tombola is on the money when it comes to tech
Q1: You’re originally from Manchester and now you’re at the helm of tombola and living in Gibraltar. Have you always been interested in tech?
I have always been passionate about bingo; however with the growth of online gambling I developed a natural interest in tech as well. All of my previous roles have required an understanding of technology and I have been fortunate to grow with the industry.
Q2: Tombola was founded in 1999 and has since become the biggest bingo site in Britain. How did this happen?
The genuine bingo community aspect has always been at the forefront for tombola since its launch in 2006. We are constantly exploring ways we can improve our players’ experience and having an in-house game development and design team means we can react to what our players want, which makes for a personalised experience. We take our status as ‘Britain’s biggest bingo site’ very seriously and strive to maintain this title in the UK as well as in our European markets.
Q3: What sets tombola apart from other companies?
Tombola has always stood out from competitors as a genuine and ethical customer-focused bingo brand. Our customers are kept at the core of everything we do and we have strong principals regarding responsible gambling, which we actively support and encourage through our marketing campaigns as well as through our chat moderator service. We believe loyalty towards our players is what maintains the strength of our brand and sets us apart from the rest of the marketplace.
Q4: Bingo’s image has changed from being a grans’ favourite to a popular form of mainstream entertainment. How did this come about?
The social aspect of online bingo is a fundamental part of its increasing popularity. We believe this is what draws in a lot of younger players, as they can not only enjoy game play, but they are able to interact with each other and make friends too.
Q5: How do you ensure the problems of online gambling don’t taint your brand?
We have won awards for responsible gambling. We believe our approach to responsible gambling is a key factor behind our strength in all markets. By controlling the maximum rate of spend we optimise value for money and tombola is about fun and playing responsibly.
Q6: How do you ensure people feel the same atmosphere playing online that they feel when playing in a real bingo hall?
We believe that playing online bingo is more engaging than in bingo halls as players are encouraged to communicate. Our chat moderators work 24/7 to ensure that all conversations taking place in our chat rooms are appropriate and this helps to maintain the positive atmosphere.
Q7: Will Brexit have any impact on tech businesses like tombola that have bases abroad?
We remain committed to our long-term strategy and do not have any intentions to change our future plans despite the Brexit result. The referendum has resulted in many organisations putting their growth plans on hold; however at tombola we will be operating the business as usual.
Q8: Tombola has a big user base in Europe and even has a game called ‘Cinco’ after the Spanish word for five. How has tech helped a bingo company founded in Sunderland go international?
Staying up-to-date with industry trends is vital. Our in-house development and design teams are very much responsible for the company’s growth. We approach international growth cautiously and only move into new markets once they are legitimate.
Q9: Do you find the skills gap an expensive problem?
We haven’t found the skills gap to be problematic for our company as of yet, however we feel it is an issue which needs to be addressed. We encourage young developers through our academy for graduates and apprentices by supporting their personal development. Investing in the individual ensures our tech team is constantly growing and we feel positive that tombola is assisting with the progression of future tech stars.
Q10. Why is your academy for apprentices and graduates so important to the business?
Budding developers are embedded into various teams within the company and are given the opportunity to work alongside talented and experienced developers. Graduates are encouraged to progress through regular reviews and feedback. We are want the right people in the right role and are passionate about everyone being involved in the team. Graduate employment is a crucial part of tombola’s development; it allows us to source talented individuals who can grow with the company.
Q11: What's the biggest challenge facing tech companies like tombola?
The biggest challenge for all tech companies are changes made to operating systems which are out of our control. If a platform changes to accommodate technologies developed in a new language and no longer supports the language your products have been developed in then you have to adapt. Another challenge is protecting your IP – in this modern age it has becoming increasingly difficult to protect the technology you’ve developed and proving its uniqueness to trademark.
Q12: What’s next for tombola?
We intend to continue at the same rate of growth across all markets. We have recently been given the go-ahead for our £5million development next to our current headquarters in Sunderland. This expansion ensures over 120 new jobs in the North East, mainly in software development and design.
BELOW: Flick through the Q1 2017 edition of BusinessCloud's interactive digital magazine