In honor of Valentine’s Day, we have put together a list of 8 dynamic startups in the Arab world founded and run by married couples. It’s a diverse range, from gaming to branding, children’s entertainment to online social portals for women.
Each couple balances their business and personal life differently yet somehow manages to make it all work. The couples also offer some advice about working alongside their spouse.
Check out the list below, and let us know in the comments section if you know of any other entrepreneurial couples who are starting a new project together.
Zoya Sakr & Rudolf Jabre of 2Pure
Dubai-based startup 2Pure offers branding strategies for online companies, especially targeting audiences in the Arab world. The couple has two wildly popular sites of their own: women’s content platform nawa3em.com, and business and lifestyle portal ra2ed.com. Through their work they hope to build the prevalence and quality of available digital Arabic content for global users. “We have totally different responsibilities and each of us is a decision-maker in our own area, so our workflow doesn’t depend on each other,” says Zoya. “But if I have to work the whole night or week on something specific, he will be doing the same. So for us, work is a huge part of our lifestyle and we both enjoy it together.”
Sharifa Albarami & Khalid Alhosni of AlJazeera Global Services & Investments (AGSI)
AGSI is a business group with a range of business services including logistics, dropshiments, facilities management, business econometrics, social marketing and knowledge gap coaching. Founded in 2005, the company is based in Oman and is the holding company for AlJazeera Technical Solutions, Al-Madina Catering Supplies, AlJazeera Logistics & Transport and AlJazeera Facilities Management. "The best thing about working together as a couple, is raising the kids in the office, literally," says Sharifa. "Entrepreneurship is the best self-discovery tool, and doing it with your companion is a bonus. My advice to other couples working together: learn to differentiate clearly between your roles as husband & wife, and as business partners. Never mix the two.”
Nadia Boulifa & Karim Sehnaoui of Comptoirs des Beyrouth
Upon realizing that Tunis had no solid Lebanese restaurants, this founder couple decided to take it upon themselves to open their own. In late 2011, Comptoirs des Beyrouth opened in Tunisia with a clear vision to simply make great food, have solid service, and expand where they are in demand. “We have two completely different management styles,” says Nadia. “So we never thought we could do business together. But those differences just allowed us to improve and challenge ourselves and therefore get our business to progress. Our problem is neither trust nor decision making- Karim is the boss- but to learn how to stop talking about business all the time!”
Delphine Edde & Herve Cuviliez of Diwanee
Lebanese startup Diwanee has created a group of wildly popular social online portals for women in the region, including 3a2ilati.com, for mothers and subjects including health, education, and cooking, Yasmina.com, for fashion and beauty, and Wayyana, a social network for women. “We met through work and we’ve always managed to do it together. But we each work on different and complementary things, I would never want to do what he does!” jokes Delphine, “The key is communication and eventually knowing when to stop talking about work.”
Souad Merhebi & JC Hoelt of Gamabox
Based in Lebanon, Gamabox’s mission is twofold: to fill the gap of Arab game coverage by offering biweekly mobile game reviews in English and Arabic, and developing their own mobile games. Their first game, set to release later this month, is Ali Hood, is a challenging title for Android and iOS where players must fight their way through desert palaces and dungeons on a magic carpet. “We don't have a personal life, our business is our personal life. It makes us share everything: goals, pressure, success and failure. Having such a crazy project with the person you love and trust the most is amazing,” says Souad candidly.
Chantal & Samer Youssef of Sacha Books
Egyptian startup Sacha Books is a digital bookstore offering interactive Arabic stories and games for children. The entrepreneurial couple is addressing a lackof available digital Arabic stories for kids in the region, trying to increase the availability of interactive and educational material for parents to use with their children. “The beauty of working with your spouse is that there is an already established trust and honesty between you," says Samer. "This strengthens our business and we both consider our startup a part of our growing family.”
Sara Galal & Mohammad Badrah of Sweety Heaven
Sweety Heaven in Egypt uses the virtual world to improve children's behavior by motivating them to be more productive and reward them for their progress. As Badrah says in their Entrepreneur of the Week interview, “Maybe blending work and personal life is not the perfect solution, but if we are happy then that’s what matters.” For now they have struck the right balance, even bringing their daughter to work for some inspiration as part of the startup family.
Reine Abbas & Ziad Feghali of Wixel Studios
Started in 2007, Wixel Studios was one of the first companies to appear on the Lebanese gaming scene. Their sarcastic Arabic games often poke fun at political absurdities and themes in Arab societies, including titles My Balls and Masr 3ayza Min?. “The country's instability, my pregnancy and our financial worries were weighing down on us, but somehow Ziad and I managed," says Reine, "And if I had to choose between the husband or the partner, I would have to be schizophrenic."