You Should Know about These Prominent Jordanian Startups

Jordan women

Through the support of King Abdullah II, Jordan has assembled a flourishing economy, a strong educational system, and a growing informational technology industry—all the elements it needs to foster a diverse, growing startup scene and encourage innovation across numerous sectors. As a result, Jordan is quickly becoming one of the biggest entrepreneurial hubs in the Middle East.

Read on to explore a few promising Jordanian startups:

Abjjad

Abijad LogoEntrepreneur Eman Hylooz paired her love of reading with her professional background in software management to establish one of the most innovative social networks in the Middle East. Known as Abjjad, this startup is a social site that caters to the needs of Arabic literary publishers, authors, and readers.

Through the desktop site or mobile application, users can peruse a library of more than 200,000 books, from children’s literature to religious writings, and generate detailed reviews about their favorite titles. Abjjad frequently highlights some of its most prolific reviewers, which enables others to connect with them to discuss the newest authors and books. In order to expand its library and promote new talent, the startup encourages authors to publish their books to the site.

Repzo

Repzo logoFounded in early 2016, Repzo delivers customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to entities that focus their work in the realm of mobile sales. Designed for Android and iOS devices, it is the first product of its kind to cater to Arabic audiences. Repzo is also available in English, which makes it a useful CRM tool for international companies.

Repzo offers a wide array of features that enable professionals to streamline the process of monitoring field employees and tracking client correspondence. For example, companies can use the startup’s Client Management features to compile all customer details into a single, easy-to-reach database. Repzo also enables them to follow the daily movements of their customer representatives by creating activity reports and tracking how long they spend with each client.

Tamatem

Tamatem logoSince completing the incubation program at 500 Startups, Tamatem has become one of the biggest entities in the Arabic mobile gaming scene. Recognizing the dearth of games targeted to Arabic-speaking audiences, the startup has focused on publishing smartphone games that feature elements from Middle Eastern culture. By working with a number of global game developers, Tamatem has been able to release Arabic versions of some of the most popular gaming applications, including trivia, racing, and puzzle games.

Cash Basha

Cash Basha LogoCash Basha has changed the way that shoppers across the Middle East make purchases through Amazon. Recognizing that many countries in the region have customs regulations and payment roadblocks that make it difficult for locals to purchase from this prominent global marketplace, the company developed a way to streamline the purchasing process. Users simply browse through Amazon’s vast stock and select what they need. CashBasha then tallies up all shipping and customs costs and takes care of all logistics involved in the transaction.

Even more significant is Cash Basha’s focus on cardless payments. With the majority of Middle Eastern shoppers preferring to make cash purchases, the startup has created an avenue through which its clients can place orders online and pay a live representative in cash. Cash Basha also welcomes traditional credit card payments, thus making it simple and convenient for Middle Eastern shoppers to have any online item delivered to their doors.

Izif

Izif LogoWith a name meaning “play music” in Arabic, Izif is one of the most prominent online music education platforms in the Middle East. Based in Amman, the startup has attracted the attention of prominent investors such as Oasis500 and 500 Startups, which have helped fund the creation of its numerous video tutorials. These videos provide a means for beginning, intermediate, and advanced players to learn the fundamentals of several instruments.

By providing an array of free lessons and sheet music, Izif enables Arabs to learn about both regional instruments and global favorites, such as guitar and piano. The startup’s non-Arab audience also has the unique opportunity to test their hand at Arab instruments. In addition, nearly 100 Jordanian schools utilize Izif to teach music to their students.

Gweet

Gweet logoA former Couchsurfing Ambassador in Jordan, Sama’n Haman established his own startup, Gweet, to help individuals find reliable rental housing. On its website, the company features all manner of bedrooms, villas, and apartments that its users can peruse. Gweet makes it easy for its members to find exactly what they need by listing each property according to such criteria as cost and number of guests allowed.

Whether an individual is looking to take a weekend excursion or seeking a permanent home, the startup has options to suit any need and budget. Gweet members can also serve as hosts, thus enabling them to make money from their vacant rooms and properties.

8 of the Youngest Entrepreneurs in the Middle East

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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:

  1. Ahmed Tareq, INTApreneur

IntapreneurTeenage 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.

  1. Dana Khater, Coterique

CoteriqueAt 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.

