In recent years, the Middle Eastern startup industry has experienced rapid growth. This has been led to an influx of companies providing everything from customer loyalty programming to food delivery services. One of the biggest groups driving startup innovation across the region are those entrepreneurs who have established thriving businesses before even reaching the age of 25.
With more than half of its population consisting of younger individuals, it is no wonder that the Middle East is seeing a rise in impressive companies that are run under the guidance of young businesspeople. Read on to learn about eight of the youngest entrepreneurs in the Middle East – and the companies that have made them successful:
Ahmed Tareq, INTApreneur
Teenage entrepreneur Ahmed Tareq established his startup initiative, INTApreneur, as a source for other young adults to gain the assistance they needed to start their own businesses. Since opening its doors in 2014, the Alexandria, Egypt-based non-profit has served a growing network of students.
With the help of another company, VWorx, Tareq has focused on serving a demographic of 12- to 18-year-olds with traditional accelerator services for their startups. Over the course of three months, participating teens have the opportunity to work on startup projects.
This experience helps them gain knowledge about startup culture, how to overcome common startup challenges, and the best business practices that will help them grow their own companies. INTApreneur has been very successful, and Tareq and his team were able to serve 40 students within the accelerator’s first year alone.
Dana Khater, Coterique
At age 19, Dana Khater took the step towards entrepreneurship by founding her innovative e-commerce startup, Coterique, based in Cairo, Egypt. Since completing the incubation program at Flat6Labs, she has led her company to success by providing unique fashion services to clients across the globe.
Khater and her team continually look through designer lineups at fashion weeks and storefronts to find the newest and most interesting work. Through Coterique’s website, she has thus created a diverse mix of products from emerging brands and other items from some of the world’s most popular designers.
Maintaining a fashion-forward vision, the startup features new designers every week and posts an array of product highlights for its clients to peruse. With the ability to mix and match luxury clothes from multiple designers, individuals can try many styles and cultivate truly modern wardrobes.
Jihad Kawas, Saily
After earning the distinguished Thiel Fellowship prize in 2015, Lebanese teen Jihad Kawas was required to forego attending college in order to work full-time at his startup. With $100,000 in funding and access to a mentor, he was able to bring his company, Saily, to life. Looking to minimize household waste, Kawas designed his startup around the idea of individuals exchanging secondhand items with others in their local communities.
Those who have unused or unwanted items can easily publish photographs and descriptions of them on Saily’s mobile application. Instead of shipping their items to buyers, the app suggests safe local venues where they can meet to complete the trade.
With selling options available for college students and homeowners, Saily has made it easier than ever for its users to discover new-to-them things. Under Kawas’ leadership, the startup has garnered a following of around 500,000 regular members.
4-6. Youssef Elsamma, Nesma El-Far, and Omar Hamdalla, ElWafeyat
In 2013, a trio of young adults became entrepreneurs when they formulated the idea for ElWafeyat. ElWafeyat is a website that caters to the needs of individuals who are mourning the loss of loved ones.
Based in Cairo, Egypt, the startup burst onto the scene after Elsamma, El-Far, and Hamdalla completed the incubation program at Flat6Labs. Inspired by a mutual friend who had recently lost a family member, the team revolutionized the local market for obituaries and other condolence-related services.
ElWafeyat has moved the traditional obituary publishing process to the digital realm. This enables Egyptians to create dedicated memorial pages for their loved ones and share them with their various contacts.
This unique online platform eases the often-difficult burden of announcing losses for individuals across Egypt. It also allows more people to come together in remembrance. Within the first half of 2015 alone, ElWafeyat welcomed 200,000 visitors and built a subscriber base of 15,000 individuals.
7-8. Amer and Mohamed Yaghi, Chillax & AidMaid
Brothers Amer and Mohamed Yaghi became two of the youngest entrepreneurs in the Middle East when they debuted their first startup before the age of 14. Known as Chillax, there business venture gave rise to an innovative mobile platform through which teens could connect with one another in a highly-secure manner. The most revolutionary feature of the startup was that it afforded its users the opportunity to customize their privacy settings to keep out everyone from online bullies to their parents.
They no longer operate Chillax; however, the two Jeddha, Jordan-based siblings went on to establish a second business venture called AidMaid. Aiming to create the “Uber of all emergencies,” the teens developed a mobile application that helps those facing life-threatening circumstances access the help that they need.
Through the app, users can contact police officers, trigger a panic siren, or automatically message a pre-set list of friends when in need. The brothers designed an additional function that connects with fitness trackers, alerting user’ contacts in the event of a sudden rise in heart rate.
Despite the worldwide success of AidMaid, the free-to-use application does not garner any revenue. As such, the Yaghi brothers unveiled a third mobile app called AidMaid Service, which helps entities hire and pay workers for skilled business tasks.