Today I’m really excited because I had the honour to interview the Father of Matched Betting, and OddsMonkey founder: Paul King. You probably have heard me mentioning matched betting and the software I use for finding offers and tips: OddsMonkey.
Paul agreed to speak at Foxy Monkey about how he grew OddsMonkey as a company from zero to serving thousands of active customers. He explains what it takes to build a profitable matched betting business, the BIG moments and the future of matched betting. Without further ado, meet Paul!
Michael: Hi Paul and thanks for being here with us at Foxy Monkey.
Paul: Not a problem! Pleasure to be here.
Michael: A lot of Foxy Monkey readers are active OddsMonkey fans and use the software for their matched betting activities. So first of all, thanks for creating such an awesome tool to earn a side income and for accepting my invitation.
Paul: It’s great to hear that many of you are already using the OddsMonkey software. I’m very proud of what we do as a company and absolutely love hearing stories about how the additional income can make such a difference to many people’s lives.
Michael: For those who don’t know, OddsMonkey has helped more than 40,000 members make an extra profit over the past 5 years. Including myself! This is amazing, congratulations!
Paul: Thanks very much! You and all our other members are more than welcome. As I mentioned, we love hearing feedback and it really does make a difference to our whole team to know that their efforts are so appreciated by our community.
Michael: How do you feel having grown the company so much?
Paul: Immensely proud – although it still feels incredibly surreal. The last 18 months have been an incredible experience. I’ve learned so much about the industry we operate in, as well as business in general. I also experienced the process of growing a team of employees from just myself to now over 20 monkeys.
Michael: Were you matched betting full-time before starting OddsMonkey? How much were you making?
Paul: I actually wasn’t. I worked full-time as a computer programmer for an IT firm. I didn’t have much disposable income – my main salary paid the bills and matched betting was a part-time pursuit for me that paid for family holidays, meals out, days out and all the other little luxuries that I wouldn’t have been able to afford normally.
Paul: My inspiration for starting to matched bet was wanting to find a spare £1,000 to pay for a season ticket for my football team. I’d been on the waiting list for one for 15 years and when I eventually got offered one I wasn’t in a financial position to be able to take it up.
They let me defer the ticket for a year and I used that time to try and find a way to make £1,000. That’s when I revisited something I’d read about a few months earlier but had dismissed as sounding “too good to be true”… matched betting.
Back when I first started matched betting, it was a very manual process. I looked at creating some software to make the process easier as a little personal project as manipulating and aggregating data and writing websites was something that I had always enjoyed…sad as that may sound.
Once I’d started to get bookmaker odds and compare them with exchange odds to make the whole matched betting process easier, I realised that the data was only useful to me for a particular bookmaker while I was working on that offer. Then I moved on to a new bookmaker and started looking at collecting their odds for that new offer.
Soon, I had lots of data that was potentially valuable to others. So I set up a website called mbassist (as in matched betting assistant). I offered the software I had created for free to other people that were matched betting. The site quickly became popular and regularly discussed on sites like moneysavingexpert and rpoints, both of which had dedicated areas of their site that discussed matched betting.
People started contacting me and thanking me for the website, saying how much time it saved them. A few said they’d be happy to pay for the service if I could get odds updated even more quickly and added more bookmakers.
Back then, I was updating the data around every 30 minutes or so. This got me thinking and was the first time I realised there was the potential for me to build something that could actually become a proper business.
I spent the next year pretty much working all the hours I could outside of my day job and
spending time with my wife and 2 young kids.
Working weekends and late nights to redesign and rebuild the odds comparison engine from scratch to become a much more sophisticated and robust system that was able to update odds within minutes, rather than the previous half hour refresh rates.
Around a year later, in August 2011, I released oddsmonkey.com and got my
first paying subscribers. The price at the time was £5 per month and included just the
OddsMatcher with, I think, around 30 bookmakers.
The initial uptake was really good and I had a few hundred members very quickly. This was great but led to some tech issues and a lot more stressful late nights. I quickly realised that I’d need to reinvest some of that early revenue into buying better servers. They could crunch data more quickly and provide more reliability.
