New Mid­dle East Star­tups that Should Be on Your Radar

Arabnet - The Quarterly - - Content - By Wael Nab­bout | @Fulmtl­colum­nist

In ev­ery is­sue, we bring you a list of star­tups from the MENA re­gion that you should keep an eye on. This win­ter, our se­lec­tion of star­tups cov­ers ev­ery­thing from dig­i­tal comics to mod­u­lar fur­ni­ture. Yotable is a nascent restau­rant book­ing ser­vice based out of Jed­dah that is cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the boom­ing F&B sec­tor. By cre­at­ing an ac­count, users can book their ta­ble at their restau­rant of choice, and also dis­cover spe­cial of­fers and events. They also have the op­tion to de­ter­mine their pre­ferred seat­ing area and may also spec­ify any spe­cial re­quests such as birth­days or spe­cial oc­ca­sions. The plat­form is largely self-funded for now and pro­poses a flat monthly fee to restau­rant own­ers, re­gard­less of the num­ber of reser­va­tions. It is home to 52 restau­rants and 38 cuisines — most of which are fine din­ing venues as the ma­jor­ity of ca­sual restau­rants don’t of­fer reser­va­tions — and also in­cludes a user-based re­view sys­tem. Yotable cov­ers Jed­dah and Riyadh, and is plan­ning to ex­pand in Saudi Ara­bia and the Gulf soon. The plat­form is go­ing up against a more es­tab­lished player, the Am­man-based Re­serve­out, which closed a $1.3 mil­lion fi­nanc­ing round in late 2014 and is eye­ing ex­pan­sion in Saudi Ara­bia and Egypt. Yotable co-founder Rashed Is­lam also owns Jed­dah­food, a pop­u­lar food re­view web­site in Jed­dah, and en­vis­ages a po­ten­tial in­te­gra­tion and part­ner­ship of the site with Yotable in the fu­ture. Coun­try of ori­gin: Saudi Ara­bia Date of launch: March 2015 Cat­e­gory: Life­style When the founders of Broad­tags claim they are “The fu­ture of so­cial tag­ging”, they are aim­ing high. The name of

