Club Courage: Erica Werneman & Yasmine Åkermark from GoTibba App

Club Courage: Erica Werneman & Yasmine Åkermark from GoTibba App

Every week, the Soukie Speaks’ Club Courage series celebrates a brave entrepreneur in the Arab startup ecosystem, by sharing their story and the impact that their startup is having on the community. This week we interviewed co-founders Erica Werneman & Yasmine Åkermark from the GoTibba app

1) Tell us a little about yourself, your educational background and how you got into entrepreneurship.

Erica: I’m a qualified lawyer but I’ve always had an interest in startups and I’ve worked with several entrepreneurs in the past. As well as my legal background, I studied macroeconomics at University and a specialized in household debt and the effect it has on society. I got into entrepreneurship largely as a result of Tibba. Once Yasmine and I had the idea it seemed silly not do something about it so I’ve very much been learning along the way.

Yasmine: I too studied economics at University but I took a very different route after graduation. I’ve basically been working with startups ever since I graduated and I have two successful businesses behind me. Entrepreneurship has always come very natural to me and I much prefer working for myself rather than a traditional role. My last company was a vintage fashion brand and I was able to combine three stores in Central London with lots of international travel so that was pretty amazing. Once you get used to being in control of our own time and talent it is very hard to go back to a traditional job.

2) What is the GoTibba app and what can users expect from it?

Tibba App as a digital marketplace for people to meet and trade skills. We have everything from small businesses to freelancers and private individuals that have signed up to use the platform the skills on offer are very varied. In general, they tend to be from the creative and freelance industries but we also have quite a few businesses like small hotels and resorts, yoga studios, surfing schools etc that have signed up.

We believe people should be able to use their skills to get what they want. Rather than putting more expenses on your credit card think about how you can help others to get what you want. It’s a much more social way of transacting and it means that everyone has access to opportunities, regardless of the size of their wallet.

The name “Tibba” is actually a funny story. We came up with the concept of Tibba on a road trip to Oman and we thought we named it after the place we were in when we drew the first sketches of the app. As it turns out, we were wrong and the name of the place is actually Dibba, not Tibba. Still, the name stuck and we sort of like it!

3) Does GoTibba require users to pay a fee to use it? If so, how much and what will they be paying for?

The basic features are free you use as we want as many people as possible to start trading skills instead of bills. For businesses looking to use Tibba regularly and for extra features such as legal contracts, insurance, international searches etc there will be a subscription fee.

4) How will the GoTibba team structure the frequency and the kind of skills that are exchanged between users?

People can trade as much as they like. We keep track of the number of skills listed and we add new categories when there are sufficient number of relevant skills. We’re also adding a review feature so that people will be able to review the performance of the people they trade with. This will generate some social proof so that people can feel comfortable trading with people they don’t know. This will also give us a means of tracking the overall number of trades that occur on the platform.


5) How does the GoTibba team plan to deal with users who offer subpar services or refuse to offer a service to a fellow user that they agreed to offer?

At the initial stage we do not get involved in the agreement between two individuals. We would advise them to be cautious and use good judgment and not trade something big with someone they don’t know. During the next phase we’ll be adding things like insurance and legal contracts that will give more security to larger transactions.
That said, we’ve found that loads of people are prepared to trade some of their time for new skills and it is very much a community feel on the platform. Scammers are usually out for money and are not necessarily out to learn new skills.

6) The MENA region has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, which puts a lot of stress on personal and family finances. Do you think that young people are willing or able to “trade skills, not bills?”

Trading skills offers an excellent opportunity for young people to get new experiences without having to pay for them. In many ways it can also offer them a chance to interact with businesses that could be interested in hiring them if they are impressed with the skills and services. The size of your wallet shouldn’t limit your opportunities when you have skills to trade.

7) How do you think GoTibba’s motto “trade skills, not bills” will impact the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Dubai in the future?

We hope that we’ll be able to set an example that will show others how they don’t have to rely just on cash to get things for their business or themselves. Trading skills is both a lot more capital efficient as well as being a much more social and interactive way of growing a startup. As a result, we hope we can help business to grow without the need for too much funding and we also hope that entrepreneurs will start to adopt the digital barter mindset in their everyday life.

8) One of the biggest problems facing young Arab jobseekers at the moment is the mismatch between their educational qualifications and labor market needs. Do you think that GoTibba can play a role in building human capital by expanding young Arab’s skillsets? If so how?

Yes, definitely. By trading skills, young jobseekers, not just in the Arab world but everywhere, will be able to get new cool experiences that can help them with their professional vocation. They will also be able to get new experiences without using their limited funds so it is a cheaper way of living without giving up on an exciting lifestyle. Fundamentally, Tibba is a platform for social exchanges as well as learning new skills. We have several successful professionals and entrepreneurs that are exchanging their industry knowledge and helping with mentoring in return for all sorts of skills like language training for their kids and learning new things like surfing.

9) What project(s) is GoTibba working on currently and how would you like to see the startup grow?

We are launching the app to a much wider market over the coming months so we are very focused on that. At the moment the app is only available in the UAE (since this is where our Beta testers have been located) but over the coming months we’ll be rolling it out to places like Bali, London and Stockholm. We plan to launch globally once we have enough people on the platform so we’ll soon be global!

10) How can people learn more about you and your project(s)?

Visit our website and check out the blog. We cover everything from the startup stories (everything from the first few steps to our successful Kickstarter campaign), we also cover various people that use Tibba and share their stories. In the future we’ll add more information on the whole fintech sector as we’re doing a lot of work in this space for our next phase when we will combine cash and barter in one payment solution.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GoTibbaTIBBA_logo2016_PNG.png

Linkedin: Tibba

Instagram: www.instagram.com/GoTibba

Like what you see? Join the Soukie Speaks email list and follow my TwitterInstagram, Facebook accounts, so we can enlighten, support and empower the Arab leaders and entrepreneurs of the future together. 

