Programmer turned business-woman, Hanan Khader is the 2013 winner of GIST’s Demo Day in Amman, Jordan. Khader’s journey started when she realized that there weren’t any trusted online websites dedicated to real estate in her region. From there, she went on to develop Aqar-Estate.com.
With the support of her family, Khader was able to launch Aqar Estate in 2008. She then was able to secure a seed investment from Oasis500 and by 2013, the company broke even.
Using the freemium and premium paid subscription model. Aqar-Estate.com helps users buy and sell properties, find suitable housing, and discover the price of their property.
Khader’s outstanding ambition is exactly what has contributed to her company’s success. She describes growth to be her motivation, stating, “[a]t the beginning, all what kept me motivated is looking after the growth mystery. Once I found it, my life became a ready-to-go rocket, I want to keep going until seeing it happening.”
“Going out of your comfort zone daily and [having the] ability to learn daily,” is how Sima Najjar, the Founder of Ekeif.com defines entrepreneurship. Her motto even perfectly aligns with the overall concept of her venture. Ekeif.com publishes short high quality how-to videos in Arabic.
Najjar’s venture with Ekeif.com blossomed out of her very own personal need. Prior to Ekeif.com, there was a significant lack of short learning videos in her mother language — with only about 1% being represented in Arabic. Similar to eHOW videos, Ekeif.com is able to provide similar content online but available in this underrepresented language. Featured on the homepage are a variety of short tutorials and how-to’s ranging from Family, Kitchen, Home, Health & Wellness, Beauty & Elegance, along with Arts & Crafts. Majority of the website’s audience are women, who like Najjar have also been searching for this desired content.
Currently operating with her 3rd business, Najjar has some experience in this field. Through options like Oasis 500 Seed Investments and personal funding, Najjar was able to get Ekeif.com up and running. In the future, Najjar would like Ekeif.com to expand into a factory of high quality how-to videos. Additionally, she would like to expand her team, finding even more talented people.
Ahmad Barqawi of Skyscreen loves to create. Even growing up in a third-world culture, which out of necessity, was focused on consumption, Barqawi felt the need to create. Skyscreen is a project born out of that spirit and has two goals. The first is to revolutionize the world of television. The second is to inspire others in developing countries not just to consume, but to create.
Skyscreen is social video-on-demand platform that provides personalized video experiences for the users. It allows users to follow these favorite videos via desktop computers, tablets, mobile phones, or Smart TVs. Skyscreen gives the opportunity for TV channels and content producers to benefit by revenue share from premium ads and subscriptions. Barqawi says the mission of Skyscreen is “to make the TV available any time anywhere with no limits on content. The products I am working on give the control back to the users to watch their favorite shows anytime, anywhere and to decide what they want to watch at specific moment from TV channels and shows.”
In order to create a fresh approach to business, the Skyscreen team looks to keep things fresh in the office. Most of the management team owns a share of the business. They have a common breakfast for all employees once a week and all work in the same room with equal desks and facilities. There is an emphasis on not micro managing and expanding personal roles as each person sees fit. Barqawi is certainly pursuing his passion for creating and it is bound to inspire his employees, his customers as well as his fellow Jordanians.
Although cars allow for more freedom and convenience, such an expensive possession can also be the source of stress in the life of a car owner. Doubts about how much a repair should cost, who the owner should have work on their car, or even if work needs to be done at all affect all car owners. Markabaty, headed up by Abeer Omar, was started by car enthusiasts in Jordan to help ease the fears of car owners across the Gulf Region. Specifically, Markabaty is an app that helps car-owners: find reliable nearby auto-shops, share traffic updates with drivers on the road, as well as track car maintenance records and repair expenses, fuel-fill up routines and fuel consumption. As with many other entrepreneurs, Omar started Markabaty out of personal experience with the stresses of owning a car, with more and more smartphone users, an app became a good way to help solve this problem.
