iGF RoundTable: Lessons in Success Profiling iGaming’s Young Leaders

As the iGaming industry continues to thrive, giving birth to a growing pool of great new gaming companies, we are also witnessing the efflorescence of a new and successful band of young professionals and entrepreneurs who are now spearheading the industry, helping our business reach impressive high levels of growth.

To get a better understanding of who these ambitious young leaders really are–and what they see for the future–we caught up with a serious selection of some of the foremost CEO’s and Senior Decision Makers in the industry.

In this three-part iGF RoundTable series, we charted their path to the C-suite, and heard about the challenges they faced on their journey to the top.

We were privileged to be given insight into the biggest moments in their stellar careers to date – and learn what they learned from these key passages of professional play.

Most importantly, for you our loyal readers, we are here able to spotlight the advice and guidance that our RoundTable panel of experts are happy to share with other young, ambitious executives, as they begin the climb to the top; to help push iGaming ever forward.

With the participation of: 

Alex Lorimer, Chief Operating Officer, Gaming Corps

Giorgi Tsutskiridze, Chief Commercial Officer, Spribe

Alina Dandörfer, Co-founder and Director, Apparat Gaming

Troy Paul, Chief Executive Officer, SGG Media

David Mann, Chief Executive Officer, Swintt

Alex Iaroshenko, Chief Executive Officer, BETBAZAR

Chris Scicluna, CEO at Livespins

Can you give a brief resumé of your career journey to the C-suite?

Alex Lorimer: “I joined Gaming Corps as Head of Business Development to help drive the customer base but also tie into the product. I joined at a time when the company had recently transitioned from Gaming to iGaming.

“In my previous role at iSoftBet, I was primarily a Team Leader for the account management team but I always found myself venturing into every aspect of the company’s day-to-day running; be it sales, product, marketing, data, finance, compliance, tech support, et cetera.

“I tried my hand at most things and prided myself on having as wide a knowledge base of the entire company’s operation as possible. This led to me moving to assist with pre-sales, given my ability to cover all aspects of the company and answer almost anything a potential customer might want to know.

“With Gaming Corps being a small start-up, it was a risk to give someone so young and inexperienced–at least in senior management norms– responsibility for the day-to-day running of the company.

“However, I do genuinely believe there aren’t many people who would have had as broad a knowledge of how every aspect of an iGaming business works. But given the journey we’ve been on over the last three years, that lack of experience and naivety has taken me down an alternative route that has ultimately driven a large amount of success.

“I must say this is only because of the wonderful team we have built and the confidence and backing that I had, in particular from the CEO Juha Kauppinen and the CBDO Bulent Balikci.”

Giorgi Tsutskiridze: My journey to the C-suite–I am Chief Commercial Officer at SPRIBE, the developer behind the world’s number one crash game, Aviator–has been a fun and rewarding one. I am a proud graduate of the Harvard Business School and throughout my career have held key senior roles at prestigious companies such as BetConstruct, VBet and Adjarabet.

“Alongside my corporate roles, I have embraced entrepreneurship, founding and leading HawX, a CRM company focused on the online gambling industry. HawX is on a mission to elevate online casino brands by enhancing acquisition and retention strategies.

“I have also gained experience outside of the gambling industry, founding Eruditu, an innovative online e-learning platform. Eruditu serves as a space where individuals can engage in courses, or share their expertise by uploading courses.

“This dual role as an entrepreneur and corporate leader has given me a diverse skill set and a deep understanding of the different aspects that make a business run and be successful. It is this unique combination that has fast-tracked me into the C-Suite at SPRIBE.

“My business acumen and expertise have led to invitations to lecture at prestigious universities in Georgia, including the Caucasus University at the Caucasus School of Business and the Business Technology University. In these academic settings, I share insights on business and leadership to inspire the next generation of young leaders.”

Alina Dandörfer: “I completed my studies in International Relations and then travelled the world a bit, before joining German land-based gambling and entertainment giant, SCHMIDT Gruppe.

“I began as a project manager and my work with software developers would form a great foundation for every step I took after that.

“A few years later I was offered a position at Bally Wulff, the third biggest gambling machine manufacturer in Germany, and seized it with both hands.

“Over the following six years, I held several positions across organisational development, staffing, and project management.

“My appetite for learning saw me become involved in a range of projects within the organisation, especially from a management and financial perspective. It was during those days, towards the end of my time at Bally Wulff, that I was asked by someone to support their efforts to start a business – a totally new challenge that came knocking on my door.

