Will the next real challenger to Eventbrite come from Morocco?

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While the MENA region lacks many of the web services that the rest of the world has become dependent on, many entrepreneurs in the Arab world have launched copycats of these services or copies adapted to local demands. Some have even gone above and beyond. For example, the team behind Synergie hasn’t merely created a local version of Eventbrite, but a mobile service with an connected website to overcome the problems encountered by Eventbrite users globally. The resulting app, Ev.ma, is now available in beta in Morocco.

This is not the first time that MENA entrepreneurs have tackled this issue (check last year's roundup), but so far none have really succeeded. Rikbit's website was shut down, and it took Sajilni more than a year to list enough events to make the service relevant. Will Ev.ma succeed where these others have failed?

Moroccan event lovers, Younes Qassimi, Fahd Idaghdour, Younes Adounis, and Khalid Khalifa ran into difficulty keeping track of all the events taking place in the region. Events are usually posted only on personal Facebook and Twitter pages where they get lost in an overflow of information. It’s even more difficult to know which of their friends are attending, a key factor in their decision whether or not to attend.

As organizers, (Synergie holds the annual Maroc Web Awards) the team has been forced to deal with Eventbrite’s logistical limitations: a slow check-in process at the beginning of the event, inability to buy a ticket without a credit card, or the lack of information about attendees’ behavior during events.

Ev.ma aims to list all Moroccan events in one centralized location, and to offer more relevant suggestions in terms of location than Eventbrite does (a feat that won’t be difficult to achieve). The app uses geolocation to allow users to find nearby events, and offers suggestions based on users’ registered interests. Each member can also follow the profiles of event organizers, favorite speakers, or friends.

The service also seeks to engage with participants during events. Currently users can check into events and activities within events using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. In the future, users will be able to check-in on Foursquare when arriving to an event or when moving within the event (the team is exploring the idea of using sensors to facilitate this). These check-ins also allow organizers to customize their conferences based on activities that proved popular with participants.

On Ev.ma, each event has its own page where potential attendees can find key information such as itinerary suggestions or speaker lists.

Ev.ma has several plans for revenue streams, including a ticketing system allowing payments without cards, which will allow Ev.ma to monetize. Other plans for revenue include offering advertising deals and a membership card that will offer VIP access and discounts.

The real challenge of Ev.ma is to convince event organizers to post their events at all. Will Synergie’s very good network in Morocco be enough to publicize Ev.ma?

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