Since its inception, VentureMax Group has built its success on a solid foundation of doing what it does well. As CEO Justin Paul Anastasi prepares to take the business into its next chapter, he holds steadfast in his believe that embracing and adapting to change are crucial guiding principles for continued success.

Some people know exactly what they want to do from a very young age. Justin Paul Anastasi was not one of those people. “I started from very humble beginnings; my first job was at Popeye Village, cleaning pools and changing the batteries on go-karts,” he laughs. “I don’t think I could have imagined back then that this would be the path I’d find myself on. But I’ve always relished taking on every solid opportunity I could find, so things evolved, ambitions being what they are and me being who I am.”

Between that first job and his current work with VentureMax Group, Justin’s career has been a varied and unconventional one, from working in call centres to retail, sales and more both in Malta and the UK. The most significant step, however, came with his shift into the gaming industry. “It was a real landmark role for me,” Justin says. “I worked for several years in different jurisdictions, supported multinational teams, and was part of the ground teams setting up operations. It was a real eye-opening experience.”

Which is why, leveraging that experience, Justin established a freelance consultancy, providing recruitment and later HR advisory services. He achieved significant success before recently selling the company. Subsequently, he took on his role at VentureMax Group, contributing to the development of both the existing business and new business, thereby diversifying the group’s potential.

Transitioning from consulting C-level executives on enhancing their businesses to occupying a seat at that very table marked a significant change, Justin acknowledges, but one for which he felt thoroughly prepared. “I’m a very independent person. As much as I love being part of a team, my preference is definitely to lead. Rather than being hindered by challenges, I see them as opportunities. I appreciate the ability to provide genuine, impartial advice. Let’s face it – honesty can be compromised if tied to a pay cheque,” he says of his decision to venture out on his own. “I also felt that something was lacking in the industry. At the time, there weren’t many seasoned internal experts making the transition to external roles and bringing their experience to smaller companies. That, to me, presented an opportunity. There was, and still is, an appetite for that type of knowledge, and given that I had worked for such fast-paced, hyper-growth, unicorn companies in the gaming industry, I was well placed to provide it.”

Since its inception, VentureMax has primarily focused on the gaming industry, most notably the marketing space, achieving significant success within the industry. “We were able to slot in at a time when performance marketing, and marketing in general, was still in its infancy,” Justin recalls. “We had a solid network within the industry, and we focused on doing what we do well, and we have kept doing that, constantly tweaking and refining. Much of our success can be attributed to our commitment to specialising in what we excel at. A lot of companies branch out quickly and try to do everything, and often they get stretched too thin. We haven’t had that issue because we’ve always focused on what we do well.”

Now, with those solid foundations in place, Justin believes the time is right for VentureMax to branch out further. While the focus naturally remains gaming, Justin is interested in connected spaces, such as emerging tech and machine learning, as well as gaming businesses with more familiar concepts but unique focuses or operations.

“We’re very aware that we’re currently not a known entity in the gaming sector, so now I think it’s about taking us to the next level,” he says. “That means becoming more engaged with the industry that we’re so passionate about, that we love and that we’re successful in, and really giving something back to that sector. Now it’s about developing new business and finding entrepreneurs who have a great idea but perhaps not the support or capital to bring their idea to fruition, as well as early-stage businesses that want to grow or expand, that need a partner who understands them and can support them throughout their entire lifecycle, which is something that we can uniquely offer. For us, if we believe in the idea and if they can deliver, there really isn’t any need to keep selling the idea: we’re with them and we’ll support them throughout their company’s life.”

This new stage of the company’s evolution comes after a year that Justin defines with one word: change. “Everything that’s happened over the last few years has, I think, really settled in this last year. There are new dynamics and thought processes that have had a huge impact on people’s businesses, their caution, risk appetite and way of operating, not to mention the economy as a whole,” he explains. “As a result, there’s been a greater emphasis on people’s ability to adapt quickly. Companies have had to look at people they engage, who have been in the organisation for a while, and see how they could be of use in other roles. So, for the industry as a whole, change, adaptability and people have been the watchwords this year.”

Similarly, VentureMax has been putting in place the elements needed to spearhead its new stage of development, which has involved a new strategy and vision, as well as a new team, including significant new C-level additions. “We’ve taken our time to find the right people. It’s important to have the right people around you, and there’s nothing wrong with change,” Justin says.

Change and adaptability are also central to Justin’s outlook for 2024. “With regulatory frameworks and licensing regimes in flux, as well as the ways different jurisdictions regard marketing, there are going to be some businesses that really take the new landscape on board, adapt and thrive, and some that don’t,” he predicts. “For us, as investors, it’s going to be a very interesting scenario with a lot of opportunities. First, because we get to invest in what we love, but also because we’re potentially coming in at a time when these businesses really need us.”

For the industry, Justin believes, the big challenge now is how to adapt to these rapidly changing dynamics and ensure businesses are future-proof. “For some, it may be too late, because they haven’t planned for it or don’t have the cash flow needed. That said, if a company is looking for new investment, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It could just be a necessary change in direction, where they don’t have the cash to take the business in the direction they now know they need to – which is where companies like ours come in.”

VentureMax, of course, will remain focused on its continued evolution, with Justin pointing to two areas of particular interest: game development and further expansion in marketing – which he believes will be a make-or-break area for many companies given the changing dynamics. Greater name recognition within the industry and a strong portfolio of profitable, recognisable brands are also on the agenda. But, as always, Justin is less interested in doing things quickly and more interested in doing them right. “I really want to take the time to get to know the businesses and people behind the projects we invest in, to find the right fit. Because it’s not always just about having a great product, it’s about finding synergies with whoever’s driving it.”

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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