Flat6Labs Tunis organized last Thursday 8 August, in partnership with Attijari Sicar, B@Labs and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the “Investor Academy” program that will support the launch of a new wave of private investors in Tunisia, “Business Angels” — Individuals who invest their own funds in innovative companies, at a seed stage or at the beginning of their operations; and offer their skills, experience, as well as their network.
Several distinguished guests attended the event, including Mr. Marouan Abbassi, Governor of the Central Bank, Mr. Ferid Belhaj, Vice President of the World Bank for the MENA region and Mr. George Joseph Ghorra, Resident Representative of the IFC in Tunisia, as well as Mr. Aly El Shalakany, Managing Director and Founder of Cairo Angels and Mr. Marcel Dridje, EBAN President and Founder of Sofia Business Angels.
Yehia Houry, Managing Director of Flat6Labs Tunis, emphasized that “This initiative comes from the fact that in order to grow, startups need several rounds of funding to develop. At the moment, Tunisia is trying to improve the environment of entrepreneurs and investors, especially through regulatory improvements such as the Startup Act. It is for all these reasons that the Investor Academy comes just in time to generate more investment opportunities.”
Several partners supported the initiative, including Attijari Sicar, which announced a new offer specifically dedicated to Business Angels. “To encourage this initiative, Attijari Sicar is committed to match the promise of investment between business angels and startups present at the event starting from tickets superior to 100K TND. And with this collaboration with business angels, we will create a trusting relationship between Startups, Business Angel and the Sicar”, said Mr Yasser Lourimi, General Manager of Attijari Sicar, a subsidiary of the Attijari Bank Group in Tunisia.
The event was also the occasion to announce the launch of the Maghreb Angel Investor Network, a network of Business Angels across the Maghreb region initiated by Mr. Noomane Fehri, Ex Minister of ICT and CEO and Co-Founder of B@Labs, who co-organized the event along with Flat6Labs.
The initiative was also supported by the IFC where Mr. Georges Ghorra, Resident Representative in Tunisia emphasized that “Tunisian entrepreneurs can further grow with a supportive ecosystem. Events such as the Investor Academy help strengthen the connections between entrepreneurs, creating space for further collaboration, learning and growth.”
SINC, a Bahrain based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) mobile platform that simplifies the management of a mobile workforce by operating timesheets, location tracking, staff scheduling, and job tracking, has raised US$250,000 in a pre-seed funding round led by Dubai Angel Investors and other prominent regional angel investors. The funds will be used in the short-term to expand SINC’s development team and build out the job tracking functionalities that small businesses in North America desperately need.
One of the main problems facing blue-collar small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is that with labor costs growing exponentially compared to revenue, the accurate analysis of such data can be difficult and traditional timesheets may result in employers overpaying staff. Furthermore, payroll administration tasks can consume up to 20% of the business owner’s time and staff scheduling systems can be complex to manage.
Overcoming such issues, the SINC mobile app or web platform improves the reporting on staff tardiness and no-shows, as well as improving productivity and accountability with job costing analysis capabilities being placed at employer’s fingertips. Additionally, the application reduces payroll administration time by 98% and reduces payroll costs by 10–15%.
SINC is built with mobility and convenience in mind as the mobile app allows human resources management and staff to undertake their in-office functions on-the-go.
Sam Dolbel, Co-Founder and CEO of SINC commented, “Basically, we are trying to win the domain of blue-collar SME job tracking and costing, so nailing this feature is the next big priority for us and what we have been working towards since we started building SINC two years ago. We are now on the cusp of implementing the solution, so it is a very exciting time for us.”
Dolbel continued, “There are currently over 4,000 businesses using the SINC platform and while 90% of these users are based in the U.S. and Canada, the company has decided to build out its engineering team in Bahrain where skilled engineering talent abounds, and operating costs are relatively low.”
Sam Matthews, Co-Founder and CTO said, “We believe we have a unique strength in that we are scrappy and cost-effective. By strategically positioning ourselves in the MENA region to take advantage of the labor market and available subsidies through organizations such as Bahrain entity Tamkeen, we are confident we can compete with some of the large US-based competitors and win our vertical of blue-collar small businesses.”
SINC has ambitious targets, looking to initially expand its presence and customer base across North America, targeting a sizeable portion of the estimated 1.5 million small blue-collar businesses in that geography. The company then seeks to develop tailor-made solutions for the ever-growing and unique labor environment in the MENA region.
Dolbel concluded by recognizing the proactive efforts of the Bahrain Economic Development Board in providing an attractive and conducive environment for setting up in the Kingdom as well as acknowledging Flat6Labs Bahrain support and mentoring in many aspects of SINC’s growth strategy.
SINC is available on both Google Play and iOS App Store. More information can be found at https://sinc.business/
The startup scene in the MENA region has been focused on all industries, but gaming; few gaming-focused entrepreneurs start-up, and even fewer make it and earn the recognition they deserve in this very challenging setting. We intend to highlight through this Q&A with the Founder of Yayy, Ziad Talge, one of the very promising gaming startups from Flat6Labs Beirut, Yayy: a gaming studio that is currently focusing on creating hyper-casual games.
- Q: When did you start pursuing gaming, and how did you kick your startup off?
It was back in April 2016 that we decided to start a project where we can connect the real world to the parallel world. As a big fan of the Lord of the Rings book series, I have personally always sought as a kid to become a fantasy hero. And this is how it kicked off!
- Q: Why did you take up the challenge to start it up?
We decided to start this studio because we believed that we are capable of creating content that would attract people from every part of the world. That was and still is our main motive.
- Q: What are the games that Yayy has developed?