  1. Jihad Kawas, Saily

saily logoAfter 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

Elwafeyat logoIn 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

ChillaxBrothers 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.

aidmaid logoThrough 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.

 

7 Saudi Arabian Startups to Watch Right Now

saudi arabia

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has become one of the Middle East’s most prominent startup markets. With companies in every industry ranging from financial technology to virtual reality, the country has some of the region’s most innovative power players. Read on to explore seven of the Saudi Arabian startups that you should watch right now:

  1. Visual Experience

visual experience logoIn 2014, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology established Visual Experience, a startup that designs virtual reality (VR) content for the country’s education, real estate, and culture sectors. The creation of this startup complements Saudi Arabia’s fast-growing VR sector, which the International Data Corporation estimates will achieve a net worth of $6 billion by the year 2020.

Visual Experience launched its first application, Makkah Window, to provide its clients with a means of viewing 360-degree maps, pictures, and video content. The startup has since grown to include a number of other products such as a unique set of VR glasses composed of cardboard for easy transport. In addition, Visual Experience has designed unique VR experiences for Galaxy Gear devices and the KAUST museum.

  1. NOMADD Desert Solar Solutions

NOMADD logoIn the midst of a growing solar panel market, one Saudi Arabian startup has sought to eliminate some of the challenges that come with maintaining these innovative devices. Known as NOMADD Desert Solar Solutions, this firm has created the NO-water Mechanical Automated Dusting Device, a patent-pending system that can safely clear dust particles from solar panels.

Designed for simplicity and durability, the NOMADD system is capable of removing nearly all dust from an entire field of solar panels in a day. This modular system can withstand even the harshest of desert conditions while requiring little regular maintenance, which makes it an efficient and low-cost solution to dust issues. In an effort to move its product toward a debut in the commercial market, NOMADD Desert Solar Solutions recently received $1 million in funding through the KAUST Innovation Fund.

  1. OneCard

OneCard logoOneCard has revolutionized the world of online shopping for individuals living in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East. Through this startup, members of the local community have been able to request that websites expand their Arabic language and culture capabilities. These services have enabled OneCard to become one of the most influential players in the expansion of Arabic Internet services.

However, the primary focus of OneCard is online payments. With the help of partners such as PayPal and Master Card, the startup allows users to purchase and recharge prepaid cards using their existing credit cards. With an active OneCard balance, clients can seamlessly make online purchases of items ranging from educational materials to video gaming consoles.

  1. HoldInn

HoldInn logoUnder the guidance of TOQ Technology, HoldInn has made it more convenient than ever for Saudi Arabian travelers to pore over an extensive list of hotels across the country and book their vacations. Focused on variety, the startup provides its clients with lists of the top hotels and resorts in various cities, including Riyadh, Al Khobar, and Mecca.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of HoldInn is that it does not require its patrons to book hotel stays using their credit card. In lieu of booking fees and prepaid transactions, the startup allows its clients to pay at the hotel itself. HoldInn also provides a number of money-saving promotions to its users, which makes it easy for them to plan all manner of family vacations, business trips, and solo excursions across Saudi Arabia.

  1. Suplift

suplift logoBased in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Suplift has created an online platform through which locals can find and participate in new hobbies. Since completing the incubation program at InspireU, the startup has connected individuals with those mentors who can help them to cultivate new skills in a variety of areas. Whether an individual wishes to learn the basics of playing the guitar or creating beautiful latte art, Suplift makes it easy for them to discover new and exciting interests. Those who are particularly skilled in certain hobbies can also enroll as experts and offer their own courses through the site.

  1. Sawerly

sawerly logoSawerly has become a major player in the Saudi Arabian photography sector due to its innovative photographer booking services. Through both its website and mobile applications, clients can browse through a portfolio of photographers and videographers who focus on areas such as special events, food, and portrait photography.

Those looking for specific photography services can use Sawerly to collaborate with photographers through an online chat and compare multiple proposals before making a decision. With a network of more than 1,500 photographers, the startup makes it easy for its clients to find the right professional for the occasion. Sawerly is also beneficial for the photographers, who can use the site to expand their portfolios and build their client base.

  1. Morni

morni logoEstablished in 2014, Morni has made it easy for members of the Saudi Arabian community to access the roadside assistance services that they need. Instead of having to search for help and waiting for it to arrive, individuals can simply download the startup’s free iOS or Android application and connect with any service they may need. Whether they require gas delivery or vehicle towing, users can select a service and wait for Morni to send a professional out to assist them. Easy to use and fully mobile, the app ensures that all clients receive cost-effective, efficient auto service. For its innovative services, Morni has received recognition from such prominent news outlets as The New York Times and Al Arabiya.

