Event Management Startup Faces Steep Hurdles in Saudi Arabia

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One new startup in Saudi Arabia lets you better organize and personalize your social gatherings, but they ran into some big obstacles when they tried to start up.

7yyaa.com, launched in March, currently targets the Saudi market, striving to make it easier to organize and manage event invites. Users can send personal invitations, manage RSVPs and send out event updates. It’s a sort of Arabic Eventbrite.

"While the new technologies and social networks take physical interaction online, we at 7yyaa.com hope to strengthen relationships by making it easier to organize offline events, occasions, and gatherings,” says CEO and co-founder Abdulrahman Hariri.

But, while the startup may be replicating a strong model with an Arabic flair, the team has found it particularly difficult to build the company in Saudi Arabia.

Challenges to Starting Up

“Saudi Arabia is still considerably behind in terms of services and facilities that encourage individuals to start their own online commercial or service companies,” says Hariri. “Companies still need a commercial registration number and a physical address, not to forget that current regulations do not allow workers to start their own businesses, even if such facilities could create new job opportunities and boost the economy.”

Similarly, a lack of suitable online payment methods in Saudi Arabia and the region remains one of the obstacles for services such as theirs. 

But the 7yyaa.com team is hoping to succeed, given that their Arabic interface offers an advantage over Eventbrite and they face few competitors.

“The experience we have gained from establishing a number of companies in the past, has contributed to figuring out the correct foundations, methods and rules to be followed when developing our ideas, testing business models, and trying to get to know our main competitors,” says Hariri.

As far as competition, there is Sajilni, an Oasis500 graduate that's trying to crack the Jordanian market, and Presella, which offers a great interface and a model that reduces the risk of creating an event- a certain number of tickets must be bought before the event is confirmed.

What Needs to Change? 

“Compared to the United Kingdom, where we first started our entrepreneurship journey, there are still several areas that should get more attention to further promote entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia,” says Hariri, offering recommendations of his own.

  • Entrepreneurship events and gatherings are still very rare and even negligible. There is a strong need for more events promoting entrepreneurship and risk-taking. (But they're increasing! Wamda’s Mix N’ Mentor Roadshow is heading to Riyadh on May 30th).
  • It’s hard to find co-founders who have the required experience and skills.
  • Entrepreneurs need to be able to present their ideas without fearing that they’ll be stolen. Protecting intellectual property is key, otherwise innovators will fear forming new partnerships and bringing on useful co-founders who could steal a good idea.
  • Innovation needs a safe environment that allows failure. The current environment in many of Arab countries fights innovation because it fears all types of failure, stifling a culture of innovation where failure is often the best teacher.
  • Inefficient incubators. It’s nice to hear about plans to establish new incubators, but sometimes, in the absence of other fundamental pillars, they can get in the way of innovation. Some incubators in Saudi Arabia for instance, complain about the lack of capital and insufficient mentors, leaving entrepreneurs hanging.

7yyaa.com hopes to build its platform to include a mobile and tablet application soon.

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