For several years, online video games competitions have emerged as a discipline of its own all over the world. Known as e-sport, it brings together more players and spectators every year but most importantly, attracts a lot of investments. In Egypt, a young entrepreneur decided to seize his share of the market by creating Gbarena, the first online platform for e-gamers in the Middle East.
With the growth of streaming platforms, e-sport has gained popularity among a large audience in the last decade. International tournaments have proliferated, reaching up to thousands of participants and millions of spectators, some of the professional players being now as much sponsored as some top-level athletes. Estimated at $ 1.6 billion in 2021, this market is majority-owned by the mobile industry, which has already taken over computer games or consoles.
Gaming lover and passionate, Samer Wagdy has made his hobby a full time job. With few college buddies, this computer science engineer and Egyptian programmer has created Gbarena, a platform that supports the e-gaming community by developing connections between players, competition organizers and sponsors.
Last month, they raised a seed funding from HIMangel, an Egyptian business angel company. A six figures transaction that should give a boost to this very promising start-up. Its creator has agreed to answered a few questions :
How was Gbarena born?
My current business partners Mustafa Zaza and Bishoy Mesdary are actually former classmates from Cairo University of Science and Technology. For our graduation project, we developed a gaming mobile application that won the Microsoft Imagine Cup, a global competition for computer science students. After graduating in 2016, we decided to go further by creating Gbarena. For us, it was a way to make money by doing what we liked, in bringing something valuable to the gaming community. Gbarena comes from « arena », the name of the virtual space where players play in competition.
It seems that you have a lot of incubation partners on your website. Especially in France. How did the project came about?
As soon as the idea came up in 2015, we applied to several incubators around the world and our idea was accepted in a competition in Copenhagen. This is where everything really started. I learned to orient my thinking in a more business way, as I am rather a developer originally. Then we were incubated at the American University of Cairo, where the idea was further developed. In January 2017, we entered in incubation in France with Aix Marseille french Tech where we stayed 8 months to develop our product.
What services does this platform offer?
E-sport is a well-known term in the gaming industry, where people compete against each other to win titles and rewards. Exactly like in football. Paris Saint Germain, for example, has an e-sports team. These teams are sponsored by big brands and participate in international tournaments. Gbarena is a hub that connects players who want to find tournaments, competitions organizers, and sponsors who want to target players. It is a tool that helps organizers to create tournaments from A to Z, automating the entire process, such as communication with players or sponsors research. Our platform manages everything from the registration, scheduling of matches and bracket generation to match results and announcements of final winners
How is your business model?
We’ve built a big strategy of partnerships with media companies, hardware manufacturers, and big brands that want to reach out our audiences, in order to grow in the Middle East and other regions. We also recently raised seed funding with an investment fund in Cairo.
What does the e-gaming landscape look like today in Egypt?
In Egypt, we have a community of e-gamers that spends little amount of money, but very important in number. Last year for example, we spent $ 2 million, which is a very huge amount of money for the country. But e-sport remains a hidden market because people do not realize the opportunity it represents and the potential of the players. Our first client was a mobile manufacturer, who entered the market by creating a gaming phone. We suggested to organize a tournament for them by taking care of their entire brand campaign. Some companies had put up to 100,000 Egyptian pounds (about 6,000 euros), which represents a big sponsorship budget for the Egyptian market.