7 of the Most Important Tips for Founding a Startup in the UAE

Dubai UAE

Becoming an entrepreneur is no easy task, regardless of where you are founding your business. Locations such as the United Arab Emirates pose a number of common challenges for startup owners as well as several region-specific obstacles that you will need to overcome. However, if you are equipped with the right knowledge, then you will be able to lead your company to success.

Here are a few of the most important tips to keep in mind when establishing your startup in the UAE:

  1. Test and understand your vision.

visionWhether you are looking to provide innovative financial technology services or wish to debut a groundbreaking new product, you will need to develop a firm vision for your startup before you can launch. This task is important for all entrepreneurs, but particularly crucial if you intend to one day leave your day job to run your company full time.

Instead of resigning immediately upon deciding to establish your own company, you should first test your startup ideas for their market validity. Like many other popular UAE-based entrepreneurs before you, you will need to conduct research over the course of several months to determine how profitable your startup will be in the region. Once you complete this important step, you will be better equipped to bring your vision to life.

  1. Determine where investments will come from.

Most entrepreneurs will need to solicit investments in order to fund their startups. In the UAE, you will find countless avenues through which you can acquire important business capital.

Though many of the region’s entrepreneurs gain the support of outside investors, you may need to inject some of your own money into your business in order to get things moving. If you do plan on make your own investments, then you should set a maximum amount that you will contribute. This way, you will refrain from spending all of your savings on your startup.

Another common source that UAE entrepreneurs turn to for investments is family. Whether your parents contribute to important business expenses or your partner invests some of his or her own income, this type of support can play an instrumental role in the success of your startup.

  1. Find a free zone.

The UAE is home to a wide array of free zones that provide a wide array of benefits to budding entrepreneurs. If you are not a citizen of the UAE, and you set up shop in a free zone, then you can enjoy complete ownership of your company, an expedited startup process, and expanded leasing opportunities. Many Emirates also feature free zones that cater to the needs of startups in certain industries; this ensures that you will be able to find the right fit for your business.

However, if you are an entrepreneur from outside the UAE and you want to establish your startup outside of a free zone, then you will need to enlist the help of a UAE-based partner. Though this arrangement allows you to establish your startup anywhere, your local partner must own 51 percent of your company.

  1. Know the proper business etiquette.

handshakeIn the UAE, you must look beyond the most basic aspects of running a startup if you wish to lead your company to a successful future. When meeting with other businesspeople, consumers, and investors, you must follow the proper etiquette in order to make a good impression.

Introductions are one of the most important aspects of any business meeting in the UAE, so you should take extra care to show respect to the other people in the room. In addition, you will find that many of the region’s entrepreneurs and businesspeople display a mix of positivity and tact during meetings. Following this trend and assuming the same attitude during interactions with others will help you make better business connections.

  1. Grow your network.

Once you familiarize yourself with the correct etiquette to use in the UAE, you will need to put your knowledge to the test and expand your network. Most local business people forego traditional e-mail correspondence techniques in favor of in-person interactions such as live networking events, business groups, and industry conferences. It is imperative that you participate in these types of meetings in order to connect with new professionals and generate important word-of-mouth advertising for your startup.

  1. Get to know your customer.

With your business plan and financing in place, you will need to turn your attention to marketing. However, you will not be able to publish effective advertising materials without first understanding the customers within your market. As with any region, the UAE is full of consumers who possess an entirely unique culture and set of values that you must get to know as a startup owner.

Those who live in the UAE generally place heavy emphasis on family over the individual and make purchasing decisions based on religious views. While the majority of UAE residents consistently seek high-quality items at the lowest prices, only the men tend to purchase higher-end products, while women typically focus more on items that benefit the household. Knowing each of these UAE-specific consumer habits will help you make the most out of your startup’s marketing campaign.

  1. Understand the sacrifices.

All entrepreneurs, regardless of where they establish their startups, will need to make sacrifices during their company’s earliest days, and one of the most common sacrifice is money. For example, many entrepreneurs elect to forego the financial security of their day jobs in order to work at their startups.

