In Morocco, the Maroc Web Awards (MWA) have become the event to look to in the web and mobile space- our LeWeb, if you will, bringing together the geeks, bloggers, entrepreneurs, technology businesses, large companies, digital marketers, ministers, and journalists that comprise the local internet ecosystem.
Launched in Casablanca in 2008 by Synergie Media, a well-known web design agency based in Agadir (South of Morocco), the event has continued to grow each year, says the agency's founder Younes Qassimi. This 6th edition, its biggest, will host more than 1,000 people in Rabat.
The event wasn't always this big, however. In
2006, Synergie Media launched a Moroccan blogger event called
“Blogotour," which was designed simply to
get bloggers away from their computers for an evening so they
could talk and connect with each other IRL (in real life).
By 2009, Blogotour had become quite popular and spread to 7 cities with over 20 total meet-ups. ”It was amazing,” says Qassimi. “The events didn’t make revenue, but they were a ton of fun and connected us to the big names in the local Moroccan blogosphere.”
Building upon this momentum, the idea for a web industry event came naturally, and the Maroc Web Awards was born.
Now, Mehdi Reghai, Mounir Talibi, Younes Qassimi, Ahmed Chergaoui and all the members of Synergie Media team work year-round to build a program featuring the best bloggers and organize a national competition. They've also recently launched a web magazine called The Nexties, which delivers innovative coverage of the latest news in tech, gadgets and culture.
“Our passion has always been to make the web in Morocco a better
place to think, work and play," says Qassimi. Our main goal is to
inspire and connect creative talents that get together, meet each
other, grow their network of friends and contacts, and create
projects that will raise their profile.”
If you're an entrepreneur in Morocco, it's not to miss.
Watch the video interview below to see Younes Qassimi talk about the MWA and entrepreneurship in Morocco.
Separately from the interview, I also asked Younes Qassimi two main questions about entrepreneurship in Morocco:
1. What are the major challenges when setting up an online business in Morocco?
The number of people setting up their own e-business in Morocco has gradually risen since 2005, but the proportion of business owners is still lagging behind other Arab countries. The main challenges are:
- A lack of capital available at the earlier
stages. Most entrepreneurs raise funding from family and
friends, sometimes maxing out their credit cards in the process.
The local angel investor community is a very informal network of
investors, typically wealthy individuals, who mostly invest in
real-estate, as they know the profit margins well. Yet they would
do well to learn about tech startups, which offer a rare ray of
light in an otherwise gloomy economy.
- A lack of local mentorship. There haven’t been a lot of successful start-ups over the last decade in Morocco. Yet, as entrepreneurs coming out of Maktoob or companies that came after Maktoob mature, perhaps Morocco can learn from the experience of these mentors from the broader Arab region.
2. What is your advice for people who are willing to become entrepreneurs in Morocco?
Based on our own experience, we at Synergie Media came up with a “Top Ten list”:
- Have a “good” idea.
- Be passionate about what you are trying to achieve.
- Focus on your mission.
- Be willing to make sacrifices.
- Work smarter.
- Be willing to work very hard.
- Work ethically and build trust with your team, partners and clients.
- Surround yourself with people who are like-minded and driven to succeed.
- Be lucky.
- Have fun and enjoy the milestones achieved because the road to success is a long one!