In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m Adrian Vella, CEO of Tipico, a global sports betting and iGaming operator. I’m originally from Malta, one of the smallest European countries, but from a young age, I envisioned something bigger for myself. I lived all over Europe, from the U.K. to Switzerland, and worked my way up by learning all areas of the sports betting business, from finance to data analytics.
I began my journey at Tipico in 2014 and moved to the United States in 2019 specifically to spearhead the launch of the Tipico U.S. platform. Since our initial launch in New Jersey, we have been active in four states, taking a hyperlocal approach to drive first-time platform deposits and establish long-term customer loyalty. We are the only online casino and sportsbook in the U.S. market that has built its proprietary greenfield tech stack from scratch.
What inspired you to create this business? What was your “aha moment”?
When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down its federal sports betting ban in the spring of 2018. We had witnessed explosive market growth and the industry’s cycles of maturity in Europe, and we foresaw the United States was on a similar trajectory. We also recognized that many players were scaling rapidly to acquire customers with white-label technology. We took a different approach, taking the hard steps to localize our technology as we had done in Europe. We had to act fast, but we also wanted to do things the right way by strategically entering certain states and developing our technology in-house. This philosophy of balancing speed and strategy in an unwavering commitment to the customer is one we still swear by today. For us, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you pivot to overcome it?
Moving from Malta to London was a difficult decision. It was a leap of faith, and at the time it was impossible to feel fully convinced I was doing the right thing. But I realized having this appetite for risk and making the necessary sacrifices would change my life. I overcame the uncertainty by embracing the discomfort, building strong working relationships, creating some semblance of work-life balance, and convincing myself this was my purpose. All my past experiences helped me transition and prepare for my new life in the U.S. This is a completely new culture and business landscape, but I’m adapting well!
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
Emphasize to investors exactly what problem you’re solving and what aspect of society you are improving. Highlight your niche and why you are different from the rest. Know your numbers — your revenue and growth and P&L figures — like the back of your hand. If you are in your early, pre-launch stage, give investors something they can feel and experience in your product or service, like a prototype or beta version.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
Many things. It means being an innovator. You’re a risk-taking, problem-solving, and passionate individual with an idea who wants to drive it forward and present it to the world. It means leading and inspiring people with your unique vision. It is not for everyone, and you need a thick skin and the ability to embrace failure and work through the ups and downs. Even before Tipico, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and that compelled me to take on the CEO role.
What is something many aspiring business owners think they need that they really don’t?
I’ve seen many aspiring business owners who are convinced they need to start with an enormous sum of money for security to back them up. But it could have been easier if they started by putting something into the market in an agile way. I also see people with so much potential to be great, and a desire to put their ideas out in the world, but they never do because they assume an incredible idea will just hit them like a lightning bolt. This is rarely how the journey manifests itself. Failure is part of the process, and I would encourage aspiring business owners who are on the fence about taking the leap to think less and do more.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
“Knowledge without action is meaningless.” — Abu Bakr
This quote deeply resonates with me. I am a proactive individual who thrives on continuous learning and nurtures an unyielding sense of curiosity. I’m always the guy asking a million questions when I’m trying to absorb new information. I firmly believe that the true value of knowledge is unlocked when it is coupled with action.
Tipico has seen years of success and market share growth in Europe, but we did not stagnate. We took what we learned and brought it to the booming, crowded U.S. market. Our perspectives remain futile unless we transform them into tangible outcomes through the process of learning from our failures and, most importantly, taking purposeful actions based on that knowledge. At work and in my personal life, the only regrets I have are from the times when I didn’t put things into action — when I didn’t go for it.