In less than 12 months, wedding service site Yebab.com has boosted web traffic by a factor of 10, tripled its pageviews, and doubled its revenue, thanks in no small part to incubation by National Net Ventures (N2V), which placed its first investment in Yebab in August of 2010.
After adding four more startups to its portfolio this April- real estate search site AqarMap, restaurant review site Qaym, gaming portal True-Gaming, and consumer electronics review site Electrony.net- N2V is happy to point to the growth of Yebab.com as a harbinger of success to come.
The site, which provides brides with comprehensive wedding planning services, from gown selection to photography, catering, and venue booking, has cornered a lucrative market by focusing on Emirati weddings. Twenty-four per cent of brides in the UAE plan to spend up to US $140,000 on their wedding, with one-fifth planning to spend more. In 2008, despite the impact of the global recession, the average cost of a Dubai wedding hit US $82,000.
Yebab.com also faces relatively little competition in its domain. Compared to rival wedding planner sites weddingplanner.ae, whiteme.net, and dubaiwed.com, Yebab.com, the only site in Arabic, leads the pack in site traffic according to Alexa.com.
N2V’s combination of capital investment and comprehensive mentoring services has given the site the boost needed to plan expansion into Saudi Arabia and Egypt later this year. In these markets, which cater less to expatriates, Yebab.com may face stiffer competition in luring local brides. Yet as the wedding market never diminishes, there may yet be plenty of cake to go around.
At the Celebration of Entrepreneurship this past year, founder Murshed Mohamed explained how he developed his monetization strategy, which involves charging vendors to have dedicated pages on the site. We followed up with him recently to hear his advice for entrepreneurs.
1) How did you decide to start your company?
We decided to tap into the wedding market, because the wedding industry in the region is huge. We decided to emulate a wedding planner, allowing brides to plan their weddings online, so that they can save time, effort and money. We then created our business model around connecting brides with wedding-related shops offline.
2) What were the most important decisions that you made in your company, or what was a key turning point in your approach?
A major turning point was receiving investment from regional internet holding company National Net Ventures (N2V). Their mentorship, development resources, brand exposure and the targets they set took Yebab to a new level. Within a year of entering into the partnership, our revenue doubled and our traffic increased by a factor of ten. We started thinking much bigger.
3) 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?
When we first started, one of our main difficulties was convincing offline companies with no online presence to jump onboard Yebab.com so that we could promote them to their target audience. We were not well-known back then and it took a lot of effort to convince them that they would benefit from membership.
One of the major challenges we faced was also simply maintaining our focus. As we grew, we often thought of starting new services. Yet we realized that these might distract us from our primary goal, which is building the biggest online wedding directory in the region. Fortunately we refocused our efforts on doing what we do best- serving brides.
4) How long did it take you to get funding?
We received funding two years after launching. We didn't seek out funding, as we were profitable from the beginning. But after we presented Yebab.com at Dubai DemoCamp in March 2010, we received an offer from N2V and decided to take it, so that we could benefit from their mentorship.
5) If you have partners, how do you manage your partnership?
Partners have to agree on the company’s direction and share the same vision; otherwise, things will become difficult. Being clear about the company strategy at all stages is crucial for ensuring that all partners are in agreement.
6) Do you see your market as local, regional, or global? Do you plan to expand? How?
We started Yebab.com as an online wedding directory focused on the UAE, but we see a lot of opportunity in the Arab World and we'll be opening new websites focused on Saudi Arabia and Egypt this year. We plan to localize our site in each country to serve the needs of the local population.
7) What is one technical tool that you cannot live without?
Google Apps. As an online company, we depend a lot on email & document sharing and collaboration. Blackberry is also important for keeping team members in touch and facilitating quick communication and decision-making.
8) What does your spouse or family think of your company?
They are supportive and they understand the value of Yebab.com.
9) Have the recent revolutions affected your approach?
Our development team is in Egypt, so we were affected during the few days that the internet was cut during the protests. But we managed the issue and were not dramatically affected.
10) What are five pieces of advice that you would give a fellow entrepreneur?
Solve real problems with your company. Don't start a company for the sake of doing it.
Know your market- its size, potential problems, solutions, and competitors.
Expect difficulties and problems, but be ready to solve them.
Ask for a lot of advice. If you have doubts, look for people with experience and ask them for their views and opinions. Typically if they’ve been through something similar, they are more than willing to help.