Interview on SkyNews Arabia

Posted on 14 June 2013
Written by Sohaib
Filed under News
0 Responses to this post

Last Thursday I was interviewed on Sky News Arabia on a 15 minute show called Afaq (Horizons in Arabic), the show focused on the story of Wizards Productions, how it started and it grew and then how it closed down, the show also briefly discussed reasons why startups in the region are closing and/or having a hard time and some lessons learned that would be beneficial for startups.

 

Share

Participating at AmmanTT

Posted on 14 May 2013
Written by Sohaib
Filed under News
0 Responses to this post

Last week I participated in AmmanTT’s edition about failures, yes, a strange topic to many people, the event took place at the 3rd anniversary of AmmanTT and was moderated by the amazing Maher Kadoura.

The main purpose of the event was to share the experiences that 3 startups, Wizards Productions, Taktek Games and Wheels express went through and the lessons learned from all the ups and downs these startups went through.

The main lessons were:

1- If your going to fail, fail quickly and cheaply.

2- Focus on building a top notch team, try to recruit the needed resources from the beginning either by providing shares or partnership.

3- Make sure there is real demand in the market for what your building, don’t assume and validate what you think you know about the target audience/users.

4- Test the market quickly with quick prototypes to validate your assumptions.

5- Be transparent with your team, transparency helps your team members to feel involved in the business, encourage ownership and allow them to shine inside and outside your company.

These were the main points that the discussion revolved around, it was an excellent event and I really hope it was beneficial for everyone that attended.

Below are some pictures from it.

 

BJrYpiPCYAIr-7S BJrShcuCIAMrU1V BJrPDuGCcAEPT2L AmmanTT

Share

My interview on Sinbadtalks the new web show

Posted on 18 February 2013
Written by Sohaib
Filed under News
0 Responses to this post

I was interviewed by my friend Ahmad Takatkah in the 1st episode of his web show Sinbad Talks #sinbadtalks discussing in detail the reasons behind the closure of Wizards Productions and the lessons learned from this experience, the main reason that drove me to do this interview is to share and spread this experience with other startups and entrepreneurs in hopes that they dont do the same mistakes we did, hope this contributes to our growing entrepreneurial eco system.

Here is the full interview:

 

Share

11 Lessons learned after 4 years at Wizards Productions

Posted on 27 January 2013
Written by Sohaib
Filed under Business, Projects
8 Responses to this post

EDIT: This blog post has been featured on Wamda with a few more details about the closure of Wizards.

It is a challenging task to try and summarize 4 years of experience in a single blog post, every time I thought about writing this post I had no idea where to start, so I decided to start by writing the random thoughts I had and see how that goes.

There are two main reasons for this blog post, one is to share the important outcomes after 4 years of co-founding and working at a startup, which at some point was one of the biggest gaming startups in the region, with everybody else in hopes that it benefits those who are starting a new company or thinking of setting one up, the 2nd reason is to have them written down somewhere  where I can come back to them and remember them when needed.

Please note that these points are the outcome of running an online gaming business for 4 years, so it may not apply for all types of businesses but I think some of these points are common between all types of start ups. These points are not ordered by importance, its just a listing of what came to mind 1st.

Discuss the vision!

You may be surprised that in many startups, the big vision that the company is established to achieve is something that not all founders have discussed or agreed on, I am not talking about the fancy two liner vision that you wrote down in your business plan, the natural outcome of a successful start up is making money which most founders will agree on but the ways and means to that outcome is not always discussed, the money should be the outcome of achieving the vision, when the money doesnt start rolling in as expected, thats when issues start to arise.

Agreeing on the vision from the 1st day with your partners and then with your investors down the road is critical, if the place your going towards is agreed upon by everyone, anything else becomes details that lead to that vision, the vision should also have an extended version which outlines the main points of how your going to achieve this vision, this also should be agreed upon from the beginning,  these details can obviously and will probably be changed during the course of the startup, it is critical to discuss these changes with partners/investors to minimize any issues that may arise later on.

