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

Welcome back to the third and final instalment of our RoundTable series, “Lessons in Success: Profiling iGaming’s Young Leaders.”

In this series (catch Parts One and Two here), we’ve explored what it’s like being part of a younger generation of iGaming leaders, spearheading change in a dynamic, ever-evolving industry that never sleeps.

Our cadre of young leaders, all aged under 40-years-old, have revealed so many of the challenges – from the debilitating impact of the recent Covid19 global pandemic, to the more prosaic difficulty of establishing credibility. And they’ve shared the career-topping highlights they experienced on their rise to the top.

So join us in Part Three of this exclusive conversation, and arguably most ambitious RoundTable, as we discuss the biggest pressures our panel members face and, critically, hear what advice they impart to aspirational young executives eyeing the C-Suite.

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

What is the biggest pressure that comes with your job?

Alex Lorimer: “I am slowly removing myself from roles that, in reality, should be held by a highly qualified person, but that’s just part and parcel of the startup life. There have been times when I’ve been jumping across seven or eight roles in a day, all requiring a high level of attention and expertise.

“So I’ve had to learn on my feet and try to operate at the level required, despite the knowledge gap. But as much stress and pressure as that has been, you learn and grow and become better each day for it.

“I and a couple of other senior members have had to operate at 110 percent for quite a long time; but you must be willing to put in the effort to break through in this industry, and the hope is that it will be worthwhile and rewarding in the long run.

“Either way, whatever the future holds for us, I’m incredibly proud of everything we have achieved thus far as a team, given the little experience we shared at the start of this adventure.”

Alina Dandörfer: “I dare to claim that the most significant pressure often comes from within. Balancing business goals, investor expectations, employee responsibilities, and personal demands can create a substantial burden. Discovering a healthy and efficient coping mechanism is liberating, allowing for a clear mind with which to address market challenges more effectively.”

Giorgi Tsutskiridze: “The need to constantly stay ahead of the curve in an ever-changing market. This is a dynamic industry where regulatory changes, technological advancements and shifts in consumer preferences are happening all the time. If you rest, you rust, and this means that I have to play my part in ensuring that SPRIBE is in the driving seat to adapt and change course where necessary.

“The devil is in the details here, and that’s why we spend so much time tweaking our strategies and product roadmaps to ensure they are effective and compliant and allow us to capitalise on the opportunities in front of us, despite the constantly-evolving landscape.”

Alex Iaroshenko: “I think one of them is ensuring that my team has the tools and resources available for them to handle any situation that comes their way. In an ideal world, any team should be able to manage their domain by themselves, so if I’m having to have some kind of involvement, I have to look at myself because I obviously haven’t ensured people were properly prepared, or knew how to act in specific scenarios.

“Of course, there’s also pressure when it comes to managing relationships with difficult clients or difficult partners, but I think that’s something that every business has to go through as they grow.

“Finally, the ongoing situation in the world is also a continuous source of pressure, and for BETBAZAR as well.

“Some parts of our team are based in areas close to war, and we constantly have situations where we need to manage and help our people. In these cases, I always feel pressure to ensure everyone is safe and that the team is ready to do what they need to do.”

Chris Scicluna: “The biggest pressure, I believe, is maintaining an unwavering belief in our mission and vision. Leadership, particularly at the executive level, demands a deep and resolute conviction in what we are doing. This belief is not just a personal mantra; it is the cornerstone of inspiring and mobilising an entire organisation towards a common goal. The challenge lies in consistently nurturing and reinforcing this belief, even amidst uncertainties and fluctuations that are inherent in any business.

“At times, the most significant hurdle can be an internal one: Managing that ‘cheeky voice’ of self-doubt or scepticism about the company’s direction. It’s a natural human tendency to question and doubt, But as a leader, it becomes crucial to recognise these moments and address them constructively. This involves a blend of introspection, seeking external perspectives, and revisiting the core values and goals that define our organisation.

“The responsibility of ensuring that the belief in our company’s vision remains strong across all levels is immense. It’s about leading by example, demonstrating commitment; enthusiasm; and confidence in our strategies. This doesn’t mean disregarding concerns or potential pitfalls; rather, it involves balancing realism with optimism, being transparent about challenges and showing a clear path forward.

“In essence, the pressure is in being the ultimate believer and the principal architect-of-confidence in our company’s vision. Successfully managing this not only propels the company forward but also fosters a culture of trust, unity and shared ambition.”

