Two Manitoba-made entrepreneurs recently turned the tables on some tough international competition while pitching their artificial intelligence-based casino optimization software.
The pitch was against four other stellar gaming platform startups during the Startup Launchpad competition at GiGse 2017, the Global iGaming Summit & Expo held this April in San Diego, CA.
The win was sweet for nQube Data Science’s founder and CEO Jason Fiege and COO Anastasia Baran, putting their product, which tracks casino customer behaviour to optimize casino floor layout and revenue, in front of some of the top names in the land-based and interactive gaming sectors.
Fiege admits to having some misgivings going into the competition, worried that the judges and audience weren’t going to understand what nQube was all about. “We were unusual,” Fiege said. “A couple of university researchers talking about mathematics and science up against some really slick international gaming companies.”
He and Baran attribute much of their success to coaching they received in advance of the event. “We had multiple conference calls with Melissa Blau, who organizes the GiGse Launchpad, to help turn this abstract idea into a good pitch,” said Fiege. “Melissa makes sure the pitches are on track and presenting to the audience and to the judges what a VC would want to see in a pitch. This was a huge asset, and taught us about things we never would have thought of.”
Baran said this coaching, along with some of the lessons learned from Innovate Manitoba, made all the difference. “The competition was fierce with some really interesting products that actually brought me to the ‘other side’,” she laughed. “They were all super charming and we were the nerds!”
“People like us know nothing about business and don’t know how to operate in these spaces,” she said. “Melissa at GiGse and Jan (Lederman) at Innovate Manitoba have taken us under their wings and helped us so much. Having those connections has been invaluable.”
A big part of that she said is knowing how to do a “good talk.” This is something Baran learned through participation in Innovate Manitoba’s Pitch’Day but also Innovate Manitoba’s Lean Startup Workshop held this past December.
“There’s a very unique vibe when you interact with people in this way.”
Connections pay off
These connections have helped nQube see that the potential for their artificial intelligence is unlimited. “People saw how flexible and powerful it is,” said Fiege. “The casino part is just a plugin into an optimization agent. Many saw how it could help them in different ways.”
The company is now looking for investment to employ more developers to work on other problems that can be solved by the nQube software. It will be piloting in a casino soon but again, Fiege emphasizes that this is just one use for the unlimited opportunities presented by the software. On the heels of the GiGse win they’ve taken the idea to companies in Silicon Valley.
“We had a lot of meetings this week and they weren’t just gaming applications, Fiege said.
The focus will be on potential clients and investors who can benefit from optimizing spaces for such things as emergency services and crisis management. “When a crisis happens how do you deploy or spatially organize your resources to maximize benefits?”
These solutions, he said, could be much more complex than casino optimization but he also places a lot of value in that solution to help struggling land-based casino operations. “It’s an industry that employs a lot of people. An increased bottom line while making customers happier benefits everyone.”