Over the last several years, an increase in technology and economic prosperity has fueled the entrepreneurial market in the Middle East. More than ever, this developing climate has enabled women to become prominent players in the startup ecosystem. Numerous Middle Eastern women are recognizing gaps in various markets and designing products to fulfill these needs. From developing educational tools to creating innovative translation services, these women are making both a local and global impact through their businesses.
The following are five of the most innovative startups in the Middle East that are led by women:
Lebanon-United Kingdom commuter and former banker Rasha Khouri formulated the idea for DIA-style.com after noting an absence of luxury e-commerce sites targeting Middle Eastern women. Khouri tapped into this emerging market by creating an interface that benefited the ever-increasing Internet user base in the Middle East. Unveiled in 2012, DIA-style is the first website of its kind to bring Middle Eastern women high-end products from such fashion capitals as Paris, New York, and London.
DIA-style allows its users to peruse a catalogue of more than 50,000 ready-to-wear clothing items and accessories from 1,200 prominent luxury brands. Available in both Arabic and English, DIA-style has become one of the only ways that many Middle Eastern online shoppers can purchase products from leading luxury brands, as many do not have sites in Arabic. However, DIA-style extends much further than shopping, as its “Talk” and “Play” features allow users to connect with one another and create fashion boards that they can share among their friends.
Instabeat is an innovative heart monitoring device that caters to the unique needs of swimmers. During her studies at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, Hind Hobeika participated in competitive swimming and soon realized she needed a wearable heart monitor that wouldn’t slow her down in the pool. Technology has long played an instrumental role in helping professional swimmers make the most of their training sessions, but many devices were bulky and created drag in the water. As such, Hobeika began working on Instabeat to create this technology not only for herself, but for countless swimmers across the globe.
A non-intrusive training tool, Instabeat seamlessly attaches to any type of swimming goggles and provides real-time data on a wide range of metrics, including number of laps swam, heart rate, and calories burned. Prior to their training sessions, swimmers need only input their age and desired heart rate into the device, which helps them achieve their workout goals. Instabeat saves all information on a USB device, which allows swimmers to monitor and adjust their training practices outside of the pool as well.
Little Thinking Minds
When Little Thinking Minds creators Rama Kayyali Jardaneh and Lamia Tabbaa Bibi were raising their young children, both found that there was an absence of quality Arabic educational media for children. The television programs they found were often translated from other languages into Arabic, which meant that they did not connect with the culture of the region. Both television producers, Jardaneh and Bibi thus decided to create an Arabic educational media company for children.
To this end, they founded Little Thinking Minds, which has enabled them to produce and sell Arabic educational programs across mobile, video, web, and print platforms. The company’s media aims to be a seamless blend of entertainment and education that is relevant to Arabic culture. Little Thinking Minds has earned acclaim in such publications as The Jordan Times, Mother & Baby, and The New York Times.
Even though more than three-quarters of people in Middle Eastern countries speak only Arabic, there is a staggering lack of online translation resources for this language. This has particularly hindered the business operations of companies looking to expand in the region. In 2011, Abu Dhabi-based entrepreneur May Habib created Qordoba, an innovative online translation service that helps both Arabic and international business owners generate high quality web content more easily and quickly than ever before.
With the help of a team of more than 500 engineers, translators, and writers from across the globe, Habib has developed Qordoba into one of the Middle East’s most prominent business-to-business startups. Through both web and mobile platforms, the company helps its clients translate and localize their existing online content, enabling them to enter new international markets. Qordoba also allows its clients to sync this content with their existing online platforms for immediate integration.
The brainchild of Egyptian information technology professionals Yasmine El-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, SuperMama has emerged as one of the Middle East’s fastest-growing online information portal for mothers. The two women decided to create the startup after watching family members struggle to find online pregnancy and parenting resources in Arabic.
Leveraging the help of numerous researchers and health experts, El-Mehairy and Samir developed SuperMama to provide women with access to a wide array of up-to-date family information. A comprehensive online resource, the website covers such topics as relationship advice, time management, and pregnancy stages. In addition to accessing this wealth of information, mothers can use SuperMama to connect with each other and exchange their parenting knowledge.