For Quentin Martin, the Luckbox CEO, 2020 has been alright. In many ways it’s been stellar.
Not only does he plan to take his company public on December 14th; he also lives in the Isle of Man, one of two COVID-free strongholds (along with New Zealand, of course). He can walk around the Isle of Paradise care-free, has watched his company grow 500 percent through 2020, and now has a healthy young baby.
“You know what, I have to be honest: running a business that’s grown so quickly, preparing for [Luckbox] to go public, hiring new staff — it’s all been incredibly hard with a new-born,” emphasised Martin. Luckbox hopes to make its debut on Toronto’s TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV) on Monday 14th December.
Esports betting has had phenomenal success in 2020. The CEO of Draft Kings Jason Robins waxed lyrical about its incline, noting that during lockdown, “esports has stuck. It’s been a huge growth area for us over the last couple of months.” Martin buttressed this by telling Esports Insider: “Lockdown really accelerated esports betting years into the future. It’s been a period of hyper-growth for sure, but I think now we’re back to a steady rise going forward.”
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Research companies 2CV and ProdegeMR reported this year that esports gambling revenue is set to double from $7 billion in 2019 to over $14bn in 2020 because of COVID-19. “Esports betting is lucky to be, if not pandemic-proof, certainly pandemic-resistant,” said Martin. “With the lockdowns, with traditional sports gone: we saw a massive spike.”
Martin’s company has adapted to the pandemic more seamlessly than most. “We’ve always been a techy company,” he said. “We were encouraging digital meetings, working from home, all of that stuff before COVID. We began transitioning people out of the office a few weeks before lockdown, provided everyone with the equipment they needed, and so on. So we were already prepared for lockdown. Perhaps there’s even been more productivity for us, dare I say.”
When the virus struck, there were of course myriad casualties for companies. Tournament organisers like Flashpoint, DreamHack and BLAST have all had live events cancelled. Many esports orgs, most notably Immortals Gaming Club, had to scale back operations after losing millions, and companies all over the world have fallen through the cracks of a fractured global economy. For esports betting companies, however, it’s a different story.
There were opportunities Luckbox pounced on. “We launched FIFA and NBA 2K [betting] in 2020, which were not very big before lockdown,” Martin said. He added that before the pandemic struck, FIFA and 2K betting accounted for less than one percent of total betting volume. As of mid-2020 this number was between 10 and 20 percent, depending on the operator. Since traditional sports have returned, “it’s been more of a plateau than a regression,” according to Martin. Indeed, the esports betting industry has been brought forward considerably in 2020.
The company’s outstanding growth also enabled Martin to hire at a much greater rate — something that also plateaued towards the year’s end. “Hiring held steady for most of the second half of the year. One of the things we’re excited for, though, is to accelerate ahead of the 2021 calendar, ready for the biggest events.”
You may not expect a company based in the Isle of Man — a mere hour-and-15-minute flight from London and just 40 minutes from Liverpool — to list on the TSX Venture Exchange, yet that is what Luckbox expects to do on Monday. Why?
“We initially raised a decent amount from Canadian investors, and from there we developed a strong investor network in Canada. Listing on the TSXV felt like the reasonable thing to do. Plus Vancouver is awesome, so there’s that. There’s a reason it’s ranked among the top cities to visit every year; it’s absolutely incredible.”
“Preparing to go public has been the hardest thing I’ve done in my life”
When ESI asked Martin about his aims for closing market capitalisation, he laughed ironically. “It’s a great question. I’ve asked a lot of people that question myself. They all say the same thing: ‘if we could predict that, we’d be much richer than we are’. We’re aiming for CAD $28.2m [£16.6m], but who knows? We’re hopeful it can go up; we believe we’re well-priced compared to our competitors. We’re hoping for some upward momentum, but again, who really knows… Honestly, preparing to go public has been the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.”
Looking ahead to 2021
For any company hoping to go public, the IPO is just the beginning. Looking ahead to 2021, what are some of Martin’s medium- to long-term goals for the company?
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“Over the next 6-12 months our two main priorities are hiring staff and spending on user acquisition,” Martin said. (For Luckbox, ‘spending on user acquisition’ will include a CAD $2m investment into content marketing, affiliates, partnerships, influencers, and direct media.) “Partnerships from mergers and acquisitions, horizontal expansion, moving odds creation in-house, developing AI systems to improve bet monitoring and fraud detection, and so on. The latter hasn’t happened yet, but AI is a pet project of mine and I could talk about it forever. As of right now though, nothing has happened there.
“As far as odds creation being done in-house, we have plans. We just haven’t brought them into fruition yet. And all of these developments nudge our business towards B2B. We want to provide the gaming industry with valuable data. We think we acquire and monetise better than our competition.” Martin is also proud of Luckbox consistently hitting a five percent overround margin (meaning the company earns five percent revenue on every bet placed with the company).
Hoping for the best
While the world outside is rife with confusion and pain, Luckbox has mostly had a pleasant year. Working from home was a natural extension of the company ethos, COVID cases in the Isle of Man have been minuscule all year, growth has been outstanding. But Martin is looking forward to a life without global restrictions. “Travelling will be a nice change, particularly with going public. It’ll enable us to meet with partners and investors in person, which is great.”
At the interview’s close, ESI asked Martin about another interview he did earlier this year with media outlet Yogonet. In it, he’s holding his infant child at the same time as he’s talking of upscaling and funding-rounds into a webcam. “Literally two minutes before [the interviewer] called me,” Martin said, “my wife runs in, ‘you have to take the baby, I need to rush off’. So I’m holding the baby beneath the camera’s lens for the first few minutes, trying to stay professional. Eventually [the baby] gets a bit restless, so I have to move around slightly. And so for the rest of the interview I’m stuck holding my child to my chest talking about esports betting. It was quite the moment.” It could have been worse: at least he wasn’t puked on.
Time will tell if the planned IPO will be a success. And if it isn’t? Well, Martin will be left on the Isle of Paradise, able to console himself and his team with a restriction-free meal as his beautiful, healthy baby continues to interrupt his video calls. There’s no suggestion, however, that 2021 will be anything but positive for Quentin Martin and Luckbox.