Deal with issues immediately!

One of the biggest mistakes any co-founder can do is not dealing with issues he/she knows are there immediately and hoping it would go away on its own, not dealing with small issues especially between co-founders and employees can turn them into big issues, this also leads back to the vision point, if everyone agrees on the vision, everyone should also agree what each co-founder is going to do, which is one of the issues that startups may run into, define responsibilities and agree on them from day 1.

Build a top notch team

One of the worst things a startup can do is compromise in the founding team, make sure your founding team covers the main aspects of the business, if your a tech startup you should have a technical engineer on board, if your developing a B2B app and its critical to land deals with enterprises then make sure the founding team includes a kick ass sales and marketing guy, there are allot of ups and downs in startups and retaining this main founding team is critical for your success.

Invest in scalability

I see allot of start up doing this mistake, this was an issue we ran into in the early days in Wizards and I continue to see this happening over and over which is in many ways understandable, startups sometimes cant afford to invest in a scalable application and have to rely on open source or custom built applications that dont account for fast growth, the success of the website/application/service becomes the downfall of it when it cant cope with the demand. Try and make up for this by bringing in a tech guru as a member of the founding team or even as an advisor and get his/her help on the best way to approach building a scalable app!

Surround yourself with supporters

Startups are tough, you will go through allot of ups and downs and if you don’t have supporters around you you are doomed to fail, to clarify supporters shouldn’t agree with everything you say, on the contrary they are the ones that try to find flaws and issues in your plan so make sure you accept any constructive criticism and dont turn on the defensive, it is in the times where the business starts to run into issues where you truely know who your supporters are, so make sure to keep them around and get rid of the others!

Pick your partners and investors carefully

Not everyone willing to give you money is a good investors and not every partner with a big brand is a good match, a big partner might be too slow for an agile startup that is looking to launch a product quickly, and an investor that is willing to give you cash when your doing great might be the one that lets you down when you need him for something else (mentorship, connections, support your plan and vision) especially if your on the down-run   pick your investors carefully and bootstrap your business for as long as possible, this enhances your chances when your negotiating an investments and makes sure your on solid grounds.

Prepare for the worst

Plan for the worst, if you build a marketing plan, launch plan or revenue projections, always plan for the worst, this will come in handy with investors, if you do better then your over performing. Account for delays in development, under performing marketing and delays in collecting cash in the market.

Never Over-promise

Don’t over promise anyone, not your partners, investors or employees, you might think that I’ll convince them with over promising on delivering a certain milestone, achieving a certain target or make an adjustment to the company, two things might happen, they will know your bluffing and you’ll look like a jackass, or they’ll believe you and when you dont deliver you’ll lose their trust, and respect.

Build a hard working/high reward environment

And set an example of that! dont ask your team to work there ass off without at least matching their effort, this is your company after all, bootstrapping startups is tough and you cant do that without such an environment, the high reward part is also important, celebrate small achievements on a daily basis even if with a high five and celebrate big achievements with a dinner, bowling night or whatever.

Share everything with your team

One of the mistakes we made in Wizards was that we kept allot of things between the management team and didnt share it with the rest of the team, how the company is performing, both on the ups and downs, which investors are investing in the company, how did the last board meeting go and what was discussed, new investors and partners your talking to are all things we should have shared, increased transparency is always good, to start with it increases the understanding of the team of why thing like bonuses or vacations are delayed, why stock options have still not been issued etc.

Know your users, keep things simple

If something is working, generating revenue, don’t mess with it unless your know who your users are and what they want extremely well, keeping things simple and not complicating your product is usually a safer bet, to be more specific, let me give you an actual example of what happened in one of our games and how we learned this lesson the hard way.

We had a big hit on our hands, Arabianhitman was extremely successful and at some point i can safely say it was among the top 5 browser games in the Arab world, we had a technical issues with scalability (point above) which forced us to rebuild the game from scratch, the problem occurred when we enhanced on the game and added new features that we were sure that its users would love, sadly that didnt happen and we ended up losing most of the user base (there are allot of minor details and I am summarizing, but this is one the main reasons why the game never got its former glory back) we should have rebuilt the game to be scalable but kept the game features and functionality un-touched.