David Mann: “‘With great power comes great responsibility’ is a phrase that immediately springs to mind! I may or may not have superpowers like Spiderman, but I do have responsibility for the company. A lot of great people work at Swintt and rely on the business for their salary each month, so it’s a major responsibility of mine to ensure that we continue to grow and flourish while keeping our people paid and happy.

“This really is a culmination of everything the role demands wrapped into one, but that’s the pressure that you have to carry on your shoulders when you make it to the CEO level. I think bearing the responsibility and being conscious of it is both important and humbling.”

Troy Paul: “The biggest responsibilities are taking care of our staff and keeping our shareholders happy. Both of these bring an equal amount of pressure. In this position, you realise that the role is much bigger than just you and that other people are dependent on your performance and management.

“Fortunately, I revel in these challenges, and I love being able to take the company to new levels. I always say that a CEO goes through nine lifetimes in a week, but by trusting my mentors and those around me, I’m always ready to navigate any issues I might face and yield the results we are all looking for.”

What advice would you give to other young executives with their eyes on the C-suite?

David Mann: “I think the first thing is to consider the differences in your current role and what it provides for you today. There’s a real drive and hunger from people to move up as fast as possible and “reach the top”. But quicker is not necessarily better.

“Your role changes as you become involved in higher-level strategy, and you take on more people management and process-setting responsibilities. It’s important, then, to have the experience to be able to deliver at that point. On top of that, the necessity and expectation of going “above and beyond” is often there, and not everyone has the freedom or life situation to be able to work longer hours and give up free time when it’s required.

“With the topic of the article being “CEOs under 40”, I just want to point out that despite the grey hair, I do actually qualify! There’s a famous quote from Sir Matt Busby that comes to mind – ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough’. Always remember that you are where you are for a reason; there will be ups and downs, but enjoy the ride and don’t lose sight of your achievements.”

Alex Lorimer: “Always look under the hood! When I was an account manager, I always asked “why?” or looked deeper into anything that sat outside my remit, as the next time a similar issue appeared, I wanted to be able to deal with it then and there.

“This helped me gain a lot of respect from both my colleagues and partners and led to many involving me within their departments, as I understood what they were doing and was able to offer an alternative angle, coming from a more commercial perspective.

“Without that attitude and learning gained at the start of my career, it would have been impossible for me to have led this company to where it is today. But I will always say it was a team effort as I could not have done it without some incredible people alongside me, who I am incredibly lucky to call both colleagues and friends.

“Be good to people, and they will, in turn, be good to you. That attitude opens so many doors and opportunities. Work hard, soak it all in and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just make sure if you do, you learn the lessons and grow through the experience.

“A final note I cannot reiterate enough is how lucky I am to be surrounded by such an amazingly talented, hard-working group. Make sure no matter how high the pressure and stress levels are, you don’t forget to take the time to communicate and thank those around you, as they are the ones you will really need in the hardest times. And, of course, try to enjoy it!”

Alex Iaroshenko: “I’m now envisioning little CEOs looking at me and asking for advice, but it’s hard to know where to start! There are so many things in life that you need to do, and it depends on your own personal circumstances, so you can’t just take one important point. Looking back on my personal story, I’d have to say that how you meet people and build relationships is the most important thing.

“In our industry, you’ll always be going to conferences and after-show events where you’ll meet a lot of people. Sometimes you’re going to be tired, or you’re not going to want to go to a noisy place with lots of new faces, but you need to remember that one sleepless night could be worth one contact in your phone that will make the difference by helping you close a deal or find a new opportunity.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have a few great mentors in the industry, who were CEOs at other companies, and if I hadn’t approached them in a friendly manner at events like these, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. They were the ones who told me: ‘You’ve been here a long time, you have the knowledge, you have the experience; this is the moment to stop working for someone else and start your own project.’”

Troy Paul: “Two things that I think any young executives starting out need to have are confidence and the ability to listen. Firstly, you have to believe in your own product, even when more seasoned executives don’t. If you don’t have full faith in your product or service, how can you expect anyone else to? It will become very apparent if you don’t believe in yourself because you will face regular challenges, especially in the early stages.

“Secondly, it is important to listen. I’m still only 26 years old, and I wouldn’t be in the position I am in if I wasn’t willing to listen to other people and their ideas. Taking advice from those who have been in the game a lot longer than you is one of the best things you can do. I hope that my work can continue to inspire the next group of young executives. I’m always happy to touch base and provide advice for any young entrepreneurs looking to start a business.”

