We Got Funded: Tamatem Games Gets A US$2.5 Million Series A Funding Boost As a publisher localizing global games in partnership with international partners to make them more culturally relevant for the Arabic market, Tamatem Games wants to utilize the funds to capitalize on the success it has had since its launch in 2014.

By Sindhu Hariharan

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Tamatem Games

"Fundraising is tough, stressful, and time consuming," says Hussam Hammo, founder and CEO of Arabic games publisher Tamatem Games. "It's also a negotiation, and requires a lot of social skills to convince investors that you are worth their money and time." This Jordanian entrepreneur knows what he's talking about- after all, he's just successfully closed a US$2.5 million Series A investment led by some of the region's top investors- Wamda Capital, Discovery Nusantara Capital (DNC), Raed Ventures, and Vision Venture Capital. Existing investors 500 Startups, General David Petraeus, and Kima Ventures also participated in the round. The investment also brings founder and CEO Hussam Hammo, COO Eyad Al Basheer, and Wamda Capital, into the company's board.

As a publisher localizing global games in partnership with international partners to make them more culturally relevant for the Arabic market, Tamatem Games wants to utilize the funds to capitalize on the success it has had since its launch in 2014. "The new funding will allow us to publish better quality games in the region, increase spend on marketing, and expand to new geographic locations," says founder and CEO Hammo. He's also optimistic that the association with some of the region's most experienced investors can help open doors for Tamatem in the regional market. "[Besides] discussing critical decisions with them for the greater benefit of the business, they will also help us hire top talent, share knowledge and experience, and of course, help us raise more money in the future (if needed)," Hammo says.

A team meeting at Tamatem Games. Image credit: Tamatem Games.
With a team that's said to have an "extensive experience" in localizing and launching games catered for the Arab gamer, Tamatem Games reports growing 150% year-on-year since its launch. "The company has a [revenue] run rate of $3 million, and [is] expecting to double this number by the end of this year. We have published 40 different games on iOS and Android, and will be launching four to five new titles in 2018," adds Hammo. Though primarily engaged in tweaking and publishing global games to suit local tastes, Hammo says Tamatem has also developed more than 25 games internally in the past four years, but are now focusing entirely on publishing, as they couldn't focus on both. "In the future, we will be investing in creating our own titles, and run studios to produce games specifically tailored to our requests."

Being the company's first institutional round, the founder admits that the current close was a long-drawn one involving putting together the legal documents, and all company information such as financials and projections. "Our previous rounds were based on convertible notes; they were quick and fast, and raised when needed," he adds. As to how they navigated through the complex process, Hammo says they started off trying to find an anchor regional investor to lead the round. "Without a lead investor, it will be almost impossible to raise. I managed to establish a relation with an Indonesian fund (DNC) at the beginning, as I met them in China, and then the negotiation began. After getting the soft commitment from their side, I started looking for the best partner who can lead the round, and I chose Wamda Capital because I had previous relations with them," he recalls. "They [Wamda Capital] have been observing the business for the past two years, and when I talked to them again, they were interested in exploring this further. [Then], I happened to meet Raed Ventures in a conference in Dubai, we had a good conversation, and they showed interest, based on getting a commitment from the lead investor. When that happened, everyone else committed, and we started the closing procedure," he says.

Hussam Hammo, founder and CEO, Tamatem Games. Image credit: Tamatem Games.

While Tamatem may seem to be at a cosy spot today, its origin story has been quite a rocky one. Starting his entrepreneurial journey with the launch of an Arabic social network called faye3. com (that was subsequently acquired by Maktoob.com), founder Hammo ventured on to start an online gaming company called Wizards Productions. Despite experiencing failure with this venture (it had to wind down in 2012), Hammo did not give up on his entrepreneurial dreams, and with a fierce belief in the potential of mobile gaming, he continued to knock on investors' doors. "After months of rejection, I decided to apply to 500 Startups in Silicon Valley, and I got accepted to join the four months program as the first Arab to ever join it. I spent six months in the US, gained so much knowledge, built [my] first two games, and had good success." Buoyed by this win, Hammo then returned to Amman to launch Tamatem.

Today, Tamatem has grown to have a team of 26 employees, with the company planning to ramp up its strength to 40-50 by end of the year. "The interesting part is that 60% of the employees are females, and many of them are in top managerial positions," says Hammo, commenting on his company's culture and emphasis on diversity. This statistic can be viewed as heartening since Jordan has seen quite a few business migrations in the recent past, with entrepreneurs often speaking about hurdles in scaling their businesses in the country. Hammo admits hiring technical talent in the country is tough, and that "Jordan has to focus more on building capacity… most of the employees we have are fresh graduates, who we train and help excel quickly. Growing technical teams rapidly is tough and timeconsuming in the region in general."

A Tamatem Games Arabic game. Image credit: Tamatem Games.
Having said that, luckily for Tamatem Games, the startup is part of one of the region's most dynamic sectors that's also underserved. According to consulting firm Strategy&, the MENA's mobile gaming market is expected to be a $2.3 billion industry in 2022, triple of what it currently is, but at the same time, as Hammo puts it, just "1% of all content available online" is in Arabic. "Users in the region want to consume content in their original language. Saudi Arabia has the highest average revenue per paying user (ARPU) on mobile games in the world. If you compare Saudi Arabia to China, you will find that the ARPU in China is around $32 while in Saudi, it can reach $450," he explains.

However, it's not just Tamatem that has recognized and capitalized on this potential of MENA's gaming world. The company faces competition from other upstarts such as Falafel Games, Game Cooks, and other local gaming companies, but Hammo asserts confidently that Tamatem's database is their biggest strength. "With around 50 million downloads, we [have] gathered so much information about our users that allow us to retarget them with new games that we launch. This allows the new games we publish to propel quickly to the top of the charts with minimal cost." Well, here's hoping that the funding helps Tamatem Games better meet the hunger for localization among the region's gamers- good luck!

Related: The How-To: Marketing Your Mobile Game To The MENA Region

Wavy Line
Sindhu Hariharan

Former Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Sindhu Hariharan is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.  She is a financial consultant turned business journalist with a FOMO when it comes to everything technology.

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