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Club Courage: Noha Mahdi from The Mawada Project

Club Courage: Noha Mahdi from The Mawada Project

Every week, the Soukie Speaks’ Club Courage series celebrates a brave entrepreneur in the Arab startup ecosystem, by sharing their story and the impact that their startup is having on the community. This week we interviewed Noha Mahdi the founder of The Mawada Project.  

1) Tell us a little about yourself, your educational background and how you got into entrepreneurship.

My whole life, I’ve been a dreamer and a bit of an idealist. I can’t stop myself from thinking of all the wonderful ways the world and our experience in it could be made better. I care for the well-being of our communities and I am always thinking of ways to make our collective experience on Earth a better one. It was this very sentiment that started me on my journey towards entrepreneurship.

noha-mahdi-from-the-mawada-project

I first studied biochemistry at Mcgill University and then completed my master’s degree in Educational Neuroscience at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Since then, I’ve been passionate about education and believe it holds the power to truly transform individuals and societies, which is why I founded The Mawada Project.

2) What is The Mawada Project and what can participants expect from it?

The Mawada Project is a startup aimed at creating community-service learning experiences for children (aged 9+) in the United Arab Emirates.

Essentially, we provide opportunities for children to engage in meaningful service-work in a consistent, safe and structured way, while building and developing life skills and character. This includes doing things like hospital visits (reading or entertaining hospital patients), teaching under-privileged children, caring for the elderly or orphans, environment clean-ups, etc. The list of options is endless. Our job is to give you the chance to interact with pockets of need within our community and do meaningful work that will uplift those around them, in small or big ways.

The character and skill building comes with the service work. Not only do we teach children to “give” and “serve”, we also want them to learn from the experience and use it as a means to broaden their horizons and experience settings in situations they wouldn’t otherwise have access to and develop core skills that will empower them in school and beyond.

P.S. “Mawada” is Arabic for unity, goodwill and compassion. To us, it represents the core of what we hope to experience ourselves and bring to others.

3) Who is your target audience and why?

For now, we’re focused on providing these experiences for children aged 9-18 in the UAE. We’re starting with a focus on Sharjah and Dubai and hope to expand to other cities eventually. Why 9+? Because we truly believe in the transformative power that these experiences have on children and want to develop their sense of “social awareness” and “service to others” from a young age. That way, it will become an ingrained habit.

the-mawada-project-activities-2

Because the UAE is a fantastic place to live, children are rarely exposed to the areas of need in a society and don’t get to interact with those who are struggling in different ways. We want them to have that exposure and to use it to build on and add to what they’re learning at school.

While our focus is children for now, we will likely expand to providing similar opportunities for adults in the near future. That would include corporate trainings and corporate social responsibility (CSR) events for employees.

4) In many Western high schools and universities, students have to complete a certain number of community services hours in order to graduate. Unfortunately, in many educational institutions in the MENA region this requirement does not exist. Why do you think this is the case?

I think the structure of society is quite unique in the UAE. Thankfully, most of the people here are fortunate and blessed in many ways. What this does is it keeps the areas of “need” and “struggle” slightly out of sight. Whereas in a place like the U.S., you see homeless people on the streets, we don’t have that here. I think the fact that there is thankfully less need and it’s less visible means that this requirement isn’t as pressing here as it is elsewhere.

I also think we’re simply not used to seeing structured and organized efforts of community-service work and volunteerism. It’s not yet part of our social fabric, and we don’t grow up seeing it all around us, like you would in other countries. While it’s in our DNA to do good and be kind where we can, it’s the structure and organization around it that I think is lacking, and that’s what we hope to bring. We would love for community-service hours to become a graduation and even work requirement across schools, universities and companies across the UAE, and have been happy to see a slow, but growing, movement towards that in many places.

5) Does The Mawada Project intend to work with UAE schools to introduce the culture of volunteerism? If so, how?

Yes, definitely. We plan to take our programs and events to schools so that students can participate more regularly and have access to these kinds of experiences directly through their schools. We’ll do this by organizing weekend and after-school programs that fit into the school schedule. While we will always offer our services to individuals, we hope that by going through schools, more students are transformed by the experiences and we do more good!

the-mawada-project-activities-3

6) What advice do you have for young people who want to be socially active, but whose parents don’t see the value in volunteering, because it takes them away from their studies and family responsibilities?

We need to start looking at the long-term, big-picture of things. Of course, studying and family responsibilities are important, I am certain that the experiences and learnings that can be gained from service-work and volunteerism will only add to and not detract from them.

Students who have given their time in service realize the importance of their privilege, the importance of their education and the ways in which they have a responsibility towards others. This makes them better students, better learners and more mindful, caring, positive individuals. There’s also research that suggests that “giving” increases levels of happiness. It’s a win-win-win for everyone, on all levels. Don’t give up and show your family and parents and loved ones that by giving your time to others, you’re also helping yourself and them.

7) What advice do you have for parents who want to make their children more socially aware and active? What if their children aren’t interested? What can parents do to make volunteering appealing to them?

One thing that we’ve seen in our programs is that most people don’t realize how great thethe-mawada-project-activities-4 experience is going to be until they try it. Students and children may fear that they’re not going to know what to do or that it’ll be awkward in some way. As soon as they get into it and immerse themselves in the experience (with our training and support, of course) they love it!

Being able to make a positive difference in someone else’s life is empowering and intoxicating in the best of ways. Give them the responsibility – have them come up with the ideas and solutions rather than telling them how or what to do. Encourage them to try it once or twice and I’m almost certain they’ll warm up to it.

 

8) Is there any way that members of the wider UAE community can support The Mawada Project? If so how? 

There are a few things that would be helpful to us at this stage.