the app is a mix of “broad”-cast­ing and hash-”tags”. Broad­tags, LLC was launched as a New York startup in 2013. The ser­vice con­sists of a free web and mo­bile so­cial app (for IOS and An­droid) that puts con­tent at the cen­ter of users’ fo­cus. Sim­ply put, this means users can fol­low sub­jects (via hash­tags) in­stead of other users. All you have to do is spec­ify the hash­tags you want to fol­low, and any post re­lated to that topic ap­pears in your feed. The app also makes it sim­ple to con­nect with other peo­ple that share sim­i­lar in­ter­ests and hob­bies by click­ing on their post and send­ing them a mes­sage. Coun­try of ori­gin: UAE Date of launch: 2013 Cat­e­gory: Ad­ver­tis­ing, so­cial Founded by Ni­co­las Zaatar and Char­lie Khoury, NAR is be­hind the “Quadrofighter” fire­fight­ing drone. This app-sup­ported drone is de­signed to im­prove re­sponses to wild­fires. NAR founders cre­ated this drone when they were still engi­neer­ing stu­dents. Their in­ven­tion won first place in Le­banon’s na­tional Mi­crosoft Imag­ine Cup in April 2015. The Quadrofighter can be pro­grammed by users to mon­i­tor a spe­cific area on the map, us­ing ei­ther a mo­bile app or a desk­top ap­pli­ca­tion. Once its course is set, the drone will mon­i­tor the area and im­me­di­ately alert users in case it de­tects a fire start­ing. It will also send them the right co­or­di­nates via the app. An in­te­grated GPS track­ing sys­tem helps keep track of the drone’s po­si­tion, and a base sta­tion that en­ables it to au­tonomously recharge it­self, en­sur­ing 24/7 dy­namic mon­i­tor­ing. NAR is one of the star­tups se­lected by Beirut’s new ac­cel­er­a­tor, Speed@bdd, for a 3-month ac­cel­er­a­tion pro­gram and fund­ing worth $30,000t. Coun­try of ori­gin: Le­banon Date of launch: May 2015 Cat­e­gory: Hard­ware, ro­bot­ics Like the fa­mous Us-born Black­board, Coursella is a so­cial learn­ing plat­form aim­ing to make ed­u­ca­tion more ac­ces­si­ble, en­gag­ing, and fun, by offering ed­u­ca­tors on­line tools — such as cal­en­dars, the abil­ity to cre­ate and share files and doc­u­ments, the abil­ity to cre­ate on­line as­sign­ments, etc. The plat­form was cre­ated by four Al­ge­rian com­puter science stu­dents who started a club they called Pin­no­vate in 2012. Af­ter two years, they trans­formed their univer­sity club into a busi­ness spe­cial­iz­ing in con­tent man­age­ment sys­tems for higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions. In Jan­uary 2014, they won an en­tre­pre­neur com­pe­ti­tion or­ga­nized by the Al­ge­rian in­cu­ba­tor tstart. MDI Busi­ness School and the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Man­age­ment (INSIM) are cur­rently test­ing the soft­ware. Ac­cord­ing to Coursella co-founder Walid Ziouche, the plat­form only needs around 10 pay­ing cus­tomers to break even. So far, the plat­form has boot­strapped around $19,000 through tstart, and is tar­get­ing new mar­kets in Tu­nisia and Morocco. The plat­form is avail­able in English, Ara­bic, and French, but the idea isn’t new: Aca­dox is based out of Saudi Ara­bia but has yet to en­ter the Al­ge­rian mar­ket, and lo­cal ri­vals in­clude imadrassa and Di­ras­satic. Can one coun­try tol­er­ate three play­ers? Per­haps. Al­ge­ria suf­fers from over­pop­u­lated and un­der­staffed schools, so ed­u­ca­tors need all the help they can get. Coun­try of ori­gin: Al­ge­ria Date of launch: Oc­to­ber 2014 Cat­e­gory: Ed­u­ca­tion For noongam, (“mag­noon” - crazy, in Ara­bic - spelled back­wards) smart­phone apps are the medium of the fu­ture when it comes to comics. Started out in 2014 as a com­mu­nity of peo­ple and artists pas­sion­ate about comic art, noongam has be­come the pub­lisher of the world’s first Ara­bic dig­i­tal comic mag­a­zine. It launched its Mag­noon Mag­a­zine app in Dubai at Comic Con Mid­dle East in April 2014. The app is avail­able for IOS and An­droid, and has been down­loaded over 59,000 times to date. It has cur­rently pub­lished over 17 monthly is­sues, en­tirely in Ara­bic. Users pay $1.99 for sin­gle is­sues or a monthly sub­scrip­tion of $0.99. How­ever, ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue con­sti­tutes the mag­a­zine’s main in­come source. Mag­noon Mag­a­zine has part­nered

Deerasa is an on­line busi­ness tool that al­lows star­tups and small busi­nesses to build their busi­ness plans quickly and in­ex­pen­sively. The plat­form is the brain­child of Khawlah Al­madoudi, a fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor and con­sul­tant turned en­tre­pre­neur. Al­madoudi started by post­ing tem­plates for fi­nan­cial pro­jec­tions and other doc­u­ments re­lated to busi­ness plans on­line, then built the plat­form with the help of In­vest­ment and IT pro­fes­sion­als. Dozens of free ser­vices and tem­plates for busi­ness plans ex­ist on­line, but Deerasa’s ad­van­tage is that its offering is in Ara­bic.the driv­ing force be­hind Zori (“san­dal” in Ja­panese) is a mo­bile app that uses 3D tech­nol­ogy to al­low con­sumers to scan their feet size within a 1 mm ac­cu­racy. All they have to do is place a stan­dard sized card — an ATM card or a driver’s li­cense — next to their foot and take a pic­ture with their phone. This fa­cil­i­tates on­line shop­ping for shoes by guar­an­tee­ing they fit. Zori might have a few com­peti­tors abroad, such as shoe­size.me which pro­poses a dif­fer­ent ap­proach (es­ti­mat­ing shoe size by hav­ing users com­pare a pair they want to buy with one of their own). The app was de­vel­oped by Project io, a Jor­dan-based 3D mo­bile mea­sure­ment tech­nol­ogy com­pany reg­is­tered in the US. Zori earned Project io the sec­ond place in the Arab­net startup demo com­pe­ti­tion in March 2015. Zori went through an an­gel round with ac­cel­er­a­tor Oa­sis500, rais­ing a 6-digit in­vest­ment. Coun­try of ori­gin: Jor­dan Date of launch: Novem­ber 2014 Cat­e­gory: Fash­ion

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