Welcome to issue #10 of our Q&A series, Startup Spotlight.
This series is all about diving into the world-class technological innovation conducted by exciting UK startups. Getting to grips with the technology, the mission, and even the stories behind them.
In each edition, we sit down with a different startup founder, leader, or operator in an easily digestible conversational style Q&A format.
We’re joined today by Jack Symons, CEO of Gamban, a software startup that reduces the temptation of online gambling by blocking access to gambling websites and apps worldwide.
- ❤️ How Gamban is challenging the stigma associated with gambling addiction
- ⚖️ Finding a balance between blocking too much content and not blocking enough
- 🤝 Joining forces with other UK organisations to deliver the best tools
Having had his own struggles with online gambling addictions, Jack understands that willpower is *not always* enough.
He’d previously tried to block sites that would draw him back into the world of online gambling. But, systems like parental controls were easy to override or they blocked pages that had no relevance to gambling platforms.
Combined with the emergence of an always-on approach to technology—the ability to have anything anytime, anywhere—he needed an ‘off switch’. Which, would help broaden the gap between the urge to gamble and *being able* to act upon it.
Gamban was born in 2015 as an app that was easy to download, with the sign-up taking only a matter of minutes and taps. From there it would work quietly in the background across all devices, blocking any sites or apps that could lead someone to temptation.
Gamban was created for people who want to stop *for good* by removing the temptation of online gambling permanently. Knowing too well how easy it’s been to pop back into users’ lives, Gamban is constantly updating their blocked site lists and apps. Today, this also includes forex trading and cryptocurrency platforms, since they too can provide a gambling rush.
Now used by thousands of people over the world, Gamban is one of the most effective solutions that makes it inconvenient to gamble online and helps to stop willpower from slipping.
We spoke to Jack to find get his perspective. Here we go.👇
What is the mission of your company?
I've always liked the expression 'recover loudly so others don't suffer silently'.
That's probably more of a personal mission, though. I've always been keen to reduce the stigma that prevents people from seeking help with gambling addiction. Our company mission is to reduce harm by creating space between urge and action.
How are you using technology to help solve that problem?
Gamban is software that can be installed on phones, tablets and computers. The product blocks access to gambling sites and apps worldwide and works especially well when used in conjunction with other barriers like banking gambling spend blocks, self-exclusion registers, and some form of treatment.
What's your unique selling point?
There's lots of moving parts to effective blocking software and it's taken significant time and money to get the product to where it is today.
In my opinion, it's the balance that we've achieved with our blocking coverage and level of intrusion vs protection with the product.
Too much blocking and it's not something people will tolerate; too little and it's not effective enough. So we take great pride in the curation of our block list - what gets omitted is almost as important as what gets added.
Equally the ability to circumvent the product is something we work tirelessly to counter. It's never going to be impossible but we try to make it as inconvenient to act on impulse as possible.
What have been the greatest challenges to date?
Too many to count!
It's been a challenge getting accepted into the 'framework' but we've established the role and importance of blocking software now.
Efficacy on 'restrictive' operating systems (iOS!) has been a challenge we continue to work on. Maintaining the 'balance' and keeping our focus on the simplicity of the product. Sure, we could add more and more functionality but almost always it's best to keep things simple and specific.
What major milestones have you achieved, and what's next!?
One of the biggest achievements has been the delivery of a joined-up approach in the UK.
TalkBanStop has combined the National Gambling Helpline run by GamCare, self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP and blocking software Gamban to ensure that people get the best tools promptly.
We need to make the most of that 'window' where people are willing to take affirmative action and prevent further harm. This has been received positively and independent evaluation has shown the use of multiple barriers to be effective.
There's a lot of change afoot with UK gambling reform so it's difficult to predict what's coming down the line but we know that the thousands of people who use—and will continue to use our product—deserve the best protection possible. We've got some exciting in-app functionality coming down to line so it's going to be a very busy year!
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