  1. Spread the word – if you know any children (or their parents) between the ages of 9 and 18, let them know about us and our program. We’d love for as many kids as possible to join us and be transformed.
  1. Service opportunities (areas of need) – if there are areas of need that you notice or know of around you, please let us know. We’d love to find ways to organize our events and programs around any areas of need in the community.
  1. Group packages – if you are in charge of a school or company and want a large number of your members to experience what we offer, please feel free to reach out. We’re more than happy to create custom solutions and packages that will meet your needs and allow you to learn through group service-work experiences.

9) What project(s) is The Mawada Project working on currently and how would you like to see the startup grow?

We’ve just had a few small pilot programs and we’re ready for a full launch. We’re currently working on our fall set of weekend service-programs. These will be available in packages of 8-10 weekends and we’re excited to engage as many students as possible.The Mawada Project Logo.png

10) How can people learn more about you and your project(s)?

Make sure to visit our website (which will be renovated and updated soon) and follow us
on our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as we start to generate content and stay tuned to our updates! Or, feel free to email: be@themawadaproject.org to be added to our mailing list.

Like what you see? Join the Soukie Speaks email list and follow my TwitterInstagram, Facebook accounts, so we can enlighten, support and empower the Arab leaders and entrepreneurs of the future together. 

Club Courage: Khalid Alali from Wadhefty

Club Courage: Khalid Alali from Wadhefty

Every week, the Soukie Speaks’ Club Courage series celebrates a brave entrepreneur in the Arab startup ecosystem, by sharing their story and the impact that their startup is having on the community. This week we interviewed Khalid Alali Founder of Wadhefty

1) Tell us a little about yourself, your educational background and how you got into entrepreneurship.

My dedication to providing solutions to local problems started at an early age. By the ageKhalid Alali Founder of Wadhefty of 12, I had my first taste of entrepreneurship when I built two progressive micro-businesses in Saudi Arabia: a DJ service and a music CD operation. Despite the popularity of my services as the go-to person for great music, I closed down the businesses when I graduated from high school. My dream was to build larger businesses to help foster a
sustainable economy. This led me to study commerce at the University of Western Ontario and Concordia University. After college, I joined McKinsey & Company as a consultant in the Dubai office. My consulting experience equipped me with the problem solving and leadership skills that I needed to tackle one of the Middle East’s most challenging problems – youth unemployment.

2)What is Wadhefty and what can customers expect from your service?

Wadhefty or “My job” in Arabic is a social enterprise that is targeted towards supporting Arab youth gain employment. It’s bread and butter is a CV writing service that is both in Arabic and English, but it also provides free content and advice on best practices for finding employment. Best of all, the content is region focused and targeted at youth.

3) Do you have any recommendations or best practices that your customers should follow after sending their Wadhefty CV to prospective employers?

It depends on the nature of the relationship between the candidate and the employer. If the CV was sent online without a previous contact in the company, it is usually best to send a follow up email after 1-2 weeks. Depending on the candidate’s fit for the role this may help them stand out in the screening process. However, generally, it is advisable to try and meet or speak with individuals in the company before sending a CV. What you do before applying can often be more impactful than what you can do after applying. One of our contributors recently published a helpful article on how to increase your chances of success in the application process.

4) What do you think are the top three problems that job seekers in the MENA region face and why?

1: More needs to be done to spur and encourage entrepreneurship and the growth of SMEs. In developed markets like the United States, SMEs employ about 50% of workers, whereas in Saudi Arabia SMEs only employ 25% of workers. A thriving SME ecosystem could employ millions of workers across the MENA region and help take our economies to the next level.

2: Education in most GCC nations does not encourage skills needed for a knowledge economy e.g., critical thinking, soft skills and instead focuses on memorization of theories. We can’t expect youth to thrive and contribute to our economic growth if we don’t equip them with the right skills.

3: There is a shortage of skilled jobs in most of the MENA region, leading to underemployment. In GCC countries this is partly driven by a private sector that has historically depended on cheap foreign labor to perform low-skilled/manual tasks. This could be remedied by the private sector investing capital in more advanced equipment and processes that require higher skilled labor. Encouraging this change at scale is a challenge for policy makers.

5) Do you think the job recruitment culture in the MENA region is hindering youth from finding employment? If so, how?

There are 3 major problems in recruitment culture in the MENA region

1: The culture of “Wasta” or nepotism is a major obstacle for individuals trying to launch their careers. Finding a first job or internship without Wasta can definitely be a challenge. The good news is the Wasta advantage tends to disappear over the long run as merit becomes more important.

2: Another cultural obstacle faced by job seekers in MENA is blatant discrimination. This can take many forms, the most common being: gender, nationality, tribe, and religious sect. Discrimination is well documented for women where in several countries young female unemployment exceeds 30%.

WEF Youth Unemployment Rate in GCC

[Source: http://reports.weforum.org/rethinking-arab-employment/introduction/]

3: There is a shortage of career advice and career content in Arabic. I was always shocked to receive 100s of CVs with candidates who put their “Target Job” as “Any job.” Clearly, universities and the media need to be do more to help individuals understand how to apply for jobs.

Disclaimer: Each country has its own challenges but these are some of the broad themes I’ve witnessed in the GCC.

6) In the West, many young people are encouraged to get a job, so they can start building the resume and skills needed to be successful in their future professional lives. However, in the Arab world, most young people don’t engage in the formal workforce and most don’t write their first resume until they’re just about to graduate from university. So, how can we encourage Arabs to start thinking about building their resumes and professional skills at a younger age, so they can thrive in the current workforce?

Governments and universities have a critical role to play in setting policies that encourage youth to gain work experience. For instance, some academic programs in Qatar requires students to volunteer in order to graduate. This is an excellent way to encourage youth to be more involved in the community and develop their resumes. The Saudi Ministry of Labour recently launched a program to encourage employers to employ students in summer internships. These initiatives are a step in the right direction towards developing youth capabilities from a younger age.