Giorgi Tsutskiridze: “It’s important to develop a strong leadership character as ultimately being in the C-suite means being a leader. They also need to stay well-informed about the industry and the latest trends that are emerging and gain extensive experience across all areas of business.

“Flexibility and adaptability are important given just how quickly and significantly things change in this industry. I’d also recommend cultivating a network of industry contacts and mentors who can provide valuable insights and support.

“I always encourage young executives to be proactive in seeking learning opportunities, whether through formal education, industry events or networking.
“Continuous learning is essential, especially in an industry that is always changing. Taking calculated risks and being willing to step outside of your comfort zone can really turbo-charge your career, too.

“Finally, it’s important to build a reputation for integrity and ethical conduct, especially given that this is the gambling industry and the scrutiny this attracts. Establishing trust with stakeholders, including customers, regulators and business partners, is also a must and will ultimately prove to be the foundation of long-term success in terms of reaching the C-suite.”

Alina Dandörfer: “Life’s decisions are so intimate, influenced by a multitude of factors beyond the surface. So, I refrain from giving advice. However, what I will say is that I believe all good things begin with self-awareness. You must understand your strengths and identify areas where you need to improve your knowledge.

“Embracing a new role, especially when it signifies another step on the career ladder, is an adventure that cannot be entirely anticipated, so remain open and inquisitive. And embrace learning. Build a support system that extends beyond a broad network. Foster strong, authentic connections that will provide sustained support throughout your journey. Finally, recall the initial motivation that led you to pursue your career advancement in the first instance.

“Remember, you are not alone in this. In today’s complex and uncertain business landscape, organisations need a cohesive team of skilled people capable of addressing intricate leadership challenges posed by dynamic markets, disruptive technologies, and evolving customer preferences. That’s why establishing a high-performing team becomes imperative for C-suite leaders to achieve success.

“Good teams unlock individuals’ potential by complementing their strengths and weaknesses. They offer diverse ideas, perspectives, and resources, enabling better decision-making and yielding successful outcomes for both individuals and the team itself.

“C-suite leaders can cultivate a trusted team of high-achieving people by prioritising open communication, fostering a culture of collaboration, and recognising and leveraging individual strengths. Encouraging continuous learning and providing opportunities for professional growth among your company’s people can further enhance their team’s dynamics. Ultimately, this will contribute to everyone’s overall success, whether it’s for individuals or across the company as a whole.”

Chris Scicluna: “For young executives setting their sights on the C-suite, my advice is multifaceted, grounded in both personal experience and broader observations from my journey.

“Firstly, cultivate an enduring sense of curiosity. Approach each day with a mindset that is open to learning and discovery, not just within your professional domain but in life generally. This attitude fuels innovation, drives personal growth and keeps you agile in an ever-evolving business landscape.

“Secondly, do not be disheartened by setbacks. In the trajectory towards senior leadership, challenges and obstacles are not just inevitable but are valuable learning opportunities. Embrace them as part of your journey. Each setback is a chance to build resilience, adaptability and fortitude; all qualities that are indispensable for a successful leader.

“Third, resilience is key. The path to the C-suite is rarely linear or smooth. There will be moments of doubt, high-pressure situations, and tough decisions. Maintaining resilience through these times is crucial. It’s about having the tenacity to persevere, the flexibility to pivot when necessary, and the strength to uphold your vision even when the going gets tough.

“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, seek mentorship.

“Identify a few different mentors within the industry who have navigated the path that you aspire to tread. These individuals can offer invaluable insights, guidance, and different perspectives based on their experiences. They can act as great sounding boards, advisors, and sometimes challengers to your ideas. The wisdom gained from such relationships can be a significant catalyst in your journey to the C-suite.”

Editor’s Note:

During the discussion, our participants shared valuable and candid insights. They emphasised the importance of having an open attitude towards learning, embracing setbacks, building strong networks – and, crucially, trusting the team.

They also explained that a week in the C-suite life is equivalent to “nine lifetimes”, so it’s essential to appreciate the journey on the way up. And don’t forget that Troy Paul invited up-and-coming young executives to talk business.

Perhaps wrapping-up is best done in the words of Alina:

“Remember, you are not alone in this… organisations need a cohesive team of skilled people capable of addressing intricate leadership challenges posed by dynamic markets, disruptive technologies, and evolving customer preferences.

“C-suite leaders can cultivate a trusted team of high-achieving people by prioritising open communication, fostering a culture of collaboration, and recognising and leveraging individual strengths.”


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