Aly Mahmoud on Bringing Fantasy Football to the Region

By: Leena Mekawi (The GrEEK Campus)

On: 27 Oct 2020 10:10 AM

With hundreds of millions of passionate followers, football is the #1 sport across the Middle East and Africa. Capitalizing on this popularity, Cairo-based Eksab took the step of kicking off fantasy football for the region in 2017. Since then, the startup has raised a six-figure sum from 500 Startups, featured among the top 5 most popular apps in the Google Play Store and secured sponsorship from large corporates, including Nike Egypt. During peaks, the app has reached as many as 30,000 active monthly users and 10,000 users active per day.

As football returns, Eksab is working on monetizing its platform by offering a premium version where users will be charged a fee per competition, as well as building partnerships with football clubs in Europe to secure exclusive fantasy sponsorship rights for the region. 

We reached out to Aly Mahmoud, CEO & Cofounder of Eksab, to discuss the company’s backstory and recent progress. 

Congratulations on being selected as one of Forbes Middle East’s 30 young innovators working to change the region. What does this mean to you?

It’s a great testament to our entire team and how we’ve been able to do more with less. It’s always good to get validation in terms of the potential of the opportunity in front of us. 

How have you benefited from being based at the GrEEK Campus?

Our team has benefited a lot from the GrEEK campus: being able to book meeting rooms to host our partners and sponsors, network with other startups and attend startup events and workshops. It’s a great place for Eksab to be.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I went to university in Canada to study Economics, after completing my studies and returning to Egypt, I had several stints working with marketing and consulting on technology for some of Egypt’s largest companies. I’ve always been into football and technology so starting Eksab fit in nicely with two things I care deeply about. 

How did the idea of starting Eksab come about?

The idea came about while in university in Canada. My friends used to watch several sports including basketball, hockey, American football as well as rugby and MMA. The problem was that as an Egyptian, I didn’t know much about any of these sports besides football. Fantasy Sports allowed me to get excited and learn more about a variety of different sports, it made watching these games very exciting. It changed the way I watched sports.

I did some research and realized that there were no monetized fantasy sports platforms in the Middle-East & Africa, despite the large number of football fans. The US had FanDuel and Draftkings, and Asia had Dream11. I decided to bring the fantasy sports model to the region. 

What advice would you give new university grads?

It’s okay to fail, just do it quickly and then move on. And listen more, speak less.  

Who are your key mentors?

Ahmed El Alfi (Sawari/Greek Campus) and Fadi Antaki (A15) have been extremely helpful and have given us invaluable advice. Sharif Badawi (500 Startups) has been a great partner who has offered great guidance as well as a large network of individuals within the startup community. 

Eksab is similar to U.S-based daily fantasy sports platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel. What aspects did you take into consideration when creating Eksab for football fanatics of our region?

We consider a lot, including which leagues, teams, and players football fans are most excited about. Income is something we pay a lot of attention to. As we launch our monetized platform, we’ll be offering competitions for football fans of all backgrounds and income levels. Our range of pricing really opens up the market to a broad range of income groups. We also spent a considerable amount of time understanding the regulatory frameworks in Egypt and the MENA region at large.

You’ve been busy showing governmental entities in Egypt how Eksab is a game of skill, not chance. Tell us more about your position on this.

We found it quite interesting that raffles/lotteries are legal in Egypt, even though these competitions have zero skill and are very close to gambling. So we started talking about how Fantasy Sports should be viewed as skill-based competitions as opposed to games of chance. To do this, we hosted a number of free-to-enter competitions and the result was that the most skilled players ended up winning for several competitions in a row. Statistically, this would never happen in a game of chance.

How have you, as a team, navigated the worst of the COVID19 pandemic?

During the pandemic, zero football matches were being played. Our usage was very low but we took it as an opportunity to optimize our existing product and release new features and products. We’re also a very lean team. Despite having raised significant funds, we maintained a 4 person team which helped us a lot from a cash-management standpoint.

You are currently growing the Eksab team – what is the number one trait that you look for in all your employees?

Speed. The best employees are those who deliver the fastest. Whether it’s an engineer shipping a new feature or product, or a designer releasing content, speed is the number one trait we look for. 

Download Eksab, available on App Store and Google Play.