7) Not only does the MENA region have the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, it also has a lot of underemployed youth. Do you think this problem stems from the inability of young people to market themselves or does it stem from the job market itself?

I think in most cases the problem of underemployment stems from the job market. For instance, in Canada, where there are tremendous resources to support individuals in marketing themselves, 4 in 10 university graduates are underemployed. A reliance on cheap foreign labor is further exacerbating this problem in GCC nations. This being said, I think that in our region there is a substantial segment of the population who could elevate their employment level with better CVs and career counselling.

8) While Wadhefty provides a valuable service to young Arabs, it only solves a symptom of the real problem, which is a lack of educational and career counseling in the region. How can Wadhefty help high schools and universities build the capacity of young people, so they are better prepared for the existing workforce?

In 2016, Wadhefty is launching Career Workshops. We hope to partner with universities across the region to deliver workshops that can help bridge the career counselling gap. We also hope to share our blog with universities and university students.

 

9) What project(s) is Wadhefty working on currently and how would you like to see the startup grow?

In 2016, Wadhefty hopes to further expand its service offering to support individuals across their career journey.

1: Create online courses to support individuals in attaining skills required by employersMan writing - Wadhefty Cover

2: Partner with leading employers to tailor curricula to their requirements and create job opportunities for individuals who take Wadhefty courses.

3: Partner with educational institutions, recruitment agencies and other stakeholders to further expand Wadhefty’s reach

10) How can people learn more about you and your project(s)Wadhefty logo

The best way to learn more about Wadhefty is through our social media channels and our blog.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/wadhefty

 

Like what you see? Join the Soukie Speaks email list and follow my TwitterInstagram, Facebook accounts, so we can enlighten, support and empower the Arab leaders and entrepreneurs of the future together. 

 

Club Courage: Nida Sumar from the Keza app

Club Courage: Nida Sumar from the Keza app

Every week, the Soukie Speaks’ Club Courage series celebrates a brave entrepreneur in the Arab startup ecosystem, by sharing their story and the impact that their startup is having on the community. This week we interviewed Nida Sumar Founder of the Keza app

1) Tell us a little about yourself, your educational background and how you got into entrepreneurship.

Early life

Well, I am the eldest of 4 children. My parents hail from Karachi, Pakistan and we come from very humble beginnings. I was born and raised here in Dubai and thus I am known to NIda Sumar Keza Founderbe more Emirati than Pakistani any day! I love this country and what it has given me and am very, very patriotic. I completed my high school here in Dubai ay St Mary’s Catholic
High School and was always very interested in learning all I could and thus did quite well in class. Since I was a child, I have always loved challenges, so I was quite the carpenter, mechanic and electrician at home too.

My affair with cooking started at 11 when I made my first roti for my dad and continued rolling them out until I achieved the perfect round fluffy wonder. I was also very good with numbers, they intrigued me, and I think the entrepreneurial bug set in quite early. I was 12 when I first started trading US markets, on behalf of my father of course, via an online trading platform called E*Trade. That’s where my passion for finance came from, I could read charts & financial statements, do pretty complex analysis, read up on market watch and follow tens of stocks and keep up with commodity prices and be very happy doing it all day.

Education & Career 

My father had promised me an education in the US if and only if I scored all As in my O levels and A levels, which I did. I was pretty young though and so my mother didn’t want me to fly off just yet and I decided to start working. My first job was an internship at a local audit firm called Sajjad Haider & Co. in Deira, but I was 15 at the time and so the management wouldn’t allow me to visit clients since I was under the legal working age. So, I quit the job out of boredom and after one semester in American University of Sharjah, I flew off to Minnesota to complete my undergrad in accounting, business administration and business law.

During my undergrad, I worked both part-time and full-time jobs at a career development firm and KPMG. However, the plan was always to return home and contribute in whatever way I could to my beloved country. Upon returning, I worked for a while in external auditing for Ernst & Young and as the Regional Accounting Manager for a logistics company. I then became a financial consultant on a freelance basis and later joined my father’s growing company as the Head of Finance and Legal. During my time at the family business, I pursued and completed my CFA Charter and qualified as a trained chef and cake artist. I also catered from home for a few years on the side.

Entrepreneurial journey

The idea of KEZA sprouted 3 years ago, that’s when I first started talking to friends about it but never really paid much attention, because at the time mobile technology wasn’t as popular as it is today and the execution of the KEZA idea without an app would have cost millions in just asset acquisition and development. It was last year, after my first meeting with Mudassir, co-founder of Careem, Dubai-based car ride startup, that I was inspired to re-think my idea and really start designing an action plan to bring it to life.

Entrepreneurship has always ran in my blood. So, after working for others for 11 years [an experience that was extremely valuable and I would highly recommend] I decided to leave the conventional workforce 11 months ago to focus all of my energy into KEZA. I know my numbers really well and I love food, and I mean… I LOVE FOOD and KEZA brings all of my favorite things together and so here I am. In the very short time since I have started working on my business full-time, I have been blessed to find awesome partners and teammates to work with, meet incredibly talented people and gain lot of support from the community.

The Keza app has participated in various industry events this year including the Taste of Dubai and the 2016 STEP conference. We have also recently been featured in Entrepreneur ME magazine and been chosen as one of the top 25 finalists for the Women-able program powered by Grow Me. We have already done a soft launch for the app and we are working closely with the Alpha team to get the app out ASAP, which we are planning to launch in two major cities- Dubai and Karachi. All the progress that my team and I have been able to achieve in just 11 months has been extremely humbling and rewarding.

2) What is the Keza app and who is your target audience? 

KEZA means innovation in Kinyarwanda, a language spoken by people in Rwanda, and that is the perfect description of the spirit of KEZA and it’s team. We want to bring innovation to the food and beverage industry by streamlining the process of dining out for all diners and restaurateurs. Our target audience consists of diners between the age of 13 and 55 with a smartphone and internet connectivity and restaurants that are medium to high end and are tech ready with a minimum of 8 tables. There are other segments of the industry that the KEZA app will serve, but we will announce them as we role the features out!

