Fredrik Elmqvist: Innovation defines Yggdrasil journey

Innovation has been a defining feature of Yggdrasil’s journey from inception through to 2021 according to Fredrik Elmqvist, the company’s CEO, as explained in the new ‘What’s up Ygg?’ podcast.

In the first episode entitled ‘King of Slots’, listeners can gain an insight into Yggdrasil’s journey as a company – from inception through to 2021 – and how the company has evolved during that time.

Hosted by Stewart Darkin, director of new media at Square in the Air, the podcast began by focusing on the pair’s first meeting at ICE 2013. The Yggdrasil CEO began: “I’ve been in the industry since 2006. 

“I first started out in sports betting, and then made the move over to the casino side of things. I’ve been running Yggdrasil for some time now – and it’s been such a fun journey. I remember back in 2013 at ICE, running around the hallways with just an iPad trying to grab people and tell them you had something really good going on.”

Reflecting on the early days, Elmqvist explained that Yggdrasil initially set out to become a company which ‘did things differently’ from others in the industry, highlighting that he wanted to create a company which did not simply ‘mimic’ other providers.

Instead, he expressed the importance of innovation from the get-go – something which he believes has helped define the overall vision that Yggdrasil now has.

“At the time, there was Microgaming, Playtech, NetEnt etc. These were the leading companies within the industry. Everyone was trying to do something which mimicked these big names – no one was really trying to innovate from the beginning.

“So when I left NetEnt, I had this idea that we should be doing things differently from the beginning. We should be working from the bottom upwards, innovating in terms of technology, user experiences and promotional tools. 

“It was tedious to build everything from scratch, rather than copying the big providers, but that also became the core essence of Yggdrasil as a company. It showed that we had this ambition, and it’s shaped the people that came on board in the early days.  

“We showed this ambition to people who we wanted to join the company, and some people were discouraged by it of course because it required a lot of hard work. But then some people really liked this drive that we had. So we had a lot of momentum from the get go largely because of how we defined ourselves as a company.”

When quizzed on how Yggdrasil managed to ‘play the long game’, Elmqvist noted that a methodical approach is fundamental. “You need to be able to think that you’re running one hundred metres each day but at the same time, you need to think about the marathon,” he shared. 

“You do need to have that sense of urgency, and should apply a kind of understanding that certain things will take time to happen. You’ll need to mature over time and then can follow more of a methodological process. 

“There will be things that need to be addressed there and then – this is something that every manager needs to understand. What are the thighs that you can apply a sense of urgency to? And what things can you work on over time?

“What I still enjoy about the company is that it has evolved over the years and become much more of a sustainable, diverse company than it was before. It has a different momentum and a completely different trajectory. I love to see that Yggdrasil is still evolving.”

Looking forward to the remainder of 2021, Elmqvist outlined Yggdrasil’s plans to create a ‘more sustainable and diversified business’ by focusing on its corporate governance trajectory, its platform studio and the decision to licence its mechanical frameworks.

He said: “I think that with what we’re doing at the minute, we need to add another layer. Bringing in reference to those at Bridgepoint who I have tremendous respect for being able to take a company like Yggdrasil from where we were in terms of sustainability and bringing it to the level where we are now. We are now seeing the company take a big leap forward and it’s so interesting to be at the centre because this is something we didn’t necessarily do before. 

“Outside of the corporate governance trajectory, we have also moved from a number of fragmented studios located here and there to one core platform studio based in Poland. So we’ll be focusing on that, on our own roadmap. 

“We’ll also be focusing on becoming a publisher where we can apply franchise models, enable studios to develop things on our platform. We licence or mechanical frameworks – which is something we’ll touch upon later in the series with some other of our team members – but this is just another trajectory in the development of our company which will ultimately create a more sustainable and diversified business.”

The new series, titled ‘What’s up YGG’, will consist of 10 episodes covering various topical issues including game development, partner collaborations, player experience, game engagement mechanics, jackpots, the streamer community’s impact on the industry and much more. 

You can watch the full version of the first episode here