Hope this has been a useful post and I hope it benefits some of the aspiring new enterprenerus, please leave a comment and let me know what you think, if you have any other advise do share it with us.

Share

Busy Week

Posted on 10 November 2012
Written by Sohaib
Filed under News
0 Responses to this post

So its been a very busy week for me which didn’t allow me to focus allot on the new projects I’ve been working on, I did manage however to launch a mini site promoting a bunch of gaming offers, got some links for it and finished its SEO, I also managed to do some good work on a new project (more details on it in later posts) but its not complete yet for launching it.

Arabic Content Forum

 

Last Wednesday I took part in a panel discussing Arabic mobile content and app in the content arabia forum which is a new forum happening for the 1st time, over all it was a great event, the panel discussion was a bit quick  but hopefully useful. Over 400 people attended the event so it was great for networking. Here are a couple of images from the forum.

Wamda Mix ‘N Mentor

 

Yesterday Wamda organized a great event gathering Jordanian entrepreneurs and Geeks on a plane hosted at Oasis500′s offices, by far a great event, each entrepreneur was asked to sit in a number of quick 15 minute meetings that included other entrepreneurs and 2 visitors from Geeks on a plane and have a round discussion about the startups the entrepreneurs are starting or running. Great to get some feedback and insight on your startup/idea and get to hear some really cool ideas others are working on.

Endeavor’s Speed Networking event

 

Today’s Endeavor speed networking event included Geeks on a plane as well as Partners for a new beginning, the event was split into two main parts, meeting the geeks on a plane and the other on meeting PNB, since we’ve met the GOAP guys the day before it, we spent the time meeting investors and entrepreneurs, again the setting was arranged so that each company/entrepreneur gets 15 minutes with each person/investor, below is an image of myself and Hussam chatting with Roger Dickey, the guy that created Mafia Warz and later sold it to Zynga!

Share

Back to Affiliate Marketing

Posted on 28 October 2012
Written by Sohaib
0 Responses to this post

I’ve been preparing myself for the past week or so to get back to affiliate marketing, its been over a year since I did any affiliate marketing mainly due to the fact that I’ve been extremely busy with running Wizards Productions, now that I have some free time and Wizards is going through some restructuring (more on that in future posts) I thought that I should get back in shape regards to my websites and affiliate marketing.

Updating my blog

 

The 1st thing I started with is to update my blog, I updated it to the latest WordPress version, then I cleaned all of the old blogroll links that I had, its been a very long time since I checked them out and to my surprise, most of the links that I had exchanged with bloggers, marketers etc were either completely dead or were inactive, so they had to go, then I updated the banners, removed a banner for a file hosting site I started which was closed for some time now and added the Peerfly banner, since that will be one of the main affiliate networks I will be using in my upcoming campaigns.

The next step was to search for a good link cloaking wordpress plugin, I found that a couple of paid plugins but I settled with a pretty good free link cloaking (or masking as my friend Tyler likes to call it) plugin that does the job well, as you know its been proven time after time that hiding your affiliate links help allot in increasing your affiliate sales.

Getting Back in Shape

 

The next step was to get back in shape with the latest trends in Affiliate marketing, I literally spent most of the past 2 weeks (as much as my married life allows me) reading blogs, forums and sites to see how much I’ve missed while I was deep in Wizards, gladly though I think I havent missed much, I did make sure to keep up with the main headlines of things in the past couple of years, so after 2 weeks of preparation, I think I am ready to get started and here is what I am doing right now!

Affiliate networks that I’ll be using

The 1st step of getting back to affiliate marketing is deciding on what affiliate networks I’ll be using, I’ve made up my mind on using two networks mainly, Peerfly being one of them, they were the last network I joined around a year and a half ago I think and their interface is quite familiar and easy to use, plus in the past 2 weeks of preparation I’ve read that they are one of the best networks out there these days.