3) The Keza app has a whole host of impressive features, which will most likely require a significant amount of onboarding for restaurant/cafe managers and staff. How do you plan to carry out the onboarding process?

Initially, I will be heavily involved with the deployment of the app. My plan is to build a strong relationship with our early adopters, so we can get their feedback and assess how we can effectively deploy the Keza system. It will be a very, very steep learning curve for me as well, but I hope our early partners will be kind and patient! In the future, we will slowly and surely move to deploying the entire system with the help of online tutorials and telephone support. We might also assign each client an “onboarding specialist” from the team to help them when required.

KEZA Team

The app already has 2 years worth of improvements and updates scheduled, so training and development will be a big part of the KEZA brand in general. We believe that this will not only make the transition feel seamless for our partners, but it will also add a lot of value when we share industry best practices and insights with them. We are confident that the Keza app will be very beneficial for our partners’ businesses and the industry in general

4) What are the main criteria for being a Keza restaurant/cafe? Is there an application process?

We actually have very few criteria, we believe in building solutions for all categories of restaurants and cafes. However, a basic requirement is the willingness to adopt change, be proactive, and be fairly tech ready. Currently, we don’t support restaurants and cafes that operate completely offline, though we do plan on developing technology that will serve that sector in the future. Restaurants who are interested in being on the KEZA app will be able to sign-up directly from our upcoming website or they can shoot us an e-mail at Sales@keza.it to speak to someone about getting a customized package.

5) Can customers and foodies recommend restaurants/cafes to add to the Keza app? If so, what is the procedure for recommending one?

Absolutely! In fact, we encourage a lot of communication and we want to be connected to our users and the food scene in the cities that we operate in, because it allows us to adapt and improve in real time. The procedure of recommending a restaurant will be simple. Once we launch the app, diners will be able to submit recommendations for a restaurant on the homepage of our new website, which is currently being developed.

Alternatively, diners can choose to send us a request if a restaurant listed on the app is inactive and they would like to see it operational on KEZA. Once we receive a request, we will take it to the relevant restaurant and set them up on the app. If you’re too excited to wait for our official launch, we encourage you to write to us at info@keza.it and connect with us on our social media accounts, so you can send us your recommendations, ideas, opinions or what have you!

6) Many Dubai-based customers are familiar with the Zomato app, which offers similar functions, so why should customers choose to download the Keza app?

KEZA is actually quite different from Zomato. I’m actually a huge fan of Zomato and have deep respect for the kind of change that the app has brought to the foodie scene here in Dubai. It has made customers very savvy and increased acceptance for apps targeted at streamlining and refining the dining-out experience, which is great for us!

KEZA Product

While Zomato focuses heavily on delivery and reviews, we are here trying to solve the problems diners face when going to a restaurant and the logistical issues that restaurants face when managing their daily operation. So, although a few features overlap, and they have to in order for us to function, our business models are very different. We have almost no written reviews on our app and only ask for a one line review when someone has rated their experience as 2 stars.

7) How do you think the Keza app will contribute to the growth of the food and beverage industry in Dubai?

I think KEZA is great news for the F&B market in the UAE. In fact, we have already made plans to launch in the UAE and Karachi, because of the great response we have had from Karachi restaurateurs as well. We have also had the great honor of being approached by a very popular restaurant in Bangkok! However, I think it will be some time before we can expand to another country.

Given that the UAE F&B market is already valued at over USD 13 Billion, with a projected 4% year on year growth, we believe that the upcoming launch of our app comes at a crucial time. Especially considering that Dubai will be hosting the Expo 2020. Ultimately, we aim to help our restaurant partners increase their mobile integration, so they can cater to this growing customer base and increase their revenues and efficiency in the future. But also in terms of foodies and the F&B industry, we hope to create a stronger community and promote a food movement that encourages more healthy, sustainable and eco-friendly “consumption habits.”

8) Is there a way for the UAE’s passionate foodies to get involved with the Keza app?

We are open to all kinds of content collaborations from passionate home cooks, food bloggers, critics, chefs, food educators, F&B suppliers, talented techies etc. At this point, we’re at a pretty early stage in our development, however we welcome passion and innovation and encourage the community to find ways that we can find help and offer our help.

KEZA Unveiling Event

So if you are passionate, driven, and want to be a part of an innovative, fun, growing company or contribute in the development of the app, drop us a line at info@keza.it and we will take it from there! If you are someone who wants to intern with us, you can also send your resume to HR@keza.it We always need more heads and hands around here! The invitation is open to all passionate foodies and people from all over the MENA and South East Asia.

An invitation also goes out to social workers, volunteers and contributors who are interested in supporting our initiative of educating women and girls who do not have the means to do so and providing rehabilitation to women, who have been victims of rape or domestic abuse or violence. We pledge a share of our profits towards the cause and I would personally like to see it grow far and wide InshAllah.

9) When will the app be launching and how would you like to see it grow?

The app launches in September 2016 InshAllah and it will be available in the App Store for all to download and use. We will also be launching in Karachi in October. We already have very exciting growth plans lined up and a lot of it has to do with creating synergies and connections with other very popular local startups to propel our growth.

I would personally like to see the Keza app grow to be a pretty substantial player in the F&B industry, but I don’t mind us growing slowly and steadily, so we can keep our values intact. Our ultimate goal is to grow into the community and do it as organically as possible, while also giving back whenever we can.

