Sokkaa is a fast growing community of English Premier league football fans in Eastern Africa, started by a European after witnessing how fanatic african supporters were about football matches happening quite far away from their country.
After watching football in many local bars, and witnessing again and again the same unwavering football fever, Thom Harvey, a british citizen, now based in Kigali, founded Sokkaa community site in december 2013.
“We are building a platform to host a community of some of the world’s most passionate soccer fans who have been widely neglected until now. Our gaming and discussion areas will directly interact with our users, making Sokkaa indispensable for fans across Africa,” said Harvey.
After reaching over 140 000 fans, Thom Harvey sat with SiliconAfrica to tell us more about his startup adventure.
SiliconAfrica: How many football clubs there are in East Africa? How many football fans? Are all these people connected to Internet? How do you reach them?
Thom Harvey: We concentrate on European teams such as Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal – there is a large population of football fans in East Africa and we try to only look at teams that have large followers here. We have had over 140,000 Facebook fans since we launched the site at the start of the year, and this figure is growing at around 1200 new fans per day – most of our users access our site via smartphones.
SiliconAfrica: How is the football fans culture in the region?
Thom Harvey: The fans are very patriotic, and passionate about their teams! We often get strong opinions about news posts we have made, but I think this is a good thing as it often leads to some great discussions.
SiliconAfrica: How did you get the idea?
Thom Harvey: On a previous business trip to Kigali last year, I went to a local bar to watch an EPL (English Premier League) match and was enthralled by the passion the match generated – I saw more Arsenal jerseys than at my local pub in Highbury, London where I lived at the time!
I met some young local guys and it turned out that they were budding reporters with a passion for EPL football. From this I decided built a beta site, which was originally called eplafrica.com, and asked them to start reporting in English and Kinyarwanda. We began gaining traction and after a conversation with my friend Jason Njoku, a Nigerian internet entrepreneur and founder of iROKO, I decided to rebrand the site as Sokkaa.
I wanted to create something different to the average football news site available – something specifically for these passionate African fans I had seen, with a strong focus on community.
SiliconAfrica: Are you a football player yourself?
No, just a fan – I wasn’t the best on the pitch so I leave that to more talented individuals!
SiliconAfrica: How many people are in your team?
we have an office in Kigali with a small team of 8 so far, but we are growing all the time and aim to double that over the next 3 months.
SiliconAfrica: Have you already raised funding?
Thom Harvey: We have an angel on board from London, and aim to secure further funding in July.
SiliconAfrica:What is the business model?
Thom Harvey: Currently our goal is to build Africa’s biggest online football community. We are doing this through producing great news and match reports in a variety of languages including English, French and Swahili, as well as building platforms where fans can interact with each other and play football games.
SiliconAfrica: What is the big plan?
We aim to focus further on the gaming side of things over the next 6 months and are looking to monitize this in due course.
SiliconAfrica: What are you looking for at this stage?
Thom Harvey: Really we just want fans to enjoy our platform, tell their friends, and keep returning to us as the largest football fan community in Africa.
SiliconAfrica: Thanks for sharing your story with us.