The Middle East has recently experienced a massive surge in the technology sector as highly educated young adults continue to move to the region. Also driving innovation are the increasing numbers of women and youth who are embracing technology. As a result of these developments, several exciting Middle Eastern startups have stepped onto the global stage this year.
Project X from Amman, Jordan
Inspired by the conflict in neighboring Syria, Sami Yabroudi and Ahmad Sadeddin conceived of a mobile application that facilitates three-dimensional printing of prosthetics. Their company, Project X, won the Challenge Cup at renowned startup incubator 1776. The flagship Project X product is Anaken, a smartphone application that allows individuals to scan the residual and remaining limbs of a person who has undergone amputation to correctly size a prosthesis. Project X has also created Zori, a consumer-focused app that allows people to scan their feet with their smartphone to obtain an accurate measurement to use when ordering shoes online.
Project X focuses on scanning and manipulating three-dimensional space for the creation of new, useful products. By implementing this technology on smartphones and tablets, the company aims to democratize three-dimensional technology for use in the global market.
Dokkan Afkar in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Taking advantage of the Middle East’s relatively unpopulated e-commerce sector, Dokkan Afkar offers young, creative professionals unique, quirky, and handmade products in a variety of departments, from men and women’s clothing to housewares. Strategy & Consulting in collaboration with twofour54, the Abu Dhabi Media Zone Authority, recently conducted a study that predicted the company would boast earnings in excess of $4 million by 2022.
Genesis International in Muscat, Oman
Historically, Oman has proven a notoriously difficult place for entrepreneurs. However, one of the nation’s most successful businessmen, Qais Al Khonji, is challenging the status quo with Genesis International, a multisector startup with interests ranging from education to energy. As the company’s name implies, it hopes to become the genesis of a new era of technology development in the sultanate.
At present, Genesis International focuses on four primary areas: solar energy, education, automatic meter reading, and engineered products. Envisioning a future that has no reliance on hydrocarbons for fuel, its solar energy initiative aims to use renewable resources to create alternative forms of energy for use on a national scale. Genesis International’s engineered products division works to construct items that meet consumer needs while conserving energy. The company also seeks to implement automatic electricity meter reading as a means of reducing energy loss. In its education project, the company searches out ways to encourage entrepreneurship through learning opportunities.
Apstrata in Beirut, Lebanon
Lebanon has become a prime Middle East destination for entrepreneurs since the nation’s Central Bank Proposal 331 allocated $400 million to area startups. Adding to this pro-business atmosphere is Lebanon’s healthy venture capital industry. Apstrata, founded by Rabih Nassar, offers technology innovators a back-end-as-service option through several application programming interface (API) solutions. Developers can use the company’s tools to access server-side scripts and build effective mobile and HTML5 applications. Apstrata is also working closely with the Lebanese telecom industry to create novel business models as part of a Telco 2.0 Initiative. Last year, the company gained a great deal of attention at the Telco 2.0 OnFuture EMEA conference that took placed in London.
Apstrata is a subsidiary of element^n, a company that develops custom applications and other technology solutions for global enterprise customers.
ElWafeyat.com in Cairo, Egypt
Created as an Arabic-language social media site, ElWafeyat.com has become a popular way of memorializing loved ones after they pass away. The website celebrates community and offers a powerful healing tool for individuals dealing with loss. While the network has gained popularity in Egypt, its founders recognize the potential of expanding the website throughout the Middle East and recently secured a sizeable investment from 500Startups to fuel this initiative.
Digikala in Tehran, Iran
Tehran is becoming a popular startup destination due to the presence of small business accelerators like DMOND Group, AvaTech, and MAPS. At the same time, Iran is largely devoid of ecommerce options. Digikala has emerged as the leading ecommerce website with earnings around $150 million. So far, the company has maintained a 200-percent annual growth rate and is now preparing to expand into Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Iraq. Digikala offers a wide range of products from personal health and beauty supplies to new technology like phones and tablets.