I raised the price to £8 fairly quickly, again as a result of customers telling me the software was too cheap. And that’s the price it stayed for the next 4 years. For those 4 years, OddsMonkey was always a software-only website.
I didn’t have time to teach people how to matched bet with my day job (which I was too scared to quit just yet – probably a big mistake in hindsight but I’ve always been quite cautious).
It’s also worth noting that this was around the time that I was contacted by Mike Cruickshank. Mike asked if he could licence my software for use on his own website. I set up this integration for Mike and other websites that contacted me. So people were now using the OddsMatcher through oddsmonkey.com direct, and also via many other sites that licensed my software.
Michael: What was the actual point in time that OddsMonkey really hit it off?
Paul: The first time was pretty much when we launched in 2009. I probably had pretty moderate expectations. For hundreds of people to suddenly pay me to use my site was really satisfying… Even if it all got reinvested in new servers and stuff.
The real answer you probably want is when we really hit it off and growth accelerated massively. This resulted in us building an actual team and full service that now takes people from complete beginner to easily making a regular income from matched betting.
I was approached at the end of 2015 by 3 guys that ran their own matched betting training
website that used the OddsMonkey software. They asked if I’d be interested in joining forces to bring together the OddsMonkey technical capabilities and their knowledge and passion for teaching people the process of making money from online bookmaker offers.
Fast forward to April 2016. We’d struck a deal and relaunched OddsMonkey from a software-only service to a full matched betting offering. This was when things changed rapidly. Essentially overnight we had physical offices and a team that would grow to over 20 people in the following year.
Michael: Given that OddsMonkey employs many people, is it a profitable business? (numbers are welcome if you’re happy disclosing them).
Paul: Yes, we are profitable. As much as we love what we do, it’s obviously nice to run a successful business that’s sustainable. Around half of our team are based in our head office located in the North East. We also have a southern office where 2 more of our employees work from.
This is supplemented by a number of home workers who have very strong and specific skills which can be difficult to recruit for locally. Personally, and as a company, we really value our staff. We work hard to ensure that we do everything we can to help people feel like a valued part of the team.
This can be anything from regular social events and meet-ups to using the best collaboration tools and offering our staff perks like private healthcare. We want people to enjoy working for us. I know from my own experience, this is when people are most motivated to perform at their best in their job.
Michael: They say Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is a hard business model to grow. You should practise making money elsewhere first. Was it your first business? What do you think about that?
Paul: This was my first successful business, although I’d tried a few ideas over the last 20 years none hit it off anything like OddsMonkey. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some very experienced business professionals. They joined our management team when we relaunched the service in 2016 and I’ve enjoyed learning loads about how to scale a SaaS business.
I personally would choose the SaaS business model over many others. I think with the right planning and management, it can be one of the best models to enable scalability. Especially given all the cloud-based infrastructure available to companies today.
Michael: Did you have enough funds to start OddsMonkey as a proper business? How does someone know when they have enough to start a software business?
Paul: When I started OddsMonkey, the biggest investment by far was my own time. Now, that’s a massive benefit if you’re planning on starting a tech business and you have the skills to create the technical solution yourself, as it obviously limits your financial risks.
If I wasn’t a developer, then I’d had to have been much more methodical and structured about the way that I built the system. I’d recommend to anyone considering starting a tech business, that they talk to as many people that have been through the process as they can.
And to fire up a Google Sheet and start planning their expected costs for development, hardware, software, consultancy etc. I’d also recommend including a very generous contingency onto the estimates, especially when development is involved. How much, will depend on many factors, but mostly how much you know about the skills you require and also how confident you are in the resources that you’ll use to build your business.
For example, if I was using a developer that I’d never worked with from an online freelancing website, then I’d probably take his estimate of effort and double it. But if I was working with a developer that I had worked with before and had delivered on time and price, then 10-20% contingency might be what I’d factor in.
Michael: Bookmakers are not charities and have started offering fewer offers as well as “gubbing” advantage gamblers. What do you think the future of matched betting is?
