Bojoko’s Joonas Karhu: Unsustainable to solely rely on affiliates for market share

Bojoko CEO Joonas Karhu speaks on the importance of affiliates to operators looking to drive user acquisition and the challenges Bojoko has faced in the US.
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Speaking to SBC Americas, Joonas Karhu reflected on his time as Bojoko’s CEO so far, the importance of affiliates to operators looking to drive user acquisition, and the challenges Bojoko has faced as it expands across the US.

SBC: First of all, in August last year, you were selected by Bojoko to be its next CEO. How have the past few months gone for you since you began this new role?

Joonas Karhu, CEO of Bojoko

Joonas Karhu: It has gone well so far but I must say that having the best team in the gambling industry makes my role very easy. My laissez-faire leadership style is more about letting the incredibly talented people that work for Bojoko take charge of their roles and giving them the freedom to maximize their potential. Of course, it is my role to ensure they have the environment, tools, and resources they need to do this and to accomplish what we have set out to do. I am also responsible for making sure that the Bojoko ship remains on course and that we are heading in the right direction at all times.  

This approach seems to be working. Last year we grew revenue by more than 70% year on year, and in the first three months of this year we have continued to ride an upwards growth trajectory with monthly revenue up 25% compared to last year’s monthly average. This growth means we can continue to deliver a superior experience to our users and launch even bigger campaigns and marketing activities with operators as well as game studios.

SBC: Bojoko recently received license approval to operate in both West Virginia and Michigan. Why pick these two states in particular and what are your plans for them?

Karhu: For now, there are only four states regulated for online casinos in the US and we aim to be licensed in every one of those states. We are already live in New Jersey, and now have access to West Virginia and Michigan. Pennsylvania is the only state we’re not licensed yet, but that is only because the license application process takes longer. 

Our concept of helping players choose gambling sites and our aim to do it better than anyone else will very much be our focus in the US as it has been in other markets such as the UK, Canada, and New Zealand. 

SBC: How important are affiliates for operators looking to drive user acquisition?

Karhu: There’s no question that affiliates are super profitable for operators. I’m more concerned with operators over-relying on affiliate channels and the decline of not only investment in non-performance, traditional advertising but in know-how, too. It’s not sustainable to solely rely on affiliate channels for building and defending market share. And from an affiliate’s perspective, when working under revenue-share deals, it’s very positive when operators invest in broadscale advertising as it grows player value.

Of course, in the US market, affiliates are mostly working on CPA deals but it is still important for operators to undertake broadscale marketing activity to ensure they drive brand awareness among players in each of the states they are live. 

SBC: What challenges has Bojoko faced throughout its expansion across the US so far?

Karhu: So far, the challenges have had more to do with the paperwork associated with affiliate license applications and the comprehensive contracts that we have to enter into with operators, which is not so common in Europe.

These are quite positive challenges, however, as affiliates in the US are viewed more as proper businesses compared to Europe where they are sometimes seen as being unprofessional and amateurish. Being approved by the regulator in each state and having solid contracts with operators gives a safer framework for investing in the affiliate business, which ultimately will help operators get more players and allow us to build a better product for our users.

SBC: What plans does Bojoko have for the rest of 2022 and beyond?

Karhu: Bojoko has gotten off to a rocket start with strong growth, licenses granted in Michigan and West Virginia, as well as the launch of sports in the UK. With the additional revenue from these new areas as well as growth in our existing markets, we plan to keep innovating to help our users choose gambling sites and to create amazing campaigns with our operator and game studio partners.