10) How can people learn more about you and your project(s)

To connect with me, you can e-mail me anytime at nida.sumar@keza.it or find me on Twitter. To keep up to date with the project, go to www.keza.it and sign-up there, youKEZA Logo can
e-mail us social@keza.it  and info@keza.it and connect with us via our social media pages:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/kezait

Linkedin: KEZA

Instagram: www.instagram.com/keza.it/

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Club Courage: Sami Khoury from Social Tent

Club Courage: Sami Khoury from Social Tent

Every week, the Soukie Speaks’ Club Courage series celebrates a brave entrepreneur in the Arab startup ecosystem, by sharing their story and the impact that their startup is having on the community. This week we interviewed Sami Khoury, Founder of Social Tent

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself, your educational experience and how you got into entrepreneurship. Sami Khoury Founder of Social Tent

 After a few years of working in marketing, I decided to get a master’s degree abroad. I knew that after graduation, I wanted to work with an organization that had a strong social mission. When I started looking for such jobs, I found it very hard to find something
regional. There wasn’t a portal that was specifically designed for the Arab World that connected me to jobs in organisations that have a social mission. Coincidently, around that same time, I was also bitten by the ‘Entrepreneurship Bug’ but was not sure yet of the type of social enterprise I wanted to launch.

2) What is Social Tent and why is it unique? 

Social Tent matches talent to jobs that focus on social, environmental, and cultural progress in the Arab World. These jobs include careers in nonprofits, social enterprises and development organizations in the region that aim to create a positive social impact.We’re the only platform that specializes in social impact jobs in the Arab World. We take a proactive role in ensuring that socially-driven talent get matched to organizations that are making a difference in the region. This is our core mission and the reason we exist.

What is the profile of your average user and what can they expect from the Social Tent experience? 

Our users come from a variety of backgrounds and have one thing in common: they are ready to apply their skills and talents to a meaningful career. While a lot of our users have experience in the humanitarian sector, we also have job seekers from the corporate world who have grown tired of their jobs and are looking for a career that can give back to society. Suitable candidates can expect a very hands-on experience. They get updates on the latest social impact jobs in the Arab World, recommendations on potential jobs they are good matches for and support from our team on interview and job application preparation.

4) In the MENA region, most job seekers have an account on either LinkedIn or Bayt.com, both platforms that share a substantial number of employment opportunities, so why should they sign up for a Social Tent account?  

We specialize promoting in jobs that have a social mission in the Arab World. Other platforms are general and cover a variety of fields and do not focus on promoting jobs with a social mission. That’s not their priority. When users come to Social Tent they know they’ll only see jobs that are aligned with the social values they are seeking in the organization they want to work for. When they go on these general platforms and search for jobs that have a social or environmental mission, very few jobs are displayed, which is far from reality.

Samy Khoury talking about Social Tent

5) How do you intend to use Social Tent to promote the importance of impact-driven work to youth, the future job seekers in the MENA region? 

 Social Tent actively seeks and takes on opportunities to share knowledge with youth and raise awareness around careers with a social return on investment. For example, we often participate in workshops in universities on the topic of social enterprise. Through those workshops, we have the opportunity to educate youth further on the types of careers they can lead in such fields. However, we also explain that even if they choose corporate jobs they can still lead them with social impact. Every one of us has the opportunity to apply our skills to support our communities and society – and get paid for it!

6) What are the criteria for employers who want to post on the Social Tent platform? Will you create opportunities for smaller or local NGOs to create job postings in the future?   

We only work with organizations that have a strong social, environmental, or cultural mission at the heart of what they do. They have to have a successful track record of impact initiatives that improve communities. We do create opportunities for smaller impact organizations to promote their jobs. We’re always on the lookout to connect with founders and HR managers of these smaller, local organizations. We want to get to know them better and support them in recruiting the right talent that helps them create and maintain positive social impact.

Job from Social Tent
Sample of Social Tent job post

7) Do you have any advice for job seekers who are applying for positions advertised on the Social Tent platform? 

The jobs and organizations that social tent recruits for are still underdeveloped in the region, particularly in terms of scope and processes. As such, different organizations might have different processes for filtering and selecting talent for example. There is no cookie-cutter approach to applying and securing a job in these organizations. Social Tent adapts to the organizations’ needs and often supports them in further defining the roles they are recruiting for. It is also worth mentioning that many of these organizations have limited resources, stretched teams and business models and /or organizational structures that are still not mature. This brings me to some key advice: 1. You need to be adaptable to the organizations’ needs as much as your own professional needs (just like any other job), 2. You have the opportunity to own the creation of frameworks and processes that add value and 3. You have to be ready to deal with challenges you rarely experience in corporate environments.

8) What project(s) are you working on at the moment and how would you like to see Social Tent grow in the future?

We are focusing on impact recruitment right now. We’re building a talent pool of qualified professionals who have the right skills, mindset and experience to help create a social impact in the region. We work closely with our network of socially-driven professionals and organizations to make sure that the right people are matched to the right roles. We like to keep things simple and focused, that’s how we continue delivering our value to the community.

 9) How can people learn more about you and your project(s)?

They can just sign up on the website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It’s that simple!

Linkedin: Social Tent

Like what you see? Join the Soukie Speaks email list and follow my TwitterInstagram, Facebook accounts, so we can enlighten, support and empower the Arab leaders and entrepreneurs of the future together. 

 

Club Courage: Salim El Jaï from Yuzu

Club Courage: Salim El Jaï from Yuzu

Every week, the Soukie Speaks’ Club Courage series celebrates a brave entrepreneur in the Arab startup ecosystem, by sharing their story and the impact that their startup is having on the community. This week we interviewed Salim El Jaï , Founder of Yuzu – top right corner of the cover photo!

1.Tell us a little bit about yourself, your educational experience and how you got into entrepreneurship. 

