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.
Via forecasting expert Mat Fogarty of Xpree (cited but not linked to, alas, in that story), the New York Times (2 pages):
“The potential is that prediction markets may be the thing that enables a big company to act more like a small, nimble company again,” said Jeffrey Severts, a vice president who oversees prediction markets at Best Buy, the electronics retailer. The store chain has experimented with prediction markets on everything from demand for digital set-top boxes to store-opening dates. For example, Mr. Severts said that in the fall of 2006, the prices in a prediction market on whether a new store in Shanghai would open on time — in December 2006 — dropped sharply from $80 a share into the $40 to $50 range. Players made yes-no bets, and the virtual dollar drop reflected increasing doubt that the store would open on time. Indeed, Best Buy’s first store in China opened late, in January 2007, but the warning signs from the prediction market helped prevent further slippage. Mr. Severts noted that prices in a current prediction market — betting whether new offerings from its Geek Squad service will be introduced on time in June — are in the $90 range, an encouraging sign. Best Buy plans to move beyond pilot projects in prediction markets to involve more workers throughout the company, starting next month. “It helps on two fronts, the speed and accuracy of information, so that management can move faster to deal with problems or exploit opportunities,” Mr. Severts said.
Previously: Do Google’s enterprise prediction markets work?
Previous blog posts by Chris F. Masse:
50% of our prediction market luminaries have a MacBook.
STRAIGHT FROM OUR TRUISM DEPARTMENT: Money buys happiness.
Ron Paul (R) and Barney Frank (D) ally together to attack “the practical hurdles of the federal law, known as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, rather than its legitimacy”.
Clicking on the “SPHERE: RELATED CONTENT” button, at the bottom of each Midas Oracle post, will bring you a list of external webspots.
FRIGHTENING: Jed Christiansen’s prediction market blog was briefly overtaken by web spammers, who inserted invisible links to their commercial sites so as to game the Google PageRank system.
InTrade ditch market-leader Bloomberg for low-cost, second-tier data provider eSignal.
Drawing a parallel between our reluctance to seek advice and the experts’ reluctance to take the market-generated probabilistic predictions in an un-discriminating, un-critical fashion