When being a game developer just isn’t enough

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Kareem Abdullatif andHani El-Akel have a passion for gaming and in 2010 the Egyptian entrepreneurs decided to take a risk and found their own gaming company, Appsinnovate.

Spreading the Appsinnovate love. (Image via Appsinnovate)

It has not been easy though. App development can be a lengthy process, and for the cofounders, who have their hearts set on rivaling heavyweights like Rovio, Gameloft and Rockstar Games, this isn’t easy in Egypt. The development of a game can take anything from one to three years. As a result another source of income is nearly always necessary, and this is why Appsinnovate offers business solutions and corporate training. They then use the revenues to fund the development of their apps.

"We do everything for the sake of games," says Abdullatif, whose love for video games goes back to when he was three-years-old. "My father would think I'm crazy, but I would always ask myself who developed the game and what his thoughts were."

Toktok Drift, a 3D race car game, is the team's most profitable game so far. "We were really shocked by the number of downloads, which came from Saudi Arabia and UAE in general," recalled Abdullatif. "This number encouraged us to develop market-specific versions for India and Pakistan."

The price of commitment

Determined not to have the same fate as other Egyptian companies which "take their investor's money, spend it [unwisely] and close their doors", the two cofounders have put a lot of effort into efficiently running and investing in their startup. "Running a company is like getting married," said Abdullatif. “It's a personal full-time commitment.”

The team that keeps growing.

Abdullatif and El-Akel's team tried the hands-on approach of developing their own apps which include Blops, 360 Spins, Chiclets ta2ish and others, but later decided to outsource them as it proved too time consuming. The team instead focused on executing their business plan and expanded to a larger work force of what is now 13 programmers, four web designers, two on the sales team and a project manager. "This is the right structure," asserted Abdullatif.

A disappointing lack of awareness

Despite the Egyptian market's promising number of 18 million smartphones and tablets, he said, the Egyptian companies "aren't aware of the size and power of this sector. Their main concern is creating social media accounts and websites." Banks for instance rarely develop apps. “You might find only one or two banks that use smart apps," says Abdullatif. He views banks as not having a clear vision of the importance of incorporating apps, which gives him a mixed sense of optimism and pessimism for the future.

Looking back and looking ahead

"My dream was to work in what I loved. [At first], developing a game took a whole year, because we had a small team of seven people. Now, because of the expansion of our team, we can finish it in four months." He added that Toktok Drift received 350,000 cumulative downloads on iOS and Android.  

The cofounders are now putting their heads together for two new goals: devising a new advertising method that will generate more income, and adding a moral twist to their games. "There are two kinds of ads," said Abdellatif, explaining his first goal. "The first is fixed and always shown at the bottom of the screen, and the second is more controllable in terms of visibility."

But it's not all about the money. The company wants to use gaming as a channel to teach gamers good morals and useful skills. "By gaming, we can teach any fresh grad how to draft their CV," he explained." Games can also be used as models of good values for different segments of population, like employees and children. “If you ask someone about something but they can't remember, what do you do? You start ‘reminding’ them by narrating information, and voila the memory kicks in,” he said. “In an amazing educational game, each scene will allow the player to experience [...] how mathematics, geography and biology interact, and hence it is almost impossible to forget this.”

Working is like gardening

Our conversation with the hardworking entrepreneur ended with some sound advice, where he compared worked to planting of seeds. "The more you tend to the earth, the more it gives back to you." He also highlighted the importance of sharing knowledge in the workplace so that everyone is always in the loop.

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