As the year comes to a close, we're looking back at the startup news we’ve covered in 2012. It's been a busy year with more startup news than we could have hoped for- the ecosystem's growth is evident.
Below are a few picks from each of Wamda's editorial team members, highlighting some of our favorite stories covered in 2012. But let us know which stories you liked the most this year!
Reine Farhat, Arabic Editor
I am a coffee person; I can drink any kind of coffee as long as it’s prepared with grinded coffee beans, boiled in a ‘Rakweh’ and poured in a ‘Finjan’. Needless to say this was an interesting read for me.
The high end 3D graphics, storyline, and themes combined into one game, is designed to steal you from the present and take you back to fight ancient battles. This soon-to-be-released game will definitely be a hit and I simply can’t wait for the launch in 2013!
Fares Ghandour, Operations Manager
I love the idea because it doesn't tackle a problem per-se, rather the symptoms of a problem. Traffic, retail banking, long queues- all symptoms of the problem of out-dated or non-existent customer service and public policies. Can't wait to see this in Beirut!
I used to work at Ruwwad, an NGO that granted scholarships to underprivileged college students from Jabal Al Nathif in Amman, Jordan. Ala' Al Sallal, the founder of Jamalon, was one of the scholarship beneficiaries and I remember interacting with him throughout the process of starting up Jamalon. To see such numbers from a startup founded by a resident of one of the most overpopulated, marginalized, and impoverished communities in Jordan is remarkable. The opportunity for such communities to become self-sustainable through entrepreneurship is becoming extremely appealing in the Arab World.
Glen Dalakian II, Features Editor
Curl Stone Studios, though still fairly young, has advanced rapidly. From their first 'Once Upon a Star' video to 'Nashmi Man', they continue to innovate and design pretty clever storylines and characters. After their boost at Endeavor Jordan, they are hitting all the stops in marketing and development and I think they are on their way to some major successes.
Though they were only just launched, e-commerce platform Wamli already has a really cool design and a very fun “gamified” loyalty program for their quirky set of products. When purchases grant customers superpowers, I’m in.
Ambitious and creative, YaDig has a young and energetic team that is taking on the huge challenge of creating a solid review site for all types of businesses in the Arab world. With some creativity, a hip mascot, and a strong monetization plan, YaDig is setting itself up to fill the gap in regional reviews.
Stephanie Nour Prince, Community Manager
Maybe the result of a personal grudge against other music streaming apps for not servicing (some countries in) the Arab world, but I like Anghami because they are tackling all aspects of a mobile app. While many other apps miss the mark on functionality, have terrible user-experience, or try to change user behavior to fit their modus operandi, Anghami's design blends great functionality into a beautiful user-friendly package, the UX rocks, and it really looks like they're hard at work making even more music accessible. The progress is visible.
"You don't know how I live, in Kenya," is my Kenyan friend's favorite reply to me, and this time I was apologizing for the bad connection in Lebanon. We're sitting, skyping her family who lives on the outskirts of Nairobi and she can't believe that she can watch them talk to her just as much as she had trouble believing that she could watch DVDs on her laptop. I really liked this post because it is so different than what is usually associated with the country in the news. Not only can mobile money help revolutionize payment in Kenya and the African continent, but it demonstrates how Kenya can act as a springboard for entrepreneurs in that region. Voila.
This pick is not just for the platform itself, but more for the direction and style with which this was built - it's simple, fun and serves a valid purpose. Nadim Kobeissi has a lot of potential and I'm really interested to see what he's going to come up with next.
Maya Rahal, Managing Editor
Abjad City is genuine and taps into a very needed field in the region: Arabic 'edutainment' mobile applications for kids and, most importantly, teaching Arabic language on top of it all!
I was amazed by the guts of these guys to jump into the Aramex waters and try to take a piece of its success. They did extensive studies of courier company weakness points in handling e-commerce logistics and tried to come up with feasible solutions. Whether their model succeeds or not, I found their initiative to be very courageous and am looking forward to chatting with them in a year to check out if they are scaling or closing.
Nina Curley, Editor-In-Chief
I decided to cover this story at 9pm one night after seeing news of its launch on Facebook- fortunately Lara Setrakian was still awake in the US and was able to hop on a call for a quick interview. I think it's an admirable endeavor and, as a multimedia platform with in-depth coverage in context, it offers an alternative to the ADD model of news consumption that we typically adhere to. Quick skimming of major headlines has its benefits, but a deeper look at context is always informative. If the site can cover all opinions and sides of the conflict, it will be successful from an editorial perspective in my opinion. But the broader experiment explores how viewers enjoy consuming more in-depth information across a variety of mediums. As an editor, I'll be watching that aspect.
Jordan’s Wheels Express Closes Despite Steady Customers: Did it Scale Too Quickly?
This was an important moment for Wamda, because aside from some early coverage of Edmund Baitak's closure, we hadn't covered a startup failure in this amount of depth, nor interviewed a founder who was willing to talk about his challenges and closure candidly, with pride, noting the venture's successes and offering up lessons learned for other startups. Our readers and commenters enjoyed the opportunity to analyze the difficulties in the market, and since then, more startup founders are coming forward to pitch us the stories of their closures, as closing down one startup has become simply another step in the journey, no longer something to hide but an opportunity to reveal one's evolution and hard-earned knowledge (and often the better opportunities and ideas that are coming). Hats off to Ibrahim Manna.