In more ways than one, iGaming trailblazer KaFe Rocks is not your conventional company. Founded in 2018 by a trio of industry veterans, the company currently amasses 40 active sites across countless markets and nine different languages – and CEO Simon Pilkington won’t be putting the brakes on this growth anytime soon.
The secret behind KaFe Rocks’ success? Mr Pilkington says it’s all down to the company’s “really clear purpose: that of being the lighthouse of reputable iGaming.”
“When we say ‘lighthouse’, we mean it quite literally. We want to shine a light on the iGaming industry and ensure that our end users have a true and transparent picture of the betting and casino operators that they are choosing to play at,” Mr Pilkington highlights.
This mission, as well as the company’s recently launched and refreshingly ambitious time2play.com project, are two of the main factors driving KaFe Rocks towards further growth.
“Time2play.com will definitely be a destination brand – the booking.com of the iGaming industry, a prospective replacement of Google’s role in the industry,” Mr Pilkington describes.
“I truly believe that this project can improve not just the affiliate side of the industry, but the industry in general; all while serving our end-user to the absolute max with an innovative and ground-breaking Playscore system,” he continues
One shouldn’t gloss over the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into bringing this aspiration to life. After all, chances are the project would be nothing but a pipe dream if it weren’t for Mr Pilkington’s calm yet calculated management style.
“I’m a relatively level person. When we have big wins, I don’t over-celebrate, and when we have big losses, I try not to get too down in the dumps. I’m a Liverpool supporter, so growing up in the nineties supporting this team meant that I constantly had to stop myself from getting too down in the dumps,” the CEO jokes.
Mr Pilkington is also a firm believer that empathy and a healthy dose of emotional intelligence are vital characteristics for a successful leader. “Having a good understanding of how people think and what makes them tick, coupled with making yourself available to the owners and employees, are key when evaluating different situations and making well-thought-out decisions,” Mr Pilkington reflects.
Prior to his introduction to the iGaming industry, Mr Pilkington built up a wealth of experience working in a plethora of different spheres – we’re talking marketing, commercial, and operations, to name but a few.
Despite being superficially unrelated to his current area of expertise, the CEO believes that these experiences have been nothing short of formative to his current management style.
“It’s always been the poorer experiences that I’ve faced in my career that have taught me a lot more and influenced the style of manager that I don’t want to be,” Mr Pilkington says. “At the same time, I’ve been very lucky to have had a couple of mentors who taught me so much. My first ever manager in a recruitment company sticks with me even to this day, and over the years he’s taught me so much about the commercial and emotional sides of business.”
Not only has Simon’s diverse career exposed him to a variety of management styles, but it’s also placed him in countless different environments. Having experienced these first-hand, the KaFe Rocks CEO is perfectly equipped to create a dynamic, productive, and empowering work culture.
“Being a remote-first company from day one has given us a global talent pool and a real competitive edge. Back when KaFe Rocks was first incorporated, in 2018, not many companies were fully remote, so people, good people, wanted to come to us,” the CEO highlights.
“By then hiring against our six core values – not to homogenise the culture, but to ensure that there’s a backbone of culture running through the business – KaFe Rocks allows plenty of freedom, personality, and a highly diverse environment.”
Despite the company’s inclination to a fully remote style of working, it still gives room for its employees to collaborate face-to-face.
“Despite being a fully remote company, we do have an office space called ‘The Oasis’, and it’s very different from the other offices I see around the island,” Mr Pilkington says. “We took a residence and developed it into an office space; so we’ve got this beautiful outside area with a pool, barbeque, and trees – hence the name ‘The Oasis’. We’ve got games, a relaxation room, and these amazing pockets of collaborative space.”
This unconventional yet enticing work culture helps KaFe Rocks stand out in a country that’s experiencing an unprecedented iGaming boom, however, the benefits of fully remote working were further accentuated with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were lucky in many ways because I don’t really believe the pandemic affected the culture so much. We didn’t have to pivot or find a new system that we could implement in a short amount of time,” Mr Pilkington reflects.
“The side that did affect us was the uncertainty of all that was happening. For that reason, we made sure that our Rocketeers were more connected than usual and that there was more communication flowing through the business. Our employees’ physical and mental wellness were our biggest priorities.”
Another way KaFe Rocks safeguarded its employees’ health was by putting out a statement early into COVID-19’s spread guaranteeing that no redundancies would be made as a result of the pandemic. In situations where employees’ families suffered financially, the company even stepped in and offered support.
Meanwhile, as its counterparts reeled from the adverse effects of the pandemic, KaFe Rocks has been busy improving its internal structure and ensuring that its markets and assets are in a solid position.
“Now we’ve definitely got our eye on further expansion through new markets or other emerging markets. I’m not going to give away any secrets, of course, but I’d be crazy to be sitting here and not say that the USA will become a key focus,” Mr Pilkington shares.
“At the same time, my other core aim is to drive as much value from our KFR engine – so our portfolio of SEO assets – as possible. This will take place through the development of our current markets and strategic expansion to new markets as well,” the KaFe Rocks CEO concludes.
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