Offers I’ll be promoting

The 2nd step was to decide on the offers that I’ll be promoting and the niches I’ll be focusing on, and boy was this a hard step, there are literally thousands of offers and tens of categories that all seem to have great potential in my eyes, however after doing some research I decided to start and stick to two main categories, gaming (due to my extensive experience in this field) and dating offers.

Some of the other niches I plan on trying are email submits and the health niche.

Method of lead generation

As most of you know, there are two main methods of generating leads besides email marketing, SEO and PPC, and I plan on diversifying and trying both, since I have allot of expertise in SEO, I figured that it will be my long term strategy of generating leads and probably the one with the biggest ROI since I will be doing all of the work my self and only pay for the actual price of the links that the rankings might require.

To properly implement both PPC and SEO setups, proper keyword research had to be done to both determine the long term and short term keywords I’ll be targeting for the offers I will be promoting under the SEO strategy, that has been done and I’ve already launched a mini site promoting around 6 gaming offers, I am also using that domain to try out some PPC gaming offers and launching landing pages under folders, the next step is to launch multiple landing pages and track the different conversion rates each landing page is getting. That is of course much easier to do for the PPC campaigns and much harder for the SEO as seeing results for those pages might take months, however I will definitely be implementing the results i see from the PPC campaigns into the other pages and mini sites.

Traffic Sources

In regards to PPC, I’ve identified 6 ad networks that I’ll be testing and trying for the different offers I’ll be promoting, Adwords, Bing and Facebook are certainly among them, some offers have a low payout and a very competitive industry that from the initial look at things, it wouldn’t make sense to try and promote them at these top tier ad networks, the other 3 ad networks are also PPC ad networks  I’ve already tried one of them for a gaming offer that is not converting well so far, I’ll try some other gaming offers and see how well that converts before scratching this traffic source for gaming offers all together.

This is the main strategy I am working on, I’ll make sure to include the results of the test in my next post. I am planning to do a major post every 1-2 weeks and try to include as much details and useful information as possible as opposed to smaller posts with less information, but who knows I might also do smaller updates if I have any major to update you on. This is of course for any posts regarding my affiliate marketing initiatives, I’ll be sharing more and more information on my other endeavor’s as well soon.

Share

Where can I get funding? Here is the answer!

Posted on 25 October 2012
Written by Sohaib
Filed under Business
0 Responses to this post

I am asked this question almost every time I attend an event from young entrepreneurs that are just starting out their business or even from businesses that are not familiar with the concept of fund raising, so here is the answer, If I’ve left out anyone please do leave a comment and I’ll add them to the list.

These are of course the VC/accelerators in the Middle East region, if your startup has global potential or provides a global service, its probably a good idea to look at applying to accelerators such as Ycombinator500 StartupsTech Stars and many others.

In no specific order:

  1. N2V
  2. Wamda Capital
  3. Meydan
  4. Mena Apps
  5. Dash Ventures
  6. Silicon Badia

Regional VC (these VC’s usually look at companies that have been established for some time, have traction and revenue)

  1. Abraaj
  2. IV Holdings
  3. STC Ventures
  4. MBC Ventures
  5. Twofour54
  6. MEVP

Accelerators (apply if your early stage, business plan phase or just starting out, some of them accept companies that are more developed and some dont)

  1. flat6labs
  2. Plug and Play Egypt
  3. Oasis500
  4. Seeqnce
  5. Berytech
  6. SeedStartup
  7. N2V Labs
  8. Twofour54’s Ibtikar Creative Lab

I am sure there are others but this is what i can remember now, hope this has been useful, remember, the more developed your business is the better deal you’ll get. Try to delay the investment as much as possible and bootstrap as much as you can.

Share

Featured as entrepreneur of the week on Wamda

Posted on 07 September 2012
Written by Sohaib
Filed under News
0 Responses to this post

Hi all, I’ve been featured on Wamda.com, one of the biggest websites in the Middle East promoting entrepreneurship and innovation and covering tech news and startups in the region.

