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Meet Erik Bergman

Disa Stigh

Estimated Time 12 min

August 28, 2020

If you’re going to speak to someone you’ve never spoke to before; You don’t really know what to expect, right? Today’s guest is a person that I personally never met at any of the conferences. I have never been in contact with the person before. Of course, everyone knows who this person is, because he is a great pioneer, very innovative and controversial person within iGaming. So of course, I knew who he was! But I never met him in person or over Skype.

This guy is so amazing, and we had a great interview and chat about a lot of different things! Such as Great.com, Catena, philanthropic mindsets, how to build your social platforms… and I also got a chance to find out who he is as a person a little bit.

I think you are going to enjoy this interview a lot, with Erik Bergman. Give your thumbs up if you liked the video and keep watching.

Disa: I’m really good!

Erik:
That’s marvelous.

Disa: Yes! I had a great week – a full packed on.

Erik:
It’s Monday today… I’m not really good with days. But yes, it is Monday today and usually my days are very similar regardless of what day it is.

Disa: Yeah… even though it is a Tuesday today!

Erik: Oh no! It is Tuesday today!

Disa: Yes… It is Tuesday today!

Erik: I am not really good with days.

Disa: It is completely fine.

Erik: I have many other talents, but days aren’t one of them. It is such a waste of skills to be good at.

Disa: Exactly, you can focus on so many other things. But let’s skip weekdays! So, I’m really thrilled that you wanted to do this interview with me! To raise awareness about yourself and Great.com, today.

Erik: I’m happy to be here, my pleasure.

Disa: I don’t really want to focus on all the millions you earned or stuff like that, but I want to straight away jump into who are you. I really want to know who Erik Bergman is! From your perspective.

Erik:
Sounds good.

Disa: Yeah. Cool So why don’t you give me an intro of who you are, where did grew up, who do you see yourself to be and stuff like that… How everything started from the beginning.

Erik: Sure. So, I come from a very normal, loving and supporting family from Jönköping, Sweden. It’s a small town. I was a very lonely child; I didn’t belong anywhere. I had a brother who was very much entrepreneurial early on, so he took me on all kinds of adventures. Starting by going around, singing Christmas carols at our neighbors using how ‘’ cute 4 years old’s can be’’ for some coins. Then we started to do all different kind of things as business ventures. After that as a serial of entrepreneurial as four-years old.

We collected soda cans and brought them back to the stores to get some coins. We were selling breads and did a lot of different things. We also got into the gambling industry, whom had Bingo Lotto. The Swedish Bingo Lotto show… selling shitloads of Bingo Lotto lotteries, when we were very young. I made probably 50 euros every week doing that, selling lottery tickets. This was around when I was 10 years old. So already by then, it was the ‘’ first business idea’’.

Early on, I was a pretty lonely kid, as I mentioned. I didn’t find a way to belong. I moved when I was thirteen and I started at a new school. I started in this ‘’ rich and fancy ‘’ school in my hometown – without being rich or fancy. We were living far outside the city, but it became that district. So, I actually managed to get new friends.

I never really had friends and didn’t interact with it very well. All of them had a lot of stuff that I never had. I couldn’t afford the clothes; I couldn’t afford the mopeds or cellphones like they had. I felt a sense of inferiority amongst them. I felt like a wasn’t really good enough.

Then I turned. 16,17 and I fell in love with poker. This was by the time poker was introduced in the gambling industry, for real. I became very good at it and I loved the math, I loved the psychology behind it and the game in general.

At the age of 18 I got really good at it and I started to play poker professionally. I started to make significant money from it. I wanted to finally show that I was good enough so I began to spend all the money on things that could be seen. Clothes, champagne and cars. 

At some point I started to stop winning but, kept the expensive lifestyle. I got ruined from that. I had to move back with my parents again and graduate from school. I couldn’t afford the lifestyle that I once had.

That’s when I found entrepreneurship again, after several attempts of failure. I started to do Bingo affiliation. I started with my childhood friend Emil, who became the co-founder of Catena Media. We started to build Bingo websites and we made no money at all in the beginning. But, in the first year we managed to make 1,000 USD and was enough to kind of spark the curiosity and interest.

Ever since then, I’ve just been trying things. I’ve realized I’m a doer. I like to see if things work out and try to make things work. Which was very good combination as Emil is a computer genius, he built his first calculator when he was eight… and I had a lot of the ideas. So, he could kind of technically make them happen.

So, everything than lead to Catena media, was around 2008,2009 or 2010, somewhere when I was 22 years old; before even Catena media started.

it was all the times my ideas; and he could make them happen, along with a lot of other people. I guess I’m an idea person who is good with people and I love to see things happen. So, I guess that’s a short story or a long version of who I am – and how I got to be where I am. 


