With growing focus on Arabic web content, a number of new startups are seeking to grow and develop the way Arabic content is perceived on the internet and mobile. Today we have a talk with Jordanian mobile-gaming company, Tamatem, CEO Hussam Hammo, to tell us just how big Arabic web content’s potential is and how his company, Tamatem, in partnership with Mountain View’s 500 Startups, is planning to make the most of it and take it to new levels.
Digibuzz: Tell us more about Tamatem, what do you do and how did it start?
Hussam: Tamatem is a mobile gaming studio and publisher entirely focused on serving the Arabic smartphone users with games tailored for the culture and language of the region. In the past 4 years we had a company called Wizard Productions, we produced 14 games on Facebook and the web, and had over 1 million users. Before that my cofounder and I did a social network for the Arabic market in 2006. It was acquired by Maktoob, which was later acquired by Yahoo.
In 2008 a German game called Travian was highly successful in the Arabic market. The Arabic version was bigger than 50 other languages combined, and the Arabic one alone was grossing around 20 million dollars a month. We saw an opportunity in the market and we immediately decided to take it.
The Tamatem team is located in both Jordan and the US, but we also work with an exceptional designer from Tunisia, and a marketing acquisition specialist from Turkey.
Digibuzz: How do you view the Arabic content on the web right now?
Hussam: Less than one percent of all content on the web is available in Arabic, but the Arabic market is growing extremely fast. We believe there is a promising space for more Arabic web content, since Arabic users want more content in their language, and not everyone speaks English.
We want to help the Arabic language by increasing the prevalence and popularity of the language, encouraging Arabic speakers to use Arabic more instead of relying on English or Arabic in English letters. Arabic is the fourth biggest language in the world, and it’s a shame that there is little content online in Arabic. We want to change this. We want people to be proud of using apps in their native Arabic language, making top quality content available in Arabic content. This way we can change the perception of Arabic content both regionally and globally, bringing back cultural pride. We hope to also improve the use of traditional Arabic, and so our apps are educationally based using proper Arabic vocabulary rather than slang, helping to educate users in formal Arabic.
Digibuzz: How different is the Arabic mobile user from the global market, and how are you addressing MENA users’ needs?
Hussam: The Arabic user has a very specific cultural preference, and is extremely sensitive to content. He/she perceives content differently than other cultures. For example, it is not appropriate to make users guess an animal that is a pig, as it would be perceived as an insult. However, the Arabic user does share the same habits, adoption rates and spending behavior as the Western/American consumer, so the market has exceptional potential. We are creating culturally relevant Arabic games that are language intensive to satisfy the Arabic user.
Digibuzz: How is Tamatem planning to revolutionize Arabic mobile gaming?
Hussam: We are creating high quality Arabic culturally relevant games from all genres. We are also publishing localized games from big studios in the West, making them suit the needs of the Arabic users, since there is a demand for these games, but they are difficult for Arabic users to play because of language barriers.
Digibuzz: What are the highlights of Tamatem’s products so far?
Hussam: We currently have 5 games ready to be launched, and we are focusing on producing mostly games with trivia, quizzes, and other puzzles. We will also be launching other games as publishers, adapting games to be localized
Digibuzz: What platforms will you be launching on?
Hussam: iOS, Android & Web
Digibuzz: About funding and financial support, how did you get into 500 Startups, and how does that change Tamatem’s plans?
Hussam: We met the 500 startups team when they came to Jordan, and we are part of Endeavor Network, which gave us access to global investors and mentors. This helped put the Middle East on the map for international investors to come look at investing in great opportunities in the region that they might have otherwise overlooked.
After talking to many mentors and investors in the Silicon Valley, we can see that Western investors now believe there is a strong opportunity in the market that needs to be utilized. Because of 500 we have been able to have deals and collaborate with many amazing companies and entrepreneurs here, and we have been able to easily meet and talk with people that we previously thought were unreachable.
Digibuzz: What would you like to say to MENA small startups?
Hussam: I want MENA startups to realize that there is no shame in failure; just keep getting back up and pushing forward no matter what, and continue doing what you love most. Also, if one door closes, another one opens.
We advise companies from MENA to be ready to learn new things. It is important to be open to suggestions, criticisms, and alterations to their ideas, so that they can better fit the international market.
We also want to stress that there is room to focus on Arabic and international market for companies from MENA. Though we have seen and met so many entrepreneurs and ideas here, they are not necessarily any better than the ideas produced back in MENA. In some cases ideas and execution in MENA and entrepreneurs back home are more attractive than some of those we have encountered here, so keep trying.
Likewise, we have met many entrepreneurs from MENA that have made it big here, so I want to stress that it is important that MENA entrepreneurs continue to have faith in themselves and what they are doing in the MENA region.
One of the challenges we have seen is that the investors’ lack of awareness of the MENA region. Lots of improvements need to be made in this area, but with more MENA entrepreneurs coming here and making it big, it’s slowly changing. As the founder of Tamatem, we are not here just to sell our products and raise funds, but to also educate people about the potential of the Middle East, making investors and Silicon Valley realize what we can do and offer.
It has been a pleasure to collaborate with other Arab entrepreneurs here. As we connect and help each other, we are beginning to build a strong community of Arabic speaking entrepreneurs here in Silicon Valley, which we can work with for future ventures.
Source : digibuzzme