Paul: Difficult one to say as it’s a competitive industry. They all want to look to gain that edge when promoting their products. The offers have changed and we’ve worked hard to adapt our products and introduce new products to provide our customers with alternative ways of making regular money online.
A good example of this is our Each Way Matcher as it doesn’t rely on any special offers.
We’ll keep working hard to ensure that we’re always looking at creative ways that we can help our customers lock in a profit, using our software.
Michael: What was like a BIG moment for you Paul in this journey?
Paul: I’ve mentioned this in another interview I did, but I’ll say it again as it was the moment when it really kind of dawned on me. It was last year at the first OddsMonkey Christmas party. We were having a meal and drinks in Newcastle and most of the team were out, along with their partners.
For most, it was probably just a normal boozy Christmas do. But that night while chatting to an OddsMonkey employee, it just struck me that all these people were here, having fun, getting drunk, enjoying themselves and it was all as a result of them working for a company that I’d started. It just hit me stood there in a bar and I felt really proud of what we’d all achieved.
Michael: If I were to start a matched betting service, the first thing I’d fear would be the legal challenges coming my way by bookmakers that feel their profits are cut. Has any bookmaker ever sued you for “stealing” their profits?
Paul: No, we’ve never been sued or threatened to be sued by a bookmaker. Matched betting is not illegal and nor is teaching people how to matched bet. There’s a great quote out there from a William Hill spokesperson that backs this up.
Graham Sharpe of William Hill: “The industry does not have a problem with matched betting. There’s no illegal element. It’s a free bet and you can do what you like.”
Michael: Silly question, if I come to work for OddsMonkey can I do matched betting while at work? 😉
Paul: If you work in the support team then it’s kind of a requirement that you matched bet as much as possible. All our support team have responsibilities to answer tickets, reply to queries on the forum, and to research and post the latest offers. But it’s also important for them to be completing the latest offers so that they keep their knowledge of our service up to date. This ensures they’re providing the most accurate advice to our customers.
Michael: I know that OddsMonkey has an amazing community where people help each other every day. I remember in the old days seeing one post per hour or so. Now literally it’s one every few seconds. What role did the community play in growing the OddsMonkey business?
Paul: Yes, I remember those quiet days in the Community too! I and our Head of Customer Engagement were discussing this over a drink the other day, in fact. We were laughing about how hard it was and that we were literally talking to ourselves for a good few weeks trying to get conversations moving.
Luckily, word got out about the service we provide and many experienced matched bettors
joined our platform and are very active on the forum. This has led to the amazingly active
community we have today.
I believe that it played a huge role in our growth and is also so important to keeping customers on our site. Matched betting can seem very confusing at first. That’s why we need to offer as many methods of support and learning as possible. We feel that the Community forum is a very important part of that.
Michael: What makes OddsMonkey better than all the other matched betting services?
Paul: Firstly, I’d say our friendly and helpful ideology as a company. Our staff are trained to be as helpful as possible to our members. We go out of our way to ensure that everyone receives a great service.
Equally, I think I’d mention our technical team. We now have a group of extremely talented
developers that have built on the original OddsMonkey software that I developed and produced some excellent tools and features that distinguish our service from any other matched betting service around today.
Michael: What’s next for OddsMonkey?
Paul: We’ll be focusing on ensuring that the level of service our customers expect is maintained. We’re also already looking at new tools and software that could help our members even more.
My thoughts on building profitable businesses
The above interview reminds me that companies are not built out of an idea in our mind that we think it’ll work. They’re built solving real-world problems.
Noone will care if your idea is exciting or innovative. They will only care if you make their lives better in some way. Why do you take Uber? Because it’s convenient and saves you time. Why do you use Amazon? Because it sells everything cheap and securely.
Paul didn’t really want to build a company around his odds comparison. He wanted to solve his own problem of having to compare manually odds from 20 different bookmakers. Others started using it on the side and they appreciated his work.
Only then he said “If I can get these people to pay me, I can make it even better”. Hell, the customers even asked him to raise the price because £7 per month was too low for the value!! How LEAN is that?
I hope you enjoyed the interview with Paul King. I know I certainly did!