Disa: I think it does pretty much summarize a lot about you. As you mentioned, we all want to belong, obviously. Finding our right crowd and right way of how we’re doing things. As you also mentioned; You’re a doer. You have a lot of ideas and you’ve been a pioneer within our iGaming industry. People look up to you, for what you’ve accomplished.

I think it’s also very important to highlight the people that you have been working with, such as Emil. You both out faith in each other and kept going forward.

Erik:
Yes, without him there would not have been such a success. Absolutely not. And a lot of other beautiful people joining later on. But, indeed, without him there would not have been none of this success.

Disa: For sure. Now, you kind of showed yourself off by building Catena and everything. As mentioned, people look up to you and put you high up on a pedestal (which I think you would kind of agree too).

Erik:
Yes.

Disa: Now you have started this ‘’ new project’’, Great.com. I met a lot of people throughout different events that think this project and idea is extremely innovative. Some might have said that it’s very controversial and they haven’t really been able to understand the project itself.

What would you like to say to those people that haven’t yet being able to comprehend and don’t really understand what Great.com is? Or will become?

Erik
: I think it’s fully understandable that people haven’t been able to grasp what we’re doing. I barely understand it myself, to be honest. But, when I started this project, it is very upside down of how we built Catena and how many other companies were built. There far biggest challenge I believe we have and all the big gambling companies; is recruitment.

How do you find the best talents? Any problems you have can be solved if you’re good enough at recruitment.

I started Great.com with that thought in mind. How can we be immensely good at recruitment? That’s one of the reasons I have been focusing on building social media presence. Focusing on podcasts, interviews and building an Instagram. Twitter presence… It makes it so much easier to recruit. Pretty much everyone who works with us now, found us through those platforms.

This has been the first challenge I wanted to solve even before building a product. How can we make sure that really smart people want to work with us? For example; Now we put out a role as a podcast coordinator. Someone who will run our podcast in the background. We got 500 applicants from 1 Instagram post! From which 25 was really good. Now we’re down to 2 people and both of them are really good! So, we can barely decide as they are super-good. Both of them have worked with us and agreed for a trial as they really want to work with us, on this project.

I believe one of the things that makes it hard to understand what Great.com is from the outside; That it’s currently a recruitment machine. Currently it’s not a casino affiliate. Currently it’s how we attract the right people and we’re only 8 people right now. All of them are people that I feel in my heart, that I want to work with for 30 years from now on.

I’ve never been around people like that in my life before. I’ve never met people like that, who have this kind of community feeling. They are people that I truly admire, each and one of them. Which was the opposite of when we launched Catena. I didn’t know anything about recruitment back then. I just to hire people like me; and now I hire people who are not like me.

I only hired people who knew less than I did; now I hire people who do know more than I do, on a lot of different things.

So, it’s very hard to understand what great.com is. As it’s currently one recruitment.

If you look at it at from the long-term perspective, I mean like the next 50 years, what I want Great.com to become is; The most trusted website on the internet. We’re people go and find information on any kind of purchase decision they can do, on any product. Regardless if it’s a pair of headphones or trying a casino, or a space shuttle, 50 years from now. I want it to be pseudonym for trust.

Right now, if you go to Amazon, one of the most rusted websites online, you can read reviews made from that one person, on that specific product. There isn’t really one single website that reviews everything – and being bias about it.

Since Great.com will give away 100 % of our profits to charity, we can actually be un-bias. We don’t have an incentive of going who pays the most. The long-term vision is to create something that compare all kinds of products, within everything.

Then you start from that, until where we are today, the gambling industry. The reason for that is that I’ve been in the gambling industry for the last fourteen years. I know this industry. I know how to do it; I know there’s a lot of money in it. I know that it is an industry where very little of the money made in it, would go to charity otherwise.

So, if we can create something that gets money from this industry to charity, I believe it can make a huge impact. But, all in all, we work completely upside down.

When we built Catena, it was just 1 bingo website. We were focusing on making money since day one. Now, two years into this, we’ve had 0 NDC’s so far; which Is horrible from a business perspective. But I believe it is a great way to do it if you want to make a difference by the year of 2070.

Disa: So, let’s say you will give away 100% to charity. How will you continuously fund the project?

Erik:
So, we will give away 100% from the profits. So, we will obviously have costs. Right now, we have 100% costs. So, I am funding everything right now. The long-term hope is to run everything with high margins, which it can be in the affiliate industry.