Omar knew the idea was a good one from the beginning, but this hasn’t stopped her from doing the proper research. Markabaty surveyed more than 900 auto-shops in Amman, Jordan before creating their app. Although finding the right employees, funders, and mentors has been tough, Omar has also expressed it has been the most important part of the process. The small team of 3 is making sure to count their blessings; holding fast to the tradition of a weekly team dinner in celebration of what they have accomplished in the seven days since their last dinner. Even though Markabaty is enjoying their recent growth, not everything has been easy. Omar cites quitting her job and moving forward with her ideas as the hardest thing she has ever done. She points those looking to do the same to a quote from Leena Ahmad Almashat, “Those who don’t jump will never fly.”
Established in 2011 by Founder and CEO, Nasser Saleh, MadFoo3at is a B2B service that connects Jordanian banks with billers to facilitate bill payment and inquiry through electronic channels 24/7, easily, and securely.
MadFoo3at fosters a professional work environment that is full of respect. They work together as one team and one family who has frequent entertaining gatherings both inside and outside of the office. The company management structure is project based and structured based. Saleh explains that in appropriate situations he tries “to involve most of the team with the company decisions.” Regardless of a team member’s position or professional experience, creativity and one’s opinion are considered across all levels.
Today, MadFoo3atCom is a nationwide Electronic Bills Presentment and Payment (EBPP) solution that is available for all banks with billers in Jordan. Their goals are to make MadFoo3at a regional corporation that conducts its business in most of the MENA countries with the hopes of expanding outside of the region. They have hopes of building an ePayment network, also known as cross boarders e-payments, across these countries. Saleh would like to “see [MadFoo3at] becoming a public shareholding company” within the next 5 years.
Many people would like to be the first of something; the leader of a new trend or of a healthy revolution. Bisher Abu Taleb has taken his love of music and started I3zif.com, the first online music school in the Arab world.
I3zif is an Arabic word that means “play music,” and the business is built around that simple idea. Working with some of the best musicians in the Arab world, I3zif teaches users how to play musical instruments through pre-recorded video tutorials that are produced in-house. It utilizes graphics, animation, and visual aids to simplify learning. I3zif.com is also the first to offer video tutorials for Arabic and eastern instruments in English. Because of the strong educational aspect, I3zif hopes to get their product in schools who wouldn’t otherwise have suitable teachers for the subject.
Taleb loved music and had an idea for the business he wanted to create but the first step was to look for a partner, who in Taleb’s own words, “fill the gaps that I have.” Specifically, he needed a video production expert and approached Ayham Abu Hammad, a friend/filmmaker/video editor/music fanatic. Taleb continued to build the growth of his business around the love of music and has selected his team accordingly. Everyone on the six person team is a musician with other professional skills including video editors, the business development manager, the educational programs manager, and the founders. The team has decided to go a non-traditional route, allowing employees to work their hours whenever they see fit. They often play music together and have brainstorming sessions every week. I3zif team members sometimes work as musicians touring the world while also promoting their product. You can find i3zif banners in Europe, the US, and the Arab world.
We are excited to see where their strong passion for music takes I3zif, a passion that was apparent when Taleb was asked what gets him up in the morning: “The fact that we are enabling people to learn music, which can be a life changing experience. Teaching people how to express themselves using the most beautiful of all languages. We’re in the business of creating artists!”
Following in the footsteps of online shopping giant eBay, Foodlve is a budding new business that was created originally for a group of friends. As a life-long lover of food with the technical and design-oriented chops to create a website, Jordanian entrepreneur Nadia Shomali founded Foodlv.com. Shomali wanted a simple place on the internet where she could save and modify her favorite recipes as well as share and discover new ones with friends. After a long search, she found nothing was quite as good as she knew she could make herself, so she set out to create Foodlve for her and her friends.
It started out as a simple website that was gradually improved based solely on the usability suggestions of friends. Foodlve is now a social discovery platform for food where users anywhere on earth can search, bookmark, blog, share and buy everything related to food in one place. Foodlve grew from 1 million page views per month to 5 million in just 3 months. It has 5,000 active users and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Foodlve sends a monthly survey out to a group of 100 food bloggers to get constant feedback from some of their most opinionated users.
Foodlve is growing quickly but has its sights set even higher, looking to grow to be the world’s largest food community. Eventually they would like to be acquired by one of the big 4: Amazon, Google, Facebook or Pinterest in order to tap into their vast resources and benefit food lovers for generations to come.