Check out my interview in the Video below, on the same week Wizards Productions was selected among the top 15 MENA tech startups that are going global.

 

Share

My visit to London with Endeavor

Posted on 12 July 2012
Written by Sohaib
Filed under News
0 Responses to this post

Its been almost a couple of weeks since I came back from London, I went there to attend Endeavor’s investor truck event, which is basically a speed dating session with 10 investors and VC’s, each company had 10 minutes with each VC to pitch their idea, before it there was a great session for entrepreneurs which gave us valuable advise when it came to raising funding rounds and the best way of doing that and some good tips when negotiating with VC’s.

The most important part was the term sheet, make sure to get feedback from others on the terms as some of them can be quite tricky if you dont understand them well, Endeavor for example gives great advise and can even help in the negotiations if needed to make sure your getting the best deal that you possibly get, obviously this is a service they offer to their existing entrepreneurs so it might be a good idea for you to apply for their next ISP (International Selection Panel) which takes place Istanbul on the 1st of Oct. 2012.

The event was very successful with lots of useful networking, an in-formal meeting the day before the speed dating session took place on a cruise which was absolutely amazing despite the fact that I was a little sea sick. Earlier on the same day we took a tour at the Tech City which houses more than 1000 tech related companies, the tech city however does not look like your typical tech city, I’ve added a couple of images (6 and 7) from the streets of the tech city, these normal looking buildings actually incubate loads of tech related start ups!

The city of London was amazing, it was my 1st visit to it, sadly i didn’t have much time to spend there (stayed for 3 nights only) but we sure utilized them well, we tried to visit the main attractions but there were too many of them and with so little time it was impossible to visit them all… Below are some images from the trip, enjoy!

Share

Wizards Productions to Release First Mobile Game Through New Publishing Agreement with 6waves

Posted on 19 June 2012
Written by Sohaib
Filed under News
0 Responses to this post

 Amman, Jordan (PRWEB) June 19, 2012

Wizards Productions announced today it plans to release its first-ever mobile game as part of a recently-forged publishing agreement with 6waves, a leading international games publisher of mobile and social games.

Wizards Productions is one of the first developers of massively multiplayer online (MMO) social games in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. It has produced numerous social games and MMO games, including the first-ever 3D MMO Facebook game in Arabic. It plans to release its first mobile game, Aqua Jam, later this summer.

Aqua Jam, which will be available for both iOS and Android, has been in development for nearly a year. The game’s story line develops throughout 35 levels and focuses on brothers trying to save their kidnapped parents. Aqua Jam will be available free, with the opportunity to make in-app purchases.

“We are excited about publishing our first mobile title with 6waves. 6waves is an ideal partner, and our publishing agreement opens new doors for our company. As we prepare for our launch of Aqua Jam this summer, we continue to refocus our efforts on mobile games. Expect to see more great games coming out of our studio on mobile platforms in the coming months and years,” said Sohaib Thiab, CEO at Wizards Productions

As part of the publishing agreement, 6waves will provide substantial support for distributing, marketing and localizing Aqua Jam.

To learn more about Aqua Jam, please visit http://www.wizardsproductions.com/aquajam.php

About Wizards Productions
Wizards Productions have been providing royal and non-royal gamers throughout the Middle East with the opportunity to play some of their favorite English-based online games, as well as games of their own creation, since 2009. In the past two years, Wizards has developed numerous games including the 1st ever 3D shooter game in Arabic on Facebook, serving more than 1 million registered users across their games and becoming the first MMO browser-based game development company in the Middle East.

About 6waves
6waves, a venture backed company, is the leading international publisher of gaming applications on the Facebook platform. Through partnerships with top developers, 6waves aims to publish the next generation of social games to cover every genre, language, and platform. To date, we have over 30 million monthly active players playing our games and applications, a number that continues to grow daily. Some of our most popular games include Ravenwood Fair, Mystery Manor, Spartacus and Resort World.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/6/prweb9612600.htm

Share