try to create, share and preserve knowledge.  We try to give back to the communities that are close to our hearts and our teams are constantly involved in social initiatives.