Paddy Casey, co-founder of product development and digital marketing supplier The Unit, explains how taking a more agile approach to the location of tech teams will help smaller companies gain cut-through in the market.

A common challenge in the gaming industry, whether it’s as an operator or as a supplier, is how and where to find the right tech talent and bringing it together across multiple locations.

This market is of course synonymous with digital hubs in regions such as Malta, Gibraltar, and the Isle of Man, but times appear to be changing.

I used to work for supplier Grand Parade, which sold to William Hill in 2016. Following the sale, we were having a look at potential new locations in Eastern Europe when we founded The Unit in 2018, and some simply came with too many costs to be a feasible location from which to grow a business.

Starting from a base in Dundalk, we found technology centres like Manchester, Krakow and Bucharest are incredibly expensive to run operations from, and due to increased competition, it became harder to attract the best talent.

However, we now continue to see new territories come to the fore and provide the secret sauce companies are looking for when trying to combine efforts across Europe.

Access to talent

This is not the same world we lived in at the start of this decade. The impact of Covid on working conditions is widely known and tech companies have not, and may never, reach a point where all employees will be back in the office full time.

The very idea of that being the case before 2020 may have been unthinkable, but the reality of where we are now has led to companies being able to cast the net further and wider when it comes to recruitment.

Tech teams were arguably the happiest to work from home and the last to go back to the office, which is what we’ve seen across the leading companies in our industry.

In 2023, the commercial conditions are far more favourable when it comes to employing dedicated teams in new jurisdictions.

With access to talent opening up in different parts of the world, that allows us to look at new opportunities in places like Moldova.

“This decentralisation of technology is an agile, modern approach which, when combined with domestic operations, could make all the difference for smaller companies aiming to make headway in the market.”

We’ve established relationships with recruiters in the country and have opened our first office and hired a core team there; we plan on growing the team significantly.

We have strong relationships with universities there, and the Moldova Innovation and Technology Park in Chisinau makes it a truly dynamic IT community.

According to the Moldova Association of ICT Companies (ATIC) as of 2022, the IT sector employs more than 3% of Moldova’s entire active population and has recorded the highest growth rate among all sectors of the economy, rising by more than 45%.

In addition, Moldova has access to high-speed internet which ranks as the sixth-lowest fixed-broadband cost in the world, and the country also boasts 100% mobile network coverage.

We intend to develop this arm of our operation further and we are fascinated to see how Moldova can evolve into being one of Europe’s most important gaming technology hubs.

Ukraine still rising in importance

It is also worth pointing out that despite the ongoing conflict with Russia, Ukraine is still a functioning business hub that continues to be fruitful for gaming companies.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has previously mentioned plans to grow technology’s share of Ukraine’s GDP from 4% in 2022 to 10% in 2025, or up to $16.5bn annually.

In our case, we had already worked with staff in Ukraine for a long time, and these relationships are just as strong as they have ever been.

We will continue to support our colleagues in Ukraine, and plan to open centres in Kyiv and Lviv when the conflict is resolved.

We will continue to develop and invest in local talent as we and other major operators and suppliers have done successfully in the past, and we are excited to see what the future holds for the technology and digital industries in Ukraine.

The means to compete

These emerging hubs provide the means for smaller and mid-sized companies to compete with brands at the top end of the market.

While we have focused on the two examples mentioned above, the general strategy is to combine the quality of product teams, business analysts and commercial teams that have proved to be very successful over a long period in Western Europe, along with a core tech team to develop the product in other parts of the world.

This decentralisation of technology is an agile, modern approach which, when combined with domestic operations (Ireland in our case), could make all the difference for smaller companies aiming to make headway in the market.

This is a strategy we expect to see more and more companies deploy going forward.

Paddy Casey is an experienced leader, having managed worldwide product and commercial teams for over a decade. Expertise garnered from a series of senior marketing and technical roles – for brands such as BoyleSports, Paddy Power, Gala Coral and Grand Parade –  has uniquely positioned Paddy to both found and carve out The Unit’s place in the market.