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Blog calendar    Jun 12, 2024

Electrifying Growth Episode 24: The High Stakes World of Online Gambling Co-founder and CEO Charles Gillespie joins Managing Partner and host Chris Sugden for Episode 24 of Electrifying Growth.


"Things didn’t unfold as expected with the IPO; despite beating street expectations and delivering results, our stock valuation didn’t reflect our growth and performance." - Charles Gillespie

When it comes to scaling up and making pivotal decisions, choosing a growth equity partner who understands the human aspect of business can dramatically alter a company’s trajectory. In this episode of "Electrifying Growth," I had the privilege of delving deep into online gambling and performance marketing with Charles Gillespie, CEO and co-founder of Group. His journey provides invaluable tools for the entrepreneurial playbook, specifically around following your passions and not discounting the human element of company growth in the journey.

Building a Company in a Heavily Regulated Space

Despite the substantial regulatory challenges of operating in the online gambling industry, Charles emphasizes the resilience and adaptability required to succeed. From navigating the early gray areas of online gambling in the US to pivoting their business model in China and later the UK, Charles highlights how careful planning, regulatory adaptability, and a keen understanding of the market are vital. He explains that the complexities of compliance and the ever-changing legal landscape necessitate a robust strategy and strong relationships with stakeholders and regulators. 

Through strategic pivots and relentless focus, Charles and his team at Group have successfully navigated these challenges, illustrating that even the most stringent regulations can become an avenue for growth and innovation with the right approach.

Navigating IPOs and Market Expectations

Taking a company public is often seen as a crowning achievement, but as Charles Gillespie candidly shared, it's a journey fraught with complexities. The American capital markets can be unpredictable, particularly during a busy IPO week. Even companies with stellar performance metrics can find that market timing and external factors influence valuations.

Understanding these nuances underscores the importance of having an empathetic and experienced equity partner to not only provide the necessary capital but also offer guidance on navigating the labyrinth of public markets.

The Importance of Passion and Resilience

Charles emphasized the role of passion and resilience in entrepreneurship. "Follow your passion and use business models to monetize your interests," he advised young entrepreneurs. This mindset has guided him through the ups and downs of the online gambling industry, from the regulatory challenges in China to pivoting focus towards the U.S. market. Under his leadership, Group has become a leading digital marketing service provider for the global gaming industry, thriving amid legislative shifts and market dynamics.

For entrepreneurs, aligning with an equity partner who values and nurtures this kind of passion can be transformative. Such a partner understands that behind every business plan is a visionary who needs support, encouragement, and occasionally, the freedom to innovate.

Adapting and Evolving for Success

Business success often comes to those who adapt and evolve. "You need to continuously tighten your equity story to appeal to public market investors, especially in a digital marketing business," Charles noted. It is crucial to adapt to changes, whether they're market trends, regulatory landscapes, or technological advancements. Charles’s pivot to the U.S. market exemplifies this adaptability. Acquiring from the UK and redirecting it towards the U.S., where the Supreme Court decision invalidated Paspa, opened up immense growth opportunities. Today, their North American revenue has outpaced other markets, testifying to the success of this strategic pivot.

The right investment partner will understand the need for such agility and will back strategic shifts that drive long-term growth.

The Impact of Human-Focused Investment Partners

Our conversation showed that patience, curiosity, and trust are integral to scaling a business. We discussed the significance of having the right people on the team, which cannot be overstated. A well-chosen investment partner brings more than just capital to the table—they offer mentorship, strategic guidance, and a deep understanding of the human dynamics within the team.

Charles recounted his journey, "Our success is rooted in resiliency, patience, and the willingness to continue despite the lack of data supporting our business plan." This echoes the need for investment partners who appreciate the human element, backing the vision through thick and thin.

If you're an entrepreneur seeking to navigate the challenges of scaling your venture, or a business leader looking to make your mark, this episode is brimming with real-world lessons and strategic insights. As Charles Gillespie's journey illustrates, the right investment partner can indeed electrify your growth, blending financial support with human empathy to drive success.

Chris is Managing Partner and Chairman of the firm's investment committee. He has been on both sides of the table as a successful entrepreneur. His experience includes leading sales, product, finance, business strategy and capital formation.