As the Arab world has become home to the world’s most active gamers, it has increasingly been eyed as a potential hotbed for game development. Back in 2011, estimates put the value of the regional market at $1.4 billion USD, and revenues in 2013 crossed the $100 million threshold in the Middle East. But the space is not too crowded yet, and there is still a big piece of the pie to be distributed between ambitious entrepreneurs interested in getting a seat at the table.
One such entrepreneur is Lebanese-Russian Piotr Yordanov and his latest venture, trivia game SwypeOut. At 23, this entrepreneur is already on his third project, having started out with real estate startup BaytBaytak (now shut down), and so-called ‘Pinterest for People’ Beepl. Yordanov’s ambition was clearly apparent during our chat, and he’s clearly applying the lessons he learned from past startups to SwypeOut, which launched earlier in July.
“Tinder for trivia”
SwypeOut is essentially the newest trivia game to come out of the region, but with a twist. The app has copied a main functionality from Tinder, the crazy successful dating app that has 10 million daily active users. One of Yordanov’s mentors once mentioned that piggybacking on someone else’s brand is a simple trick that can help your download count remain at certain number per day, and it has worked. “If you search for Tinder on the Playstore, you find SwypeOut.”
Players can choose from a selection of 10 topics (each with themes to unlock as they go), but instead of choosing between multiple possible answers, users get to use the trending swipe function. Questions are served as true/false cards and players swipe right for ‘true’ and left for ‘false’. Users can earn new levels of difficulty, each successive one requiring higher scores to be unlocked.
The game is appealing in that the swiping motion is quick, painless, and keeps you going through questions for far longer than you’d have initially imagined. You are presented with a breakdown of your game performance at the end of each run, which you can also share on social media for bragging rights, as well as a progress bar to show how far along you are from being able to unlock a new theme. To rake in numbers, you can play random series questions, which are randomly picked from different themes – and let me tell you, they’re not easy.
Given the large number of questions available from launch, the first question that comes to mind is: how did he source them?. “Organically, by hiring a small team of content providers early on,” rather than buying a trivia database, which can sometimes be of questionable relevance and qualify. As a work in progress, SwypeOut still stands to improve on design (Yordanov is bringing a designer on board) and work on a few syntax fixes for some of the questions. As of yet, the game is exclusively available on Android, but plans are in place to develop an iOS version.
“I literally mean it when I say that this app was a mistake; that’s how it started.”
While Yordanov was working on his second startup, Beepl (a Customer-Relationship Management system that allows you to manage, tag, and consolidate your contacts from Facebook and LinkedIn with a UX similar to Pinterest), he had his a-ha! moment as he was gleaning insights from users’ behavior on the platform. So he cooked up a small experiment, adding the swipe UX made popular by Tinder to a core – but underused – feature of Beepl: tagging. This quick hack allowed users to pick a tag, then displayed two contact cards for users to swipe right to merge them (if they belong to the same person), or left if they’re different. “It was the most abused feature on the platform, beyond any expectation. People would often do 200 merges in a row,” he adds.
“Then I thought: what if this was actually a questions card? That’s how SwypeOut was born. I decided to give it a week of development, and have a prototype that’s working,” he continues. “I didn’t need to convince people [with SwypeOut] whereas initially with Beepl, I did.”
When it comes to being agile, Piotr is a great example of operating as quickly as possible – a process the young entrepreneur has almost nailed down by observing user behavior, creating and monitoring funnels, in addition to healthy experimenting and adaption.
The quick answer is ‘a lot’. Ideas are coming thick and fast, and are implemented almost straight away, “like this week, we’re shipping local notifications,” which will likely positively impact the return rate, as players will be notified of new releases. When asked whether or not he was intending on localizing the game, Yordanov said that there were more important needs to attend to first; he plans to eventually give players the ability to add their own questions series, activating User-Generated Content (UGC) for the app, in addition to unlocking a multi-player feature. In-app purchases could also soon follow suit. Yordanov seemed to be bursting with excitement at the possibilities this impromptu venture, and we’re keeping our eyes open.
Download SwypeOut here.