As long as I can remember, I never enjoyed or cared about school, but I did the minimum to satisfy my major constraint: my parents. When I think about it now,  I think it is wrong that I grew up with this feeling, because there isn’t a single thing that I learned in school that doesn’t help me in my decision-making processes today. Having said that, the only subject that I felt I was ever good at was science, especially computer science. A professor of mine once said that computerMoroccan Tajine science is for lazy people, because they never want to do things twice. It’s all about finding patterns and automating things and for the first time in my life, I agreed with an
educational authority. After completing my studies in Computer Science at the University of Paul Sabatier Toulouse in France and the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign in the US, I started working in Morocco’s largest IT integrator. However, I have always had the desire to create things and provide value to people. But having grown up in a left-wing environment where doing business was always seen as having “a dirty side to it” I didn’t know how to be an ethical businessman until I picked up a book by Peter Drucker in a train station one day. Drucker’s book helped me realize that through entrepreneurship that I could create value while also generating revenue. This realization paved the way for Yuzu to come to life!

2. What is the Yuzu experience? What can a customer expect from your service?

Yuzu is a groceries service based in Casablanca, Morocco that offers customers amazing fresh ingredients with a fun and quick cooking experience. Not only does Yuzu make cooking simple, it also helps busy Moroccan professionals save money and time on grocery shopping. We guarantee our customers the best ingredients at the best prices with recipe cards that are made in such a way that anybody can execute them. Overtime, we aim to help our customers develop healthy habits and a balanced diet. If I were to describe the Yuzu experience in one phrase it would be: “slow food” made fast.

3. What is the profile of Yuzu’s average customer? What is the size of your market segment? 

At the moment, we don’t have one particular customer archetype, as our customer base is still growing. Our customer can really be anyone, because ultimately Yuzu is a groceries service. Anyone who is passionate about eating healthy and cooking at home can use our service. Whether you are cooking for one, two or for a family, Yuzu provides you with groceries and recipes that empower you to live a more healthy and “flavorful” lifestyle.

4. In Morocco, there are many cheap places to eat and, generally, Moroccan cuisine is considered to be quite healthy. So, why would a Moroccan choose to use your service instead of walking into a local restaurant?

I would compare cheap places in Morocco to a fast food joint for workers with a short break, which is typically lunch. Eventually, I would like to open Yuzu kitchens for these Yuzu Ingredients in Plastic Bagsworkers, so we can offer them a cost-effective and healthy lunch. That being said, we are currently focused on providing customers with healthy meals, which can be
prepared easily in the comfort of their own homes. While eating lunch out may be the norm for your average Moroccan employee, dinner is a meal that is usually eaten at home. Your observation that Moroccan cuisine is generally healthy and very affordable is correct. So, we have capitalized on this by streamlining the cooking process and making it easy for everyone to enjoy Moroccan food, no matter what their cooking skill level is!

5. Historically, the food preparation process has been dominated by housewives, who derived social status from their personal cooking styles. Do you think that the emergence of services like Yuzu reflect a change in the gender dynamics in Morocco?

In Casablanca, and many other cities in the developing world, the cost of living puts an immense amount of pressure on households. Consequently, both men and women have to work and share the responsibility of domestic chores. So, I believe, in some way, that this socio-economic shift has given me a unique opportunity to provide a new added value service through Yuzu. Throughout history, there have been many shifts that have had a great impact on society. One example that comes to mind is the mass production of refrigerators after WWII, which resulted in a big boom in the restaurant industry. At the end of the day, I believe that successful entrepreneurs are the ones who recognize these shifts and provide innovative solutions to people experiencing those shifts.

As a child, I remember that there was only one brand of biscuits in Morocco called “Henry’s”. However, nowadays this scarcity is unheard of, because supermarkets are filled with countless brands and all kinds of fruits and vegetables, even when they’re not in season. So, not only have people born in the 90’s, and onwards, never experienced “brand scarcity”, they have also been exposed to an unprecedented abundance of processed and fast food solutions, which are having long-term effects on their health. With the ever-growing constraint on the modern employee’s time to eat, Yuzu has committed itself to help busy people make the time and the effort to enjoy a beautiful, delicious meal made from fresh ingredients.

6. Unfortunately, the irresponsible use of GMOs, pesticides and chemicals threaten the health and lives of many people around the world on a daily basis. How does Yuzu use its influence to promote more responsible agricultural practices and how does it use its service to educate the Moroccan people about the importance of healthy eating?

As a startup that promotes “slow food,” we are fully committed to reducing our Moroccan Tajinecustomers’ consumption of processed foods, frozen foods and fast foods in the
long-
term. However, we realize that getting our customers to create and eat meals made from fresh ingredients is already a huge step. While we would like to incorporate more organic ingredients in our groceries list, we know that they they’re more costly and this cost is usually an obstacle for our customers.  So, with that in mind, Yuzu is trying to ease its customers into the slow “food revolution” by taking them through the journey, one step at a time.

7. At the moment, all of Yuzu’s ingredients are stored in plastic packaging. Are there any plans to transition to a more environmentally-friendly packaging material?

Indeed, this is a very big issue for us, which is why Yuzu is currently thinking of two packaging alternatives. For our regular customers, we would like to use glass conta that can be collected and re-used on a regular basis- like they used to do for soda bottles back in the day. The second option we are exploring, is collecting all the plastic we distribute to our customers (not only our bags) and then sending it to a recycling company here in Morocco. Although there would be an additional cost involved, I think it would be an interesting experiment that would hopefully promote eco-friendly attitudes in our customers and the wider community. In addition to limiting our plastic waste, Yuzu would also like to start sorting the organic materials from our food preparation workshop to send to farms that can turn it into compost.

8. What project(s) are you working on at the moment and how would you like to see Yuzu grow in the future?

Eventually, my dream is to provide every Yuzu customer with only seasonal and local organic ingredients, zero waste and a recycling food service that allows them to live a healthy lifestyle and respect the environment.We are also working on providing ketogenic and paleo diet options in our service to cater to the special dietary needs of our growing customer base. Ultimately, we are working on a simple ingredients delivery system that will connect our customers with the best suppliers in town and tasty and fun food recipes!

