Startups often emerge from a founder’s frustration.
Cairo-based Snapze is one such startup that has built a mobile app to help people find things to do based on what they like. Its recommendations include books, movies, events, and TV.
“I got the idea when I moved to Cairo 3 years ago,” explains
co-founder Ranya Riad. “It was hard to find out about what was
happening in the city and the people I know were always doing the
same things. I wanted to get out, explore, and try new
"Online content was so fragmented," she continues. "I really wanted one complete destination that provided a variety of content in an easy to use service. I was particularly interested in learning engines and wanted to see more personalization in online experiences here.”
The more Snapze is used, the more it makes experiences more
personalized. The clever engine that enables the app's learning is
built by Riad's co-founder Osama Brekaa, who she describes as a
“genius”. As an Egyptian American who used to manage
teams of techies for multinationals in the US, she's not speaking
Returning to Egypt
Riad's story itself is inspirational. She was born and raised in the U.S. and decided to move to Egypt in defiance of brain-drain, to make a difference, start a business, create jobs, and find a way to give back.
But the journey wasn’t easy; change never is. The revolution happened eight months after she arrived and added an extra layer of difficulty to starting Snapze. That wasn't even their biggest problem; finding reliable developers proved trickier. Even though Snapze was from the first batch of companies to graduate from Cairo Incubator Flat6Labs, they’ve only been able to launch on Apple’s appstore at the beginning of this month (and Android version is on its way).
Now that it's out, the app is as polished as the best of them. The interface is only in English, and an Arabic frontend is in development, but as most content providers in Egypt still only deliver content in English, that’s not a large drawback yet.
Luckily, establishing partnerships with local content providers
has proved fertile. “I've been really fortunate and impressed
with how the process has gone and how many partnerships I've been
able to secure. That really has constantly given me
inspiration,” added Ranya.
Expanding in the Local Market
Snapze doesn’t have any direct competition as such, but there are many services that provide activity information. Its key difference is the personalization of the content aggregation. The business model relies on ads and sponsorship for revenue for now, although in-app purchases are coming. They also plan to license the engine, another smart move.
It’s early days yet, but Snapze has almost 1000 users. Until extra funding comes in, direct marketing activity will be limited, so the plan is to focus on social media for now but they will have the benefit of partner marketing; a media push from partners will help in coming weeks.
The team will keep adding more activity categories to increase the benefit for users. This should be simple, as the backend of the system is built in a scalable way that allows the addition of content without any expense. Riad hopes to see the company becoming profitable within a year, and once they prove their value, expanding regionally and beyond.
I think Snapze has a good chance; the concept is simple and above all makes our life easier, which is what all technology should do. I also hope they do well so that they can set an example, and prove that the best brains need not leave Egypt.