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Local start-up POANG hopes to score big with novel fantasy sports app

In Malta, it is relatively unusual for small start-ups like POANG to obtain investment at such an early stage, although it is not unheard of

Yannick Pace
13 August 2017, 9:00am
The game will allow users to select players from seven domestic European leagues
The game will allow users to select players from seven domestic European leagues
It’s not every day that a three-man start-up successfully courts a large company for investment on an “idea they’ve been working on”, however local game development company POANG has managed just that. 

Since 2015, the company has been working on its own fantasy football app which was launched globally on Friday. Like many start-up ideas, it all started with a conversation between friends which soon developed into a tangible idea – to create a game that was a cross between fantasy sports and football manager games. 

A year into the project, Luca Amato, Steve Zammit Briffa and Patrick Camilleri, POANG’s co-founders, pitched their idea to Harvest Technology, the technology division of Hili Ventures. The company felt the idea had potential, and decided to invest in the company in exchange for a shareholding.

“We had a successful funding round,” said Amato, the company’s CEO and a lawyer by profession. “We raised enough to be able to take our project from initial concept stage to final development and go-to-market stage.”

“The funding gives us a runway of about 18 months, which is roughly speaking the period we think it will take to break even,” he added.

The app, said Amato, was available for download worldwide, but would mainly be marketed in the UK.

“We hope to have gained some positive traction by the end of the year,” he said, adding that if successful, the company planned to look at other European markets as well as emerging markets like Africa, India and the Middle East. 

POANG emphasises the management side of the game
POANG emphasises the management side of the game
In addition to different markets the company also intends to adapt the game to other sports.

“We have developed an algorithm and gaming experience that can be applied to team sports generally,” he said, explaining that while the rules would obviously need to be changed, the “underlying experience” would remain the same.

In Malta, it is relatively unusual for small start-ups like POANG to obtain a substantial investment at such an early stage, although it is not unheard of. “It’s definitely not as common here as it is in places like the UK and the United States,” Amato said.

“The number of local start-ups is increasing and if this is not matched by an adequate supply of investors, as well as policies that facilitate this type of investment, a lot of potential will be lost,” he said.

“Malta has a fairly conservative business investment culture, and investors typically opt for stable investment like real estate rather than more high-risk ventures.”

He stressed the need for a change in culture on the part of both investors and start-ups.

“The important thing for investors is that they spread their risk so as to mitigate losses, while start-ups need to adopt an approach that allows them to identify early on whether the project will be a success, and to shift their business model accordingly if necessary.”

According to Amato, the game blends two concepts that exist in isolation and are “very successful in their own right”

“On the one hand you have fantasy football, which is a popular game for football in Europe, and sports in general in the US and other countries outside the EU,” he said. DraftKings is a popular fantasy sports provider which was recently granted a gaming licence in Malta as part of its plans to penetrate Europe.

“Then you have football management games that are simulated role-playing games where the user takes on the role of a football manager.”

Amato explained that through the new game, POANG intends to bridge the gap by introducing a hybrid fantasy football game that is based on real-life performance of players, but which also emphasises the management side of the game beyond simple player selection.

“It is introducing role-playing activities like having a scouting team, finance team and real-life stadiums that earn you in-game cash based on the actual attendance of that particular stadium,” he added.

The game will allow users to select players from seven domestic European leagues including the UK, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands, as well as teams participating in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.

POANG Fantasy Football is available on iOS and Android, and will be available on Facebook Gamesroom and Web in a few weeks.

Yannick joined MaltaToday as a journalist in 2016. His main areas of interest are politics...
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