Meet The Team: Q&A Session With Huddle’s VP of Analytics, Gabriele Cacchioni

March 12, 2024

Meet The Team: Q&A Session With Huddle’s VP of Analytics, Gabriele Cacchioni

In the newest edition of our 'Meet The Team' segment, we sat down with our VP of Analytics, Gabriele. He shares the unique blend of mathematical prowess and industry experience shaping Huddle's Analytics team efforts. Gabriele shares how his expertise shapes Huddle's approach to analytics and discusses exciting initiatives, successful milestones, and the collaborative strategies driving Huddle's transformative journey in the realm of sports betting technology.

Can you tell us about your background and journey that led you to your current role as VP of Analytics at Huddle? How does your background in mathematics influence your approach to analytics within the sports betting industry?

Gabriele: My academic background is in Mathematics, both at the undergraduate and master's levels. My professional career began in 2014 with an internship at Ladbrokes, where I took my first steps in the industry where I still work today. At the end of 2015, I moved to London for my first full-time job with The Stars Group (then Pokerstars). I started as a Quantitative Analyst and progressed to become the Lead Quant. After three wonderful years at TSG, I decided to leave my comfort zone and joined Smarkets. There, still in the role of Quant, I focused on algorithmic trading on the exchange. After two years, at the end of 2020, Francesco and Leo proposed me to join Huddle. I immediately believed in the project and became the first employee after the founders (an anecdote that I never fail to emphasize and that is starting to bore everyone who hears it for the umpteenth time). I started as the VP of Quantitative Development, building the Quantitative Analysis team in London, and then shifted more towards building the Data Engineering team full-time. Since 2022, corresponding to the growth of the second team, I have held the position of VP of Analytics.

Undoubtedly, my background in Mathematics has always influenced the approach I take to solving the problems that arise daily at work. What I have appreciated the most about the sports betting industry is that, compared to related fields such as finance and insurance, the available literature is much scarcer. Consequently, we often face problems that require ad hoc modeling. In these frequent cases, where you can't simply read about it in a book but must instead take the time to write with paper, pen, and patience, the mathematical approach proves to be particularly effective.

Are there any initiatives or projects underway within the analytics team that you're particularly excited about?

Gabriele: Certainly! On one hand, we are working on multiple fronts to expand the product portfolio in our suite. On the other hand, Huddle is undergoing a period of transformation and, from a small startup, is increasingly becoming a well-established reality in the sports betting landscape. This also means that we have the necessity of adopting more mature solutions and practices that are suitable for the growing needs we have. So, in addition to the development of the actual product, we are also working on initiatives that allow us to revamp our data governance and maintain greater control over the way our data evolve. Without delving into the raw details, I want to emphasize that in my experience many of these initiatives typically require a lot of time, but our agility allows us to implement them in parallel with the product roadmap, without sacrificing any delivery.

Can you share a recent success story or milestone achieved by your team?

Gabriele: There are many, but I will focus on the latest one. We have recently finished a complete revision of our model for Ice Hockey. It was a truly significant milestone because we were able to revolutionize both the model and the data projections in a very short time and very efficiently. Both teams in Analytics worked harmoniously with each other and the rest of the company, and I am really proud of the final result.

How does the analytics team at Huddle continuously improve its processes and methodologies to stay ahead in a rapidly evolving field?

Gabriele: At Huddle, we are aware of how important it is to stay updated and keep pace with the latest technological and methodological developments, especially in an industry like ours, which is evolving rapidly. A significant part of my work and that of the team leads is to ensure that the process is always agile and never hinders the achievement of the ultimate goal: making Huddle's vision come true. With the participation of the entire team, we periodically review our research, development, and data management methodologies, ensuring a good balance between best practices and bleeding-edge approaches.

Huddle’s journey in crafting the architecture for in-house built products (such as SGP, Player Props, Micro Betting) has been quite challenging from analytics and engineering perspective. What role did collaboration play in overcoming the challenges, both within the analytics team and with other stakeholders within Huddle.

Gabriele: Effective and efficient collaboration is undoubtedly the most important factor in determining the success or failure of a project, of this I am convinced. Based on my past experience, most occurrences where a goal was missed had a communication problem at their core. Fortunately, due to the size of the company and the culture, here at Huddle we manage to align ourselves well and clearly divide work and responsibilities among various teams. Recently, moreover, my department joined forces with the Engineering department under the leadership of Božo, our CTO, and this proximity in the organizational structure has immediately strengthened the already excellent collaboration between Analytics and Engineering.

As a VP of Analytics, you are in charge of two teams: Data Engineering and the Quant team. How do you see the benefits of tight collaboration of these two teams?

Gabriele: Bringing together two teams from seemingly different backgrounds under the same leadership has been a gamble I strongly believed in from the beginning. Thanks to Francesco, who believed in the project and gave me carte blanche in building the department, this slightly unorthodox choice has paid off: by ensuring that both the resources responsible for data collection and management and their main users are housed under the same roof, we have managed to minimize friction between teams, to the overall benefit of the quality of the final product and the speed at which we are able to deliver.

Looking ahead, what are your long-term goals and aspirations for Huddle's product/technology roadmap, and how do you plan to achieve them.

Gabriele: As I have already had the opportunity to emphasize, at Huddle, we are going through a highly transformative period: transitioning from being a small startup to a company with a strong international presence and rapid growth ahead. If in past years we focused on developing products we believed could have a broader market, now is the time to think big and orient the roadmap towards longer-term goals. Huddle's vision is expansive, and we will need fresh forces to face the future. For these reasons, as we have done in the past, the key will be to focus on onboarding talented resources who believe in the project and can help us position Huddle at the forefront of technological providers in our industry. People are and will always be our main strength.

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