9. How can people learn more about you and your project(s)?

People who live in Casablanca can order a meal on Yuzu’s website and learn how fun and easy it is to cook a great Moroccan meal! For those who don’t live in Casablanca or in Morocco, I invite you to visit
our website or send me an email to contact@yuzu.ma for more information. You can also check us out on:

Yuzu-LogoFacebookwww.facebook.com/yuzumorocco

Linkedin: Yuzu

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Club Courage: Khalid AlNasser from Practech

Club Courage: Khalid AlNasser from Practech

Every week, the Soukie Speaks’ Club Courage series celebrates a brave entrepreneur in the Arab startup ecosystem, by sharing their story and the impact that their startup is having on the community. This week we interviewed Khalid Al Nasser, founder and CEO of Practech.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your educational experience and how you got into tech and entrepreneurship. 

My educational background is in medicine. I graduated from King Saud University College of medicine and I was fascinated with the possibilities of automation in such a rapid and versatile work environment. With that mind, I decided that I really wanted to have an impact on the system and no just work in it. I grew up reading tech blogs and everything Khalid Nasser- CEO and Founder of Practech.jpgtechnology-related and the idea that I could do so much with so little and still create robust solutions that could influence our lives and have a clear impact on people opened up a  world of possibilities for me. That’s when I decided that I wanted to become a part of that productive landscape. Considering that tech is an ever expanding and diverse industry, I decided to apply for some patents to ensure that I was contributing to the ecosystem and not just saturating it. That resulted in receiving multiple claims in relation to smartwatches and various functions, such as handshake information exchange, security protocols and barcode scanning. From there I felt like I had no excuse. I knew it was a risk, but I was willing to take it to have an impact, because, ultimately, I would rather regret doing something than not doing it all.

2. What unique features does the Practech smart watch offer customers? 

Practech (Practical Technology) is a company that is committed to developing and launching new solutions for existing needs and not the other way around. We aim to achieve that by developing new wearable and IoT solutions for enterprise to increase the level of automation, efficiency and real time analytics in those industries. Our current Nurse using Practech Watchvertical is healthcare, and more specifically, wearable scanners for nurses. Not only will nurses be able to receive real time physician order notifications on their Prachtechwatch, they will
also be able to follow the notification instructions on what medication and patient tag to scan and it will also verify if it is safe to administer the medication and confirm that the administration is for the correct patient. All processes and treatment administration will be automatically reported for each user wearing the device and will detail the duration, time of administration, the type of drug and patient receipt. Ultimately, we believe that healthcare should be admitted into the 21st century and receive its proper dose of automation.

3. Where do you plan to launch your smart watch and who is your intended target market? 

We plan to launch in the US, because that they have the proper IT infrastructure and health information systems in place. We will be specifically targeting tertiary care facilities, as we are looking to deliver the device to in-patient nurses initially. However, we are eventually looking to expand it to physicians and outpatient.

4. Why should a customer buy a Practech smart watch when they could buy a similar product from Apple or Samsung? 

Apple and Samsung are not selling wearable scanners to enterprise. Both those companies have more of a consumer focus, especially when it comes to wearables.

5. According to your website, the Practech smart watch can help customers track their shopping, fitness, health, professional and dining routines, but how would the watch work in a situation where there are no bar codes or QR codes? 

We do have NFC (Near Field Communication) to communicate with RFID (Radio-frequency identificationand NFC tags should that be the case. However, our focus has shifted and we are currently working on changing our website to reflect our new focus, which is enterprise. In that regard, healthcare is perfect for us when you consider the constant availability of barcodes/QR and other similar communication tags.

6. Practech was recently incubated in the HubX-Life Sciences accelerator in Little Rock, Arkansas, which demonstrates the commitment of the U.S. startup ecosystem to health innovation. Do you feel that the MENA ecosystem is supporting the growth of your segment? If so, how? If not, how do you wish things were different?  

The MENA region is definitely supportive and is constantly working on advancing healthcare. In Saudi Arabia for instance, hospitals are currently shifting to a standardized paperless-based system to include new innovations in the sector and using that new HUBx Health Innovation Incubator in Arkansas.jpginfrastructure for further advancement. We are currently working in the US and aligning our technology with systems in the region, so we can eventually come back to the MENA once the healthcare system has matured a little more and has the supporting infrastructure ready.

7. Do you think that Arab consumers are interested in health tech and innovation? 

With the rise in diabetes, and other health-related issues, the awareness for the need for better healthcare systems and lifestyles is increasing in the MENA region. Nowadays, consumers are more self-aware and they have a better understanding of their health and how it relates to the rest of the globe. Simply raising more awareness for the need of early prevention and the importance of healthy habits will inevitably influence more and more consumers and self-quantifiers to obtain a better lens into their wellbeing through new health tech innovations.

8. As a young Saudi entrepreneur, what is your advice to other young Arab entrepreneurs who want to enter the health innovation sector?

  • Study the market, it’s a very big industry.
  • CHECK FDA REQUIRMENTS!
  • Include domain experts, as a lot of oversights can occur when developing products in this field.
  • Validate and speak to end-users.
  • Focus on automation and not therapeutic or diagnostic devices. Clinical trials and competition can be brutal if that is your focus.
  • Ride or die. You need a team that you can count on, as it’s going to be a bumpy road.
  • Focus on quantifiers (Saves you X in Y Costs. Price is Z) and back it up with as much data as possible.

I could go on, but these are the most crucial lessons that I’ve learned through my experience with Practech and we are definitely better for it.

9. How can people learn more about you and your upcoming project(s)?

You can check us out on:Practech Logo

Twitter: @Practechwear

Facebook: www.facebook.com/practechwear

Linkedin: Practech

We are very committed to development, so make sure to follow us and look forward to receiving very exciting  updates from us very soon.

 

 

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