“I keep an eye out for people making waves, who are attracting attention and gaining a following. They might be doing something we could invest in,” shares Justin Anastasi, CEO of VentureMax Group, which is leading a quiet revolution within the iGaming landscape. It aims to shape the sector’s future by investing in both start-ups and established businesses so they can achieve their full potential. 

”VentureMax was born out of a desire to give back to the industry, and finding like-minded people who want to champion our vision. We started out focusing on the digital marketing side of things while giving strategic advisory services. These past years have seen us working along partners and clients who had high potential and, as a result, we’ve grown with them. Now we’re seeing what else we can apply our expertise to,” Justin says.

The spotlight for the new year is very much set on diversification, as Justin and the team look at developing and enhancing VentureMax’s media arm, a new brand called Terramedia through which the Group will start looking at new territory.

“Our strategy will focus closely on the tech space, working on game design and development. The vision is to identify products which aren’t necessarily limited to the gaming industry, but which add value to new and existing clients within that sector. We add our expertise and flavour to these products and take them to market,” he explains, adding that the Group believes in taking up projects in a sector they understand.

Being adjacent to the iGaming space, tech fits the bill perfectly, especially as a lot of resources can be used to apply to the industry. VentureMax’s ethos in this regard is to take the time to understand what players enjoy and to work on projects that reflect this, rather than pumping out numerous products in the hope that something will stick.

“The biggest thing that everyone is talking about right now is machine learning. We’re very interested in exploring ways of combining it with old concepts so as to rework them. What would be the implications on the gamification process? Data insights are extremely interesting and can help add quality to game development,” he states.

He reaffirms that the Group’s approach is not the common one, where companies churn out a lot of things and hope that one project works out. Instead, they pride themselves on taking the time to understand the people behind the business and the idea.

“It’s the people that we’ll be banking on. We can throw money at anything, but if the person lacks integrity or ambition, a project is doomed to fail. Our approach is focused on long-term success, driving value to our shareholders and doing this through the right people. This is what makes us unique. For now. The sector is in constant evolution and, if you get stuck there, you’ll just be one of the others,” he insists.

When asked what key qualities the Group looks at when considering investment opportunities; Justin acknowledges that, while the routine elements are important – things like financials, the commercial model, the resources needed, numbers and data – he likes to delve a bit deeper.

“Anyone with a measure of expertise can figure out whether the financials make sense pretty fast. But I also consider non-factual aspects, such as how hungry are they to succeed, and do they have a reason to make this work? If the reason is just: I want to be a millionaire, that’s not enough for me. The biggest success stories are born from those who experienced something that didn’t work and decided to fix it. Or maybe they were employed somewhere that didn’t enable them to execute their vision. It’s this fire that I look for,” he replies, his voice clearly signalling just how passionately he feels about this.

Then there are the other, personal key qualities that the Group looks for when determining the next project to support. A healthy dose of practical realism is important, he tells me.

“In investment spaces you tend to get highly inflated numbers. People have an idea and they tell you it’s worth millions. More often than not, it isn’t. And inflating its worth doesn’t help hype it up. On the contrary, you end up detracting people who would otherwise have genuinely been interested.”

Tying in with this, he believes that one of the biggest mistakes anyone can make during a pitch is to be too arrogant or to try to rush things.

“Urgency won’t do your idea justice. If we partner up, we will not be taking hasty decisions. Rushing comes across as desperation or panic. Even if it’s coming from a good place of excitement for the project, the ability to control your emotions is a must,” he says.

He is also wary of those who prioritise an exit strategy when pitching a project. While this has become a commonplace approach in tech and iGaming, he believes that it’s important for an entrepreneur to believe they can build something that will last and go the distance.

“Let’s be honest, for the right price most people will exit anything, but if you’re going into a project with that as the primary goal, that’s not what I’d be looking for. There needs to be ambition about the project, a desire to see your baby grow. Whether that’s through an IPO, globalization, diversification…” he insists.

How is this ethos implemented in the Group’s investment strategies? The company employs rigorous internal processes that include the use of external companies for due diligence. There is a background check process to ensure that the people they think have all the right qualities to succeed are actually who they say they are, and have done what they say they’ve done.

“When someone is making waves and gaining traction I want to see if they’re doing something I’m interested in. We also have a large network, and we’re big believers in personal referrals,” he elaborates.

His last words of advice to start-ups or would-be entrepreneurs with an idea to pitch is to understand who you are pitching to, and to do your research to ensure you’re pitching to the right people. While money can be spent on anything, most investors have preferences in terms of what they’d like to be supporting.

“To offer an example, if you’re looking for day-in day-out mentorship, then maybe we’re not the right partners for you. But if you’re looking for someone who can lend you their expertise, bounce off ideas and help you refine the project, then maybe that’s us. Securing the right audience for your pitch is a must.”

We close off the interview with a tantalizing peak at what’s next for VentureMax, Justin revealing that we can expect some new nuggets to drop very soon.

“Let’s just say that we’re really focusing heavily on innovation,” he concludes. “But 2024 is the year where we really intend to show what we’re made of.”

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