Before catena went public on the stock market and we scaled into something really big, we were running on a very high margin. Which wasn’t heard of in the affiliate industry. I hope we can get there in future and 80 % of the revenues will donated, 20 % will cover costs. If we reach 50 %, I think it will be really great.

Disa: just to build onto Great.com and the operators that you’re going to work with. I know you mentioned that you’ve been a poker player yourself for many years. In US there’s a lot of poker tournaments, where the profits will be given to charity. So, in US, they’re very well aware of charity and philanthropic way of living. They breathe charity. Such as Bill Gates, Opera Winfrey and so on…

Will you focus on US? And do you think that countries in Europe, such as the Scandinavian ones, don’t quite understand this concept yet? if they haven’t been properly introduced to this philanthropic mindset?

Erik
: I believe that philanthropical, I mean it’s a status thing to do in the sense that philanthropic in the US compared to Scandinavia, it’s big secret about it. Which I believe is sad. I think that Bill Gates is the biggest hero of mankind. According to the research I read, his foundation, have been saving 8,000 lives so far – that is just astonishing.

So, from a business perspective, we will be a very normal business. We will focus on regulated countries to start with. Like what they’re doing in New jersey and Sweden. The charity perspective won’t be the drive. It might help us getting links and SEO. But we’re not going to use that as a selling point. ‘’ Play with us and the money will go to charity’’… I don’t think casino players are really driven by that.

It’s more of; I don’t need the money I want to work for a bigger purpose. The purpose of giving away money for charity, has nothing to do that it makes sense from a business model. It has done with where I am in my life and what I want to accomplish.

Disa: I think if I would start to gamble, via affiliated and listed casinos on your website… in terms of responsible gambling; If I know I can afford to lose 50 EUR and I lose 40 EUR, while knowing the profit will go to charity, a good cause, that would probably ease my mind.

I also believe that the Casino industry in general, would have a more positive view and outcome.

If you look at today, regarding what people think of our industry; The players lose their money and we drive around in nice cars. But if the profit would be more charity oriented, you’d might have a more relaxed approach of losing money once in a while.

Erik:
I hope so. If I could choose personally to play somewhere where the money I lose would go to charity and something good vs. where the money goes to someone like me, who made a lot of money from the industry and don’t really need it ; I would rather give money for a good cause.

Disa: If you want to work with Great.com, what does your affiliate program look like? Will you have full visibility of statistics? How do you currently operate?

Erik: As of now, we currently just getting started. We have very limited systems for anything. My goal, as it looks in my head, is to share any kind of data. Both for the operators and the visitors. I don’t believe in secrets. I think it’s much better to transparently show everything. So, I would like to show exactly how much we earn from a player- to the casino. If possible, it’s not always easy to track who did what.

At least I want to show how much we made from Leo Vegas in this or that month. Then, show how much of that went to cover our costs and how much went to donations in the future.

The more we can break this down- the better. We will still be limited by affiliate platforms and the data. But for our business perspective, I don’t want to hide anything and keeping any secrets. I don’t think that would benefit us.

I think it benefits the industry, the people and the players much more by simply putting out everything out in the open.

Disa: What can the players expect from your website in terms of responsible gambling, information and so on?

Erik: My goal with creating Great.com is to create a product that does more good to people, even in the gambling industry, more than it harm people. What I mean by that is, that we will probably have problem-gamblers coming to our sites, we might have players that wouldn’t start gambling otherwise or maybe they’re just interested because they heard it’s about charity.

I would like to create a website where its more people stop playing than starts playing.

What I mean by that; If we have 100% exposure to give away, looking at most of the affiliate websites where 99,99 of that exposure goes to gambling… and 00,01 exposure goes to the responsible gambling link in the footer, where no one is really intended to see it.

What I hope to create is where 10% of the exposure goes to responsible gambling situations. Really responsible things and not just a link.

If you’re logging in from Sliema in Malta, I want to show ‘’ These are the different gambling addiction meetings held close to you’’ or ‘’ This is what you can do and how you can see if someone is playing too much’’.

On the vast scale of things; making more people stop playing than start playing.

This doesn’t make business sense, in the short-term or maybe even in the long-term, but it goes along with our goal to make a better place. We don’t want to do that of the expense on people. Some people will still get hurt I’m afraid, but hopefully we will help more people stop playing- than start playing.

That’s like an overarching, belief and value we want to have as an organization.

Disa: I think that is fantastic and I really like where we’re going in this industry when we build personas and fronting our names on projects. Players and all the people in our surrounding can know that ‘’ That’s Erik Bergman’’ and they can find you on the social media platforms, such as Instagram. They can really get a sense of who we are and that creates a lot of trust. Which I think is very important.

