The necessity of building and maintaining a strong network is a familiar construct among numerous industries, and is certainly one that is not lost in the gaming community.

However, among the multitude of strategies and expert tutorials on how best to achieve such a goal, is the question of: how much do you know about your network? With this in mind, CasinoBeats is aiming to take a look under the hood, if you will, and has tasked the 100 Club to help out.

Alina Dandörfer, Co-Founder and Director of Apparat Gaming, steps into the hot seat to elaborate on turning down a proposal to leave the industry, comparisons to Greek mythology and a continued ramp-up of competition and regulation.

CasinoBeats: Could you begin by talking us through any past experiences that have been gained outside of the gambling industry? Could your career have taken any different paths?

Alina Dandörfer: I’ve always worked in the gambling industry and have only once been tempted to leave it. On finishing my studies in international relations, and after a bit of time spent travelling the world, I joined German land-based gambling and entertainment giant, SCHMIDT Gruppe. I hadn’t planned on working in this industry, but the opportunity presented itself and I took it.

Having the chance to gather experience as a project manager and working with software developers would form a great foundation for every step I took after that. A few years later I was offered a position at Bally Wulff and seized it with both hands. Over the following six years, I held several positions across organisational development, staffing, and project management.

“Being a co-founder of a game developer simply wouldn’t have been on my radar”

My appetite for learning saw me become involved in a range of projects within the organisation, especially from a management and financial perspective. And it was during those days, towards the end of my time at Bally Wulff, that I was asked by someone to support their efforts to start a business – a totally new challenge that came knocking on my door (this was the genesis of Apparat Gaming).

This side project stimulated my desire for a career change and so I almost escaped the industry – I was offered a leading position at a start-up in a different sector to build it up from scratch. I’d even got a start date and a contract in hand. At the same time, the idea to launch Apparat Gaming matured, so I decided to go all in and embarked on the adventure of running my own company. 

CB: What was it that eventually led you into this industry?

AD: As I started out in the industry, it’s probably more interesting to talk about what led to me turning down the position at the start-up in a different sector and going all in with Apparat Gaming.

A big driver behind my decision was that I knew my co-founders incredibly well and had worked with many of them over the past ten years or more. I also liked the fact that I would have a say over the direction that we took with Apparat Gaming, although with seven other co-founders, there’s still a lot of discussion and compromise. 

CB: How would you assess your progress through the industry to date? 

AD: The progress I have made is way beyond what I expected to achieve when I started out. Being a co-founder of a game developer simply wouldn’t have been on my radar. I’ve always wanted to learn more and have been keen to get involved with projects even if they were outside of the remit of the role I held at the time.

“Each time Sisyphus gets close to the top, the boulder rolls back down again. Running a studio can feel like this sometimes”

This has enabled me to grow my skill set and expand my knowledge. In roles where I have been responsible for staffing, I have come to understand the pain points of hiring the right people. While streamlining various companies’ product development processes I have learned to not be afraid to ask the tough questions and implement change where it is needed – even if that can be a painful process to go through.

All of these parts came together when I co-founded Apparat Gaming and since then I have continued to learn and evolve – I’d never worked on a funding round prior to Apparat and now I’ve successfully completed not one but two.

I also like to get involved with game production, even though that’s not my area of focus. I attend our weekly product meetings, and this has given me a great understanding of what the team is doing and essentially of the product – after all, it’s our games that we stand for. Again, it’s taking step-by-step progress to ensure that I am always moving forwards. 

CB: Are there any interesting anecdotes that would interest our readers, or any stand out experiences that may not have been possible without the current, or a past, role?

AD: It’s not an anecdote as such but my experience of co-founding a game studio has a lot in common with a story I once read from Greek mythology. It’s about a man named Sisyphus who is punished by underworld God, Zeus, who forces him to push a boulder up a hill for eternity.

Each time Sisyphus gets close to the top, the boulder rolls back down again. Running a studio can feel like this sometimes. Luckily, I’ve a great team to support each attempt and to cushion the roll backs. One day we will get to the top of the hill and stay there, but for now, there are plenty more boulders to push up the hill. 

CB: What would you say have been the major changes during your time working in the industry? Both for the better and worse.

AD: The level of competition and the roll-out of regulation have been the greatest changes, and I’d say both are for the better. There are hundreds of studios now developing thousands of slots each year, and it’s fascinating to watch these developers as they grow and produce exciting content.

“I’d love to hear their thoughts on how studios can and should approach offering their games to operators in pre-regulated markets”

Regulation has made innovation and the ability to survive and thrive in such a competitive space incredibly difficult, but we all want to see sensible, proportionate frameworks in place that ultimately protect consumers and facilitate a successful and sustainable market for operators and providers.

For Apparat, we are motivated by the opportunity in front of us which is to bring our slots with a German accent to operators and players in regulated markets globally – world domination, as we like to call it. 

CB: If you could ask the 100 Club any questions, or task them with tackling any issue, what would that be?

AD: I’d love to hear their thoughts on how studios can and should approach offering their games to operators in pre-regulated markets. Most studios say they are focused on regulated jurisdictions, but many still make a chunk of revenue from unregulated markets. Are they right to do this? Or is it a contradictory approach? 

If you would like to tell your story, or be considered for the CasinoBeats 100 Club, please email us at [email protected].

Launched to give a voice to the industry on a range of key issues, the 100 Club tackles the tricky questions and shares members’ views across the CasinoBeats network. Have your say by joining the 100 Club.