“This side project stimulated my desire for a career change, and so I almost left the iGaming industry. I was offered a leading position at a start-up in a different sector, with the task of building it up from scratch. I’d even got a start date and a contract in hand.

“But at the same time, the idea that had been lingering in the minds of the founding team to launch Apparat Gaming finally matured and became a reality. So, I decided to go all-in and embarked on the adventure of running my own company, which was the genesis of Apparat Gaming.”

Troy Paul: My journey started with the launch of SGG Media in 2020. Having just graduated from NYU university, I began to work with my father to launch our social media micro-influencer-focused company. We saw a huge opportunity in the market and, with our combined experience and skills, realised we were in an excellent position to take advantage of it.

“The social media/content industry is one of the few where youth lends itself as an advantage in terms of credibility. It is also one of the few industries where younger people are, in some ways, more experienced than their senior counterparts.

“I took the role of President in the early days before shifting into the role of CEO in early 2022. Having built the company from the ground up, it seemed like a natural transition. As I was an expert in both operations and sales of our company.”

David Mann: I’d had almost a decade’s experience working in the wider industry before I came to Swintt and in that time I’d mostly specialised in developing early-stage growth for providers and helping B2B start-ups within the iGaming industry.

“I arrived at Swintt as a Business Development Director, and within two-years I’d taken over the role of Chief Commercial Officer.

“During my time in the latter role, I benefited tremendously from the experience and guidance of David Flynn ( NB, a bit more on him later) and that ultimately provided me with the tools I needed to take the next step as CEO. It was a journey that was not without its challenges, but I’m glad it led me to where I am today.”

Alex Iaroshenko: “Some people would call it “fate”, while others would say random chance, but I was first introduced to the industry around 13-years-ago by friends who were already in the iGaming business.

“Back then, they said that it might be an interesting sphere with a lot of potential to develop across the globe, so naturally I was curious to learn more. As it happened, they ended up recommending me as a young specialist to one of the biggest providers in the world: a company then called Betgenius, who are now Genius Sports. And I started to work for them as a business development manager for the CIS region.

“The role included lots of travel, lots of meetings with people and lots of negotiations, and it wasn’t long before I realised this is what makes the industry work. After a while, the partners saw there was a niche in “fast games” that had a lot of potential going forward, so that’s where we focused and where we had a lot of success.

“Part of the deal was that each partner would specialise in what they were best at, and for me that was business development. That’s how BETBAZAR came to be created and this is what we do as a marketplace. We secure deals, we find partners and we help people enter the industry smoothly and successfully.”

Chris Scicluna: “Reflecting on my career journey to the C-suite, it’s been a path marked by a deep engagement with product development in the iGaming industry. About 15-years-ago, I started as a product designer, where I first discovered my passion for creating innovative gaming experiences. The role was a springboard that led me to a significant position at Mr Green, a renowned operator. From there, I led the mobile team and was instrumental in driving exponential growth of our mobile product in just six-months. This experience was pivotal in shaping my understanding of user-centric product design and market trends.

“Following my time at Mr Green, I joined Casumo, an emerging Nordic operator known for its dynamic approach to the iGaming sector. At Casumo, I oversaw the company’s product and gamification strategy. My role was then expanded to leading the entire product team as the Head of Product. This position allowed me to hone my leadership skills and deepen my expertise in product lifecycle management, ensuring that all products delivered met our high standards and market expectations.

“After a fulfilling period at Casumo, I transitioned to HPYHR as the Chief Product Officer, where I was able to leverage my experience in product development and strategy. This role gave me the opportunity to significantly contribute to the growth of some of the best operator brands in the industry, including what is now known as Livespins.

“Livespins, in particular, captured my attention due to its immense potential and how it had been received by the industry.

“Recognising its growth prospects and being part of its inception from the start, I took on the role of CEO, guiding Livespins from an early startup to an up and coming B2B business in the iGaming space.

“As CEO, my focus has been on maintaining a strong product-centric approach within the organisation, ensuring that we continue to innovate and lead in our sector.”

Landing the role at such a young age is a major achievement. What do you think has been the key factor? 

Troy Paul: I believe it’s always important to keep learning, no matter how old you are. Mentorship has been a crucial part of my growth in my role as CEO. Ensuring I stay open to ideas, learn from those around me, and, when necessary, accept criticism has helped me climb the ladder quickly, but there is still so much to learn.

“I am lucky to have an excellent team of advisors around me that has contributed to my continued growth. My desire to be at the top of this industry, combined with my willingness to learn from those who have been there and done it, is the reason I am in the position I am in today.