So, for you, I know your Instagram account is your little baby. You post a lot of motivational quotes and videos etc. How did you manage to grow your Instagram account? And what would be your top 3 best tips to the audience of how to grow a social media platform?

Erik: Let’s start in a little bit of a different direction. Social media was actually a really important part before Catena, became Catena. I used to blog a lot back in 2008,2009 and 2010. I was very active in forums and did a lot of social medias back in those days. I believe what Catena benefited from was link building and relationships. I was recruiting and doing everything by myself, in my own name- and that helped us with a lot of different things.

I believe there is a benefit to anyone, like you’re doing now, putting your name out there, for people to see. It will benefit your career and if you want to build links you can put out content. People will know who you are.

Creating something when it comes to SEO or affiliation with your own name, will only benefit you, regardless if you work for an affiliate or Betsson. There is value in that.

When it comes to Instagram success, I started to make YouTube videos way back. I did it for like, 8 weeks. 1 video per week. It took way too much energy; so I just gave up. It was too hard. I didn’t do anything on social media for over a year.

Then I tried LinkedIn; didn’t enjoy it. I tried Twitter; didn’t really enjoy it. I started Facebook groups; didn’t really enjoy it. Finally, I started an Instagram account and I realized I enjoyed writing captions. I didn’t enjoy the pictures, but I did enjoy writing captions.

They were long enough to do something meaningful and still short enough to write something pretty quick.

Then I started to play around with pictures. How can I enjoy that part? I started to look around at a lot of different accounts. I just basically copy pasted their ideas, with my own captions.

I read some motivational quotes, by Albert Einstein or whatever and I tide it together with some Catena story or a life story of mine. Suddenly, both things became fun. It became fun to write quotes and it became fun to tie it up together.

I started to schedule 1 post a week so I was always 1 step or 4 weeks ahead. The problem for me has been that I do too much and then I stop… and eventually I quit. So, I had 1 post lined up every week and then 2 posts. Suddenly I was adding 1 post per day. I’ve always had 4 weeks to get on with it. It was important that I enjoyed the process and had fun with it.

Then, I realized I started to get traction to it.

The first tip (a long way to get there); it is important that you have fun with what you do. Because if you don’t have fun, you are going to give up. Someday you will get sick or bored.

Second tip; Always plan ahead.

The third tip is collaborations. That is the most important thing I would say, in my Instagram growth. I’ve been going from 0- 240,000 followers, in 9 months. It has been all about collaborations.

There is some extent of organic growth, but it’s much more me, collaboration with other big accounts. Either paying them in many or any other ways, to get them to write things for me. You don’t have to do that, unless you have the far best content in the world.

So yes, that’s the 3rd tip. You need other people to get there. On your own, it’s going to be really hard.

Disa: It’s going to take a really long time.

Erik: Yes, if even that. The problem is, if you look at any videos on YouTube ‘’ how to grow your Instagram account’’ or ‘’ how to grow your social media following’’, They will only be focusing on how to build a following. No one will tell you about how to have fun with what you do. Or no one will tell you have to learn about the things you do. No one will tell you have to add value with what you’re doing.
If you’re missing having fun, learning and adding value; You’re going to give up if your followings aren’t increasing.

If your purpose of this podcast was to make as much money as possible quickly, you would probably give up very quickly, it’s not easy to make money easy with a podcast. But, as long as your purpose is to have fun, learn and bring value to your audience, then you will keep going regardless of if you make a lot of many or not.

I believe you have a lot of fun with this podcast, that you do bring a lot of value and that you have learned a lot. There’s no reason giving up as you’re getting that value for yourself. Without the money or the numbers.

That’s what people talk about, that what people measure. It is so easy to see the numbers, but, forget all the other things that actually keeps you going.

Disa: I totally agree…and as you said, I was so scared in the beginning of doing this, even though I thought about for a really long time. Trying to narrow it down to ‘’ How’’ I wanted to do it, ‘’Why’’ I wanted to do it, ‘’ How ‘’ I wanted to be presented etc.

But, now, since the first video was live on YouTube.. I was like’’ ok,ok,ok… I’m live’’. It was a scary day to press the button. But now I’m really enjoying it and I learn so much from the people I speak to. You really do get a bigger picture of iGaming in general and I like to get to know the people for who they really are. Not just a name on Skype or by knowing their accomplishments online. Knowing what kind of music, they like…I really do enjoy this.

Erik: I like Swedish HipHop. Always liked Swedish HipHop.

Disa: That’s fine! We all have our own music preferences!

Erik: Yes, for sure.

Disa: Thank you so much Erik for letting me have you here on Casino By Her

Erik: Thank you!

Disa: … And let’s speak soon!

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