Slow innovation: Aside from a few cosmetic tweaks, reliability improvements and the Starting Price feature, Betfair hasn’t innovated much over the last few years. For a company that boasts several hundred developers, it should be able to release more major new features. Betfair gets very little traffic from organic search and has no social features apart from a forum.
Tax on top traders: About a year ago Betfair introduced a “Premium Charge” on their most successful traders, taxing their profits up to 20%. This runs contrary to typical volume rebate schemes where the more one trades, the smaller the transaction costs one incurs. The company claims the tax is to offset the cost of bringing new punters to the platform, but appears to outsiders as a clear move to increase revenue taking advantage of Betfair’s position as a monopoly.
Expensive transaction costs: Betfair takes 5% of traders’ winnings. If a trader bets ?100 and wins ?1000, Betfair will charge ?50 for the transaction. This is very expensive in a world of $8 online stock executions. As betting exchanges become more financial in nature, these transaction costs will shrink substantially.
Market Size and Competition: As Greg Wood from the Guardian wrote recently, horse racing liquidity has hit a ceiling. Will Betfair be able to maintain the revenue growth? With high costs and a smaller profit margin than Paddy Power, Betfair has found itself in a bit of “grow or die” situation. It will need to find ways to entice more customers to join its platform and spend their betting dollars with them. Betfair is looking to new sports – particularly football – and overseas markets like the US, China and India as opportunities for growth.
Headcount: Betfair has a tech team close to 500 people. While there is strength in numbers at times, the most successful tech projects in history started with small, nimble teams. The more tech people involved on a product, the less agile a company can be. Adapting to changing tech trends can be a crucial ingredient to remaining competitive in today’s internet startup world.