Fresh from coming third in last week’s Startup Turkey Challenge 2016, Tamatem CEO Hussam Hammo explains why his Jordanian company is attracting interest from around the world.
Amman in Jordan probably isn’t the first place that gamers or investors think of when looking for quality, but games company Tamatem’s CEO, Hussam Hammo is changing that perception.
Here he talks about how Tamatem is opening up the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA) region to publishers, gamers and, most importantly, investors. He speaks exclusively to Mob76 Outlook about why this market matters.
WHAT IS HAPPENING THAT MAKES TAMATEM RELEVANT?
I are seeing for the first time a major shift in the market for mobile games in the MENA region. Arabic is the fourth-biggest language in the world, but at present only 1% of content is accessible in this language.
I know that mobile gamers in MENA now want culturally relevant and localised content they can access in the app stores of Google and Apple. They are hungry for content, but the app stores are empty of Arabic content.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO CORRECT THIS?
My company is localising global content into Arabic and creating/publishing our own games because we understand our language and our audience. Whenever we publish or localise a game, it goes straight to Number One and it stays there for weeks. Just look at our website to see the ticker showing our real-time numbers.
WHAT IS THE BIG PICTURE HERE?
There are more than 100 million Arabic speakers and it is the fastest-growing market in the world. The demographics of the people in the MENA are among the youngest in the world because of the high local birth rate.
In some MENA countries, smartphone penetration is even higher than countries in Europe and the US, so the market is huge, and mobile games in MENA offer everybody, such as Saudi Arabian women, an opportunity to express themselves culturally and creatively.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM THIS COMPANY IS SOLVING?
Localising successful games from around the world has proved difficult in the past for games companies as the sector has not been targeted intelligently and with the Arabic market in mind. I saw an opportunity for me and our company to make a difference and also to build a big company based on this.
We offer gamers the chance to play their favourite global games by making them feel as if they were created in the territory where those games are being played. I hate it when I want to play games in my language and I’m bombarded by English greetings and language.
Our expertise and experience in this area and our massive database makes it very cheap and easy for our games, both localised and published, to reach top rankings across MENA. To date, out of 25 featured games, 22 have gone to #1.
TELL US THE STORY OF THE COMPANY
I founded the company in 2013 and later that year we became the first Arabic company selected by 500 Startups as part of the Dojo Distro in London. We were told that Silicon Valley and other investors would never be interested in Arabic startups and especially not a mobile games company. I was determined to change people’s minds and prove that a company based in Amman was as good as one based in Cupertino.
When I went to Mountain View and presented our deck that showed insanely high figures, lots of investors were instantly interested, resulting in a $1.15 million funding round. I are currently choosing which strategic investor is best for us as we raise another round in Q2 2016.
TELL US THE STORY OF YOU, HUSSAM HAMMO
I was early to social networks and created the first Arabic social network in 2006 and I sold this to maktoob.com, before that company was subsequently purchased by Yahoo!.
In 2008 I saw a great opportunity with a hugely successful German browser-based game called Travian that had been localised into 50 languages, but Arabic wasn’t included. I thought such games in Arabic were something the market was waiting for.
HOW QUICKLY IS TAMATEM GROWING?
We are seeing 40% month-on-month growth on downloads and revenue and in 2014-15 we had 200% growth over those 12 months. We have had more than 16 million total downloads of 35 games, of which 22 have reached Number One, and we now have more than 2.1 million monthly active users and 350,000 daily active users.
WHY SHOULD PUBLISHERS WORK WITH YOU AND NOT YOUR COMPETITORS?
We have spent the last decade working with Arabic customers and companies. We understand the market and what they need. We can also build communities bigger and better than anybody in MENA as well as having the largest number of credible global partners.