Words by Nina Curley
In a nascent animation industry, Syrian company Ox Animation stands out as a successful pioneer. Formed from the shared vision of brothers Wasseym, Amer and Nasser Abdulghani, the startup creates cartoons with socially conscious messages. Since registering in 2010, Ox Animation has hatched “Be Green,” a series about global warming, “Sheep & Shup,” an educational cartoon for 3-6 year-olds, “Just Teens,” about adolescent social challenges, and iCartoon, a cartoon integrating user-generated content from children throughout the Arab World. After completing a round of financing last year, the swiftly-growing startup recently launched AnMish, a service that allows users to create animations using their own voice.
Wamda asked Wasseym, Amer and Nasser the "Wamda 10 Questions."
1) How did you decide to create Ox Animation?
We have always had a huge passion for animation and felt that there was something missing in the cartoons we were watching. We wanted to eliminate violence in cartoons and bring back the socially responsible kind of cartoon that went missing for a few generations.
2) Do you see your market as local, regional, or global?
Animation industry is quite immature in the Middle East, but we are working hard to showcase the talents of the young people here. While we hope to eventually be a global company, currently we are focusing and creating a platform for young animation companies in the region to compete and share homemade cartoons that reflect our society and culture.
3) What are your ambitions? How do you plan to grow?
Our ambitions can be summed up by our dream to become one of the major companies in the animation industry in the Middle East, and, eventually, the world. Getting there won’t be easy, but we hope to achieve our vision with hard work, good market research, and finding the right niche. We believe that being committed to our dreams and setting realistic targets for each growth phase are the keys to success.
4) What were the most important decisions that you made in your company, or what was a key turning point in your approach?
A key turning point was when we decided to bring investment onboard. Being an entrepreneur in a costly industry like animation is difficult, so having angel investors was essential at the time. We were lucky to have angel investors to trust us and believe in us (a list of whom is found here).
5) What is the biggest problem that you faced (or are facing) in your company, or what were the biggest mistakes you made as an entrepreneur?
Our mistake was that we spent a lot of money on assets and rent and therefore had difficulties maintaining cash flow. We were able to get out of this problem by managing our resources and our expenses and thank God, with hard work and organized management we were able to recover.
6) If you have partners, how do you manage your partnership?
Our company started with the three of us as founders. Amer is the CEO, Wasseym is the Creative Officer and Nasser is the Technology Officer. We get along together very well and our relationship is built on mutual trust and agreement between all parties.
7) Has owning a company made you financially more secure, or not?
Of course it has! Although being an employee is thought of as guaranteeing financial security, running your own business and working as hard as you can to make your dream come true is more satisfying. Because of our belief and hard work and the support of everyone around us, we were able to create secure incomes.
8) How does technology enable your business? What is a technical tool that you cannot live without?
We can’t go anywhere without technology! The internet, computers, and software are essential to our business.
9) What does your family and/or spouse think of your company? Would you advise someone else to become an entrepreneur?
We were very lucky to have supportive families, friends, spouses and investors around us who helped us maintain our enthusiasm with their help and support. And yes, being an entrepreneur may be risky but we think it’s worth the risk if you believe in and work hard to achieve your goals.
10) Have the recent revolutions in the region influenced your approach?
No, not really. But the spirit of youth has made us happy and supported our idea that encouraging youth everywhere is important. It has encouraged us to do our best to expand in our region.