eSports betting app BetGame has been chosen as the first winner of William Hill's industry-pioneering accelerator scheme. The Manchester-based start-up, which is scheduled to go live this March, will receive £150,000 in investment from the bookmaker after beating out competition from four other finalists.
BetGame is an innovative social betting app which combines gaming and betting, allowing two people to bet on the outcome of console or PC sports video games such as FIFA. The eSports app overlays its technology onto mainstream console and PC games, while also integrating with social networks such as Facebook and Twitch, the popular video platform and community for gamers. Commended runner-up, Skillzzgaming, which combines casual skill-based mobile gaming with gambling, will also receive some funding and support from William Hill.
From over 250 applicants, five start-ups were chosen as finalists to take part in a 12-week programme, during which they demonstrated their products and received support and mentoring at William Hill's innovation centre in London, WHLabs, as well as at the company's Tel Aviv office. The start-ups then showcased their innovations to 13 judges at a demo day.
Jockey AP McCoy presented BetGame founders Doug Ward and David Carter with the winning trophy at the end of the demo day.
“Our product is looking to heighten gaming’s competitive element but with a fun and simple way to prove yourself against your friends. It was fantastic that the William Hill team fully embraced this vision and helped develop our ideas over the course of the accelerator programme," said entrepreneur Ward.
Ward played a big part in establishing Manchester as a technology start-up hub, having also served as a technology advisor to the government.
For William Hill, the investment represents a significant move into the social betting and eSports space, as well as marking a shift in marketing strategy towards partnerships with online communities. The company hopes that its involvement in BetGame will also open up access to new customers in the male 18-35 gaming market.
Jamie Hart, Innovation Director at William Hill, told Marketing Magazine in an interview;
"We need to think of a different way of selling stuff – it’s not just an old-style TV ad. We’ll do media partnerships; we’ll sign up influential YouTubers. It’s an opportunity to try stuff that’s completely different and then retrofit that into our normal and betting and gaming to millennials."
William Hill will work with BetGame on developing its product while adding some of its own features onto the app. Much of the investment is likely to be spent on marketing, with the app due to be rolled out in March ahead of the release of FIFA 16 and the summer's European Championships.
The William Hill accelerator programme, in partnership with start-up consultancy L Marks, was launched with the aim of collaborating with and harnessing innovative technology start-ups that are creating in-store, online or omni-channel customer experiences.