Until today, and since we joined Flat6Labs Beirut, we have developed 7 games: Conquerors of The Realm, Unicorn Slayer, Zombie Smash, Mess it Up!, Fun Hoop, Domino Hit and Domino Stacks. Currently we’re in the process of releasing an 8th title and many others in the pipeline.Q: How do you think your games can compete with prominent and international games in the market?
With the current games that we tested in the US, we are proud to say that we compare in our KPIs to top performing games. Our retention rates are close to those of hit games and so are our CPIs. We’re constantly improving those KPIs and aiming to release a hit game.
- Q: What are you trying to change with Yayy — what’s your ultimate goal?
Our ultimate goal is to create an entertainment company that is able to create content from this region and ship it to the rest of the world. We believe that there is huge talent in the region that is focusing on local content. We would like to change that. We want the local talent to focus on global content. We want to become a Disney from the Middle East.
- Q: Who is your role model in the gaming industry?
Well there are many key players in the industry, but what appeals to us the most are Supercell. They started small and they’ve pivoted multiple times — just like we did — until they found their business model in mobile strategy games. If you closely follow their work, you can see that they’ve killed more games than they’ve released games. This is the mentality we are lacking in the Arab world, and this is what we’re trying to change. It’s a matter of persistence before you make it. We’re on to it.
- Q: How do you think the gaming industry in the MENA will change in the upcoming years?
- Q: What are you trying to change in the mobile gaming market?
In terms of the mobile gaming market, it has become more crowded than it has ever been. However, if you follow the Top Charts, you notice that the top publishers in the mobile gaming market are scattered around the world. With French companies dominating the Top Charts, companies from Turkey, Belarus and China are providing a huge competition. We are trying to establish a studio in the region that is able to publish content from this region and to compete with such companies dominating the Top Charts. It’s about time a publisher from this region breaks the top charts. We’re positive that Yayy would be the one.
- Q: What does your startup need the most now?
We are always on the lookout for talents in the field. We’re aiming to grow our team of developers, 3D artists, animators, music producers, etc. We’re looking for skilled people to join us and make their own impact within the company. Of course, when we talk about talent and skills we cannot neglect that we’re looking for funding to be able to support the current team and to grow the team so that we would create more games in the shortest amount of time and iterate fast to increase our chances of success.
- Q: Why did you join Flat6Labs Beirut and tell us more about your acceleration experience?
We worked for two years in our room to create the concept that we were visualizing. After launching on Kickstarter and attending different events around the world, we learned that there were too many things to acknowledge before we can make something big and make a huge impact. As you may know, and since Flat6Labs is the biggest accelerator program in the region with a presence in more than 6 countries, we found that it was intuitive to apply to the Beirut program. Flat6Labs’ most important value for us was mentorship and market access which was vital for our personal and the projects’ growth. I can safely say today that we made the right decision.
- Q: What are the markets that Yayy targets?
Our target market is the US market before we ship our products globally. As a matter of fact, currently we have 4 of our games being tested in the US market: Mess it Up, Domino Hit, Domino Hit, and Domino Stacks.
- Q: What is your advice for startups in the gaming scene?
From our personal experience, and learning from our own mistakes, we learned that four factors are the most important. First of all, DON’T fall in love with your games. There is a big difference between loving what you do and falling in love with what you do — Keep that in mind. Second would be to start small. Yes, we can all get excited to make a huge impact, but we have to be realistic at the same time; we started one big project, and here we are now producing several smaller games per month and increasing our chances of success. The third point would be mostly to test with people around you. So keep the end user in mind. We might read this a lot, but eventually this is what we fail to do. As a game developer, you would be excited to create a new mechanic that no one ever did before, and you tend to fall in love with your creation. In reality no one wants it. Again, keep the end user in mind because the market is your boss. Finally, keep an open mind. You might need to pivot from your dream to make things work; however, keeping the initial vision in mind.
- Q: What are the common struggles for people who want to enter this industry?
The biggest problems for people who would like to get into the industry are mainly due to limited market knowledge. Since in the gaming market itself, there are many “verticals”: some studios would focus on PC games, console or mobile games. Each vertical has its own market penetration strategy and marketing channels. The second problem is the result of the first one, new people getting into the market usually lack the marketing skills. Some games require user acquisition only, while others require a strong community following. It’s a matter of positioning yourself in the market. The last one would be something already mentioned: falling in love with your games before going to market. This would result in a long development cycle and end up with a big game — starting big is a great risk of failing. It’s also important to note that if you’re a gamer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you know the market. You might have the game development skills, but you would be lacking the business skills.
- Q: What can you tell startups about your post-acceleration period with Flat6Labs?
If we look back to Yayy before Flat6Labs and Yayy after Flat6Labs, we would require a whole new article to point out the benefits we’ve received and the things we’ve learned. But to mention the most important points in our opinion: the mentorship and guidance we’ve learned and keep on learning through the huge network of mentors that they provided. As a matter of fact, we are still until today, 8 months post-acceleration getting mentorship and guidance from experienced people in the industry and people that have been in our shoes. One important thing to mention as well is the access to offices. We’ve received a full year of office space to kick off our companies. You never value these things until you get to lose access to them. Thanks to Flat6Labs Beirut and the amazing supporting staff!
- Q: Other than Yayy, what’s your favorite gaming startup?
We don’t know if they would still consider themselves a startup, but our choice would definitely be Voodoo. The French company has been leading the top charts with multiple games. They started not long ago, but their business model and amazing team is what got them there. They are data centric, they iterate fast and most importantly they share their knowledge with fellow people in the industry helping smaller studios grow and establish themselves in the industry.