“I also think it is vital to surround yourself with people that share your vision and who you can trust. As a young entrepreneur, you will need to be able to trust the people giving you advice and know that you are all there to support one another through whatever challenges appear.”

Chris Scicluna: “Landing a CEO role at a relatively young age in the competitive iGaming industry is indeed a significant achievement, one that I attribute to a number of different factors. Among these is my resilient approach to leadership. Resilience has been crucial in navigating the challenges and rapidly changing dynamics characteristic of this industry. It has enabled me to push boundaries, recover from setbacks, and continually drive towards innovation and excellence.

“Equally important has been my deep product knowledge. Having spent years in various roles centred around product development and strategy, I’ve gained an in-depth understanding of what makes a product successful in the iGaming market. This knowledge has been vital in making informed decisions, anticipating market trends, and steering our products towards fulfilling user needs and preferences.

“However, what truly sets me apart is my constant curiosity about the industry. A mindset of ongoing learning and exploration is essential in a field as dynamic as iGaming. This curiosity drives me to stay abreast of emerging technologies, evolving consumer behaviours, and new market opportunities. It has been the catalyst for innovation and continuous improvement in my work.

“Lastly, approaching everything with humbleness and curiosity has been fundamental. Humility in leadership has allowed me to embrace new ideas, learn from others, and foster a collaborative and inclusive work culture.

“This approach not only enriches my own understanding, but also empowers those around me to flourish, creating a synergistic environment where collective efforts translate into outstanding results.”

Giorgi Tsutskiridze: For me, it has come down to a combination of key factors centred around my leadership character, erudition and extensive experience. I can lead effectively and this, coupled with my commitment to keep learning, has allowed me to progress quickly and achieve major career milestones at a young age.

“By drawing on the wealth of experience I have gained in the various senior roles held and entrepreneurial activities undertaken, I have developed the skills and insights needed for success in the highly competitive online gambling industry and this has made me a valuable asset to companies such as SPRIBE.”

Alex Iaroshenko: “I would always say that the most important thing for me was surrounding myself with the right people, that is to say: Building a strong team of like-minded individuals and learning how to motivate them to work for the good of the business. With the help of a good team, everything happens much faster and I would never have achieved what I have today without their support, professionalism and personal skills.

“A key part of this is obviously having clear communication and understanding how things happen–not just internally but externally as well–and this comes from talking to other people in the industry, visiting them and putting attention into their businesses as well. Of course for others it might be that they started out with a game-changing product that shook the foundations of the industry, but for us it was simply taking a slightly different approach to many of the basic things.

“We did find a new product and a niche that made us successful, but our idea wasn’t unique in itself. It already existed in a few markets. But in our case it was the team we put together that made it work.”

Alina Dandörfer: You could say I took a slight shortcut by stepping into the role of an entrepreneur for the company I co-founded.  

“Was I qualified for the role? Did I have doubts and fears? Sure, these thoughts popped up in my mind. But my co-founders entrusted me with the responsibility, so I rolled up my sleeves and set out on an exciting new adventure.  

“In my previous roles I’d assumed responsibility for a variety of projects, reorganised work processes, taken on management responsibility for a team, supervised project cost reports and contributed to the development and implementation of the corporate strategy.  

“Leveraging these experiences, along with a genuine curiosity and a strong desire to explore and learn, proved to be crucial factors.”

Alex Lorimer: The key aspect of how I’ve driven the high-level strategy and growth was the relationships I made previously from being an account manager. 

“As an AM I always went the extra mile for everyone, no matter the size of their business and many of those people have repaid the favour. There’s been a willingness to work closely with us to understand the climate of the market and the players, which has helped to drive a product focused on the operator and the players’ needs, rather than me having to guess and hope.”

David Mann: Not having been born earlier was definitely a big help! But seriously, there have been a few factors that have helped me on my career journey to C-suite. Of course, there’s the regular dumb luck of simply being in the right place at the right time and having it pay off for you, but of more concrete value has been the great mentorship I’ve had along the way. 

“This goes right up to my time at Swintt, where I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked under David Flynn before taking over my current role as CEO. I really appreciated his guidance, patience, and the trust he shows for those he works with, and that has been a huge part in my Swintt career playing out the way it has.”

*To hear more from our panel of young leaders, be sure to stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon. It’s a perfect opportunity for you to delve even deeper into the psyche and success of a young CEO!

Published on:
fast track