Jordanian entrepreneurs creating their own ‘Arab silicon valley’

Khaled Sharaiha was also determined to create his own website: a job search engine for recent graduates. (Photo supplied)

Jordanian entrepreneurs are pursuing their own “silicon valley” in Amman after finding inspiration from the likes of Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Instagram’s Systrom.

In 2010, entrepreneurs Mohammad Jaber and Rami Qawasmi, now both 27, shared a vision for changing the Arab online community by creating Mawdoo3, an online Arabic encyclopedia. It includes a wide-array of topics including, health, business, religion, advice, beauty, and cooking. Today, the website has become the most popular Arabic language site, and millions of people visit the site every month, according to the Associated Press.

In January, 17.1 million people, nearly 60 percent of them women, visited Mawdoo3. The founders say they have reached a $1.5 million partnership deal with the Dubai-based investment firm EquiTrust, as well as a new revenue-sharing agreement with Jordanian content marketing agency SyndiGate. The growth of the website is part of a recent, steep rise in Internet use in the Middle East, along with an Arabic content publishing frenzy.

Between 2000 and 2013, the number of Arab Internet users grew by close to 5,300 percent. The expansion of Internet use among Arabs along with the creative efforts of the Mawdoo3 team has led to the impressive growth of their website.

A Jordanian technician prepares computers Wednesday May 6, 2009 in Amman at the media center in The Royal Jordanian Culture Center. (File photo: AP)

A Jordanian technician prepares computers Wednesday May 6, 2009 in Amman at the media center in The Royal Jordanian Culture Center. (File photo: AP)

Three years ago, 28-year-old Khaled Sharaiha was also determined to create his own website: a job search engine for recent graduates. Today, he is the founder of Khireej, the Middle East's first online network focused on students and fresh graduates searching for a career opportunity. The website strives to connect students and recent graduates seeking internships, part time, and entry level opportunities with top employers in the Arab world. The site also aims to provide graduates with access to training centers and career advice, hoping to mitigate youth unemployment in the region by helping fresh graduates and students find their first career and gain real work experience.

Speaking with Sharaiha about the inspiration behind Khireej, he said: “After graduating from university, I recognized a serious gap between university students and the working world. At the time, the global economy was still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis and youth unemployment in the MENA region had reached its peak. I found it annoying to search for graduate jobs on so many different websites, and I realized that many positions required previous work experience. So, I wanted to find a way to bridge this gap. After seeing the huge rise and success of startups and believing that I could create my own, I began spending an extensive period of time developing an idea that would work for recent graduates, and learning the ins and outs of the startup industry, and after doing that, I came up with Khireej.”

As he frequently met and engaged with numerous young job seekers through his work, Sharaiha realized that many universities are not connected with their talented alumni, inspiring him to create a second online platform to further help graduates. He is currently developing a new startup, Gradsgate: a software that empowers the alumni network of universities and helps them discover, reconnect, and organize their past, present and future graduates through a unique branded platform that is dedicated to keeping universities up to date with their alumni, and providing an exclusive place for them to professionally and socially network with each other. The Gradsgate team has recently signed several partnership deals with top schools and universities in the Middle East, hoping to officially launch this April.

Madfoo3atCom is another Jordanian startup that allows customers to pay their bills through banks, online and mobile banking, ATMs, and call centers, to alleviate the annoyance of having to pay billers directly. Nasser Saleh, CEO and founder developed the site in 2011 with the goal of providing Jordanians with an alternative to paying electricity and water bills at the post office or to the biller directly. Today, the online platform provides Jordanians with an accessible national service that facilitates billing and payment services for banks, billers, and clients by saving time, cost and efforts.

While these websites have immensely succeeded in a short period of time, attracting audiences in Jordan and beyond, Jordanian entrepreneurs are determined to keep paving the way through the startup industry, in hopes of further expanding their innovative talents and creating world-renowned startups.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50