Because the UAE is a particularly expensive location for budding companies, you must be ready to make monetary sacrifices for the sake of your startup. In addition, operating your own business requires you to work more hours than you did at your day job. Though you may need to leave behind your previous lifestyle, your passion for your startup will be its own reward.

6 of the Best Middle Eastern Alternatives to Global Companies

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The growing Middle Eastern startup scene can attribute much of its success to the dedication of the entrepreneurs who have spurred innovations in industries ranging from e-commerce to financial technology. Perhaps equally as important to this dynamic are the consumers who support this emerging scene by choosing to patronize regional startups instead of global enterprises. Many of these startups offer services that are similar to those of more prominent multinational companies, but they are unique in their regional focus.

Here are six Middle Eastern alternatives to international firms:

Offerna

offerna logoBased in Cairo, Egypt, Offerna is revolutionizing the group discount purchasing market in the Middle East. With a name meaning “our offers” in Arabic, the firm burst onto the startup scene in 2011 as a regional version of the popular Groupon. Offerna became the first Egyptian startup of its kind to offer a unique sales model that focuses on connecting customers with a wide array of activities and products at reduced prices.

The startup frequently works with local vendors to create one-of-a-kind deals in categories ranging from tourism to fitness. A minimum number of people must purchase a deal before Offerna activates it; then, buyers can redeem their purchase. If the minimum number is not reached, the coupon is not activated, and buyers can receive their money back or use it for a future purchase on the site. For each deal, buyers must act quickly, as Offerna only offers discounts for a short period of time and places a maximum limit on how many people can buy each one.

Jeeran

jeeran logoThe founders of Jeeran initially sought to create a website that would enable Arabs to create and publish locally oriented content, but it has since transformed into a Yelp-like review platform. With a primary focus on Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the startup allows users to write and post reviews for businesses in their community. In addition to reviews, individuals can upload photos as well as other important information, such as contact details and maps for each business. This system both allows individuals to share their experiences at local businesses and helps them discover new places and activities. Since its inception, Jeeran has accumulated reviews for more than 400,000 businesses in categories such as public services, healthcare, and dining.

Anghami

anghami logoIn an effort to curb the growing trend of music piracy in the Middle East, Anghami provides a fully legal way for people in the region to enjoy their favorite artists. Similar to the widely used Spotify, the startup allows its users to listen to an unlimited amount of songs from both the Arab World and beyond. With a library that includes millions of options, users are able to fully customize their listening experience. Anghami has uploaded a number of pre-made themed playlists, but users can also create radio stations that fit their own musical preferences. Though the startup is free to use on everything from desktop computers to Apple Watches, users can pay a small fee for Anghami Plus to gain additional features such as ad-free listening and song downloads.

Istikana

Istikana logoAnother popular media provider is Istikana, the Jordan-based startup that allows users to stream full-length Arabic films and television shows on nearly any Internet-connected device. Like the popular international companies Netflix and Hulu, Istikana allows its users to access a diverse library of on-demand programming. People can search for specific titles or simply browse through the site’s numerous categories, which include dramas, comedies, documentaries, religious programming, and talk shows. Though Istikana focuses on content from the Middle East, it also features a number of popular Indian programs. The startup adds several new videos each week, which ensures that users can find something that they will enjoy.

Souq

Souq logoSometimes referred to as “the Amazon of the Middle East,” Souq has celebrated remarkable success since its establishment in 2005—the company is the first startup in the Middle East to reach a $1 billion valuation. The startup originally served as part of the Maktoob Internet portal, but today it is a vast, independent online retailer. Although based in Dubai, Souq has become the most prominent player in the Middle East e-commerce sector. More than 45 million users flock to the company’s site each month, seeking products in categories including electronics, health and beauty, fashion, household goods, and more. In total, Souq hosts about 70,000 merchants on its platform.

PayFort

payfort logoA subsidiary of Souq, PayFort is one of the most popular payment portals in the Middle East. Like the international company Paypal, the startup enables merchants and retailers to accept payments online. Through partnerships with financial institutions such as the National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Doha Bank, PayFort has created a seller- and customer-friendly platform. Merchants who utilize the startup’s payment services also gain fraud risk management tools that can help protect them and their customers. Though it primarily serves Middle Eastern retailers, PayFort is not limited to the region. Those who take advantage of its services are able to accept payments from any credit card in more than 80 countries worldwide.