We talk to Jason Trost, Smarkets CEO on future plans for Smarkets, growth, gambling, apps and resources he simply couldn’t do with out. Read on for our Jason Trost, Smarkets CEO interview.
First, things first, why would a punter trade with Smarkets versus Betfair – what’s the key benefit that Smarkets offers over established betting exchanges?
Initially, any bettor would immediately be drawn by the 2% flat-rate commission compared to the 5% of Betfair. You don’t have to compromise on the odds on offer either.
You’ve just moved from sponsoring QPR to the Jockey Club horse for 2018? What’s the strategy there?
Horse racing is a natural fit for Smarkets. It’s one of our largest sports and horse racing fans are often value-seeking bettors. We are looking to tap into this overlap and provide horse racing fans with great value odds along with meaningful data to have an impact on their betting and overall returns.
Since inception Smarkets has undercut Betfair and BetDaq’s commission rates. As Matchbook has entered the market undercutting Smarkets do you think that betting exchange commission is a race to the bottom?
I believe that Smarkets has shown that companies can operate profitability while still championing a fairer market for the betting community. In the previous two years we have been ranked as one of the most profitable companies in Europe per employee, so we have a healthy margin to keep widening the gap on the competition and reduce the commission close to zero.
I strongly believe that Betfair offering 2% commission on premier league markets and BetDAQ following our 2% structure is testament to the impact we’ve had.
Matchbook have been another low priced alternative for bettors with their maker-taker commission model on winning and losing bets. Although with UK commission fees set at 0.85% for maker trades and 1.7% for taker trades. This often results in customers paying much higher levels of commission when placing multiple bets into a market and limits the strategies open to users.
We’ve been a simple flat 2% for years now and only want to go lower. It’s really important customers aren’t confused by commission and get the best value possible.
You’ve a background in financial trading and said you wanted to bring that concept to betting. Any plans to introduce spread betting for Smarkets customers. There are only two other providers at the moment Spreadex and Sporting Index?
No plans at the moment to venture into the sports spread betting sector but it could be an avenue in the future if our customers want it. For now, we want to become the best place to bet, both from a value and technology perspective.
Read our Spreadex Sports Review…
How did you get funding to start Smarkets?
Myself and my co-founder Hunter first started building Smarkets in 2008. We had our first version of the website launched in 2010. We received some initial funding from private investors who were promoting tech startups in East London. Compared to the amount of money that other startups get these days, we’ve been really successful with only a pretty small amount.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt along the way whilst developing the Smarkets brand and platform?
I think the most important lesson when developing the Smarkets brand has been ensuring that, above everything else, you always strive to improve the product over taking the easier or potentially more profitable route in the short term.
Taking a tech focus on the sports betting industry and building a site really opens the doors to creating in my mind the first betting company that could hit all aspects that a potential bettor wants. Good prices, a wide range of markets, responsive website and engaging experiences while improving responsible gaming detection.
How much do you gamble yourself and what’s your favourite sport and event to bet on?
I would place bets quite often when I was based in London on all kinds of sport and politics. I’m spending quite a bit of time in Los Angeles at the moment building out our new office there, so haven’t legally been able to bet for a while out here. I’m keeping a very keen eye on the Supreme Court’s decision about sports betting though, could be huge!
Anything you wish you’d done differently?
Well everyone has regrets and I’ve got plenty from the Smarkets journey so far. However, we’ve had an awesome four years and I’m so excited about the future, rather than worrying too much about the past.
What could you simply not do without at Smarkets?
If you’re talking about in the office, I’d have to say our wonderful chefs. Lunch is a big part of Smarkets and sitting down with everyone in the Smarkets team and talking over a meal provides so many benefits to company culture and increasing communication with the company
In your day to day life, what gambling related app or service could you not do without?
I enjoy looking at political markets and seeing how opinions are changing over time and how the probability of events may be shifting. I think it’s a more meaningful way to few possible outcomes than just things like polls.
For sports traders, what would you say were your top three resources for data, tips, analysis and strategies?
There are some very cool small companies and services emerging in the betting sector. I would encourage people to check out ratingtheraces.com for a wealth of horse racing data.
The green-all-over blog from Cassini (a long standing profitable exchange trader) has over 10 years worth of post and entries. Discussing all aspects of sports betting: http://green-all-over.blogspot.co.uk/
This might be an unexpected one but I would recommend https://scholar.google.co.uk/ to any sports trader. There are a huge number of studies on different exchange betting strategies that people have written academic papers on.
And finally, what’s next for Smarkets?
It’s going to be a big year for Smarkets.
We’re opening our API to allow users to trade in new ways and bolster overall liquidity. We’re going to be releasing a new improved app in the first quarter of the year.
A large focus for us this year is to be visualising the data and information we have behind the scenes here at Smarkets to enhance and transform the customer experience in the lead up to the football World Cup. I’d say we currently display around 10% of the data we have but I want that to be hitting 100% by the 2020 Olympics.
I really believe sports data and prediction markets we have at Smarkets can enhance the sports experience outside of traditional betting communities. The Olympics is a great example. So many people around the globe tune in for this event and watch new sports for the first time and they’re hungry for data and predictions on the olympians and countries as the games get under way.
For more information on Smarkets read our and customer reviews here.