“War is always louder, but we want to raise the voices of youth and entrepreneurship”.
This is how Ahmad Bayram, managing director at Jusoor Entrepreneurship, described the current Syrian ecosystem, after he announced the winners of the Jusoor Entrepreneurship Competition on Monday.
“Entrepreneurs in Syria face various challenges such as displacement, insecurity and power cuts. But despite these challenges, they are building companies and products in fields such as artificial intelligence, digital platforms and ecommerce as we have seen here,” Bayram told Wamda.
“Despite the rough conditions, some participants came up with great business models, creative ideas and formed strong teams,” said Adnan Tarabishy, manager of the advertising agency Y2Ad sitting on the judging panel.
Listening to their stories while pitching made it abundantly clear how much effort these Syrian entrepreneurs put in.
Iyad Shami, cofounder of Mujeeb, a team developing chatbots, said they suffered a lot from power cuts, forcing them to move from one house to another and rent generators to keep the devices they’re using operational. However, team mates Shami, Aghyad Alkabbani and Zina Khalil persevered
Mujeeb won first prize and $10,000 for their program allowing users to build a chatbot, in any scenario they want, without the need to have programming experience. The team had started selling their services to companies such as Marj3 and Akeed.
Yaman Sadeq, who won second place in the competition and a prize of $7,000, could not get into art school, so he decided to study medical engineering. He started producing visual content on social media, and launched Artilla three years ago with Haya Allouni and Rabea Karzoun. He now wants to develop a business model, and start generating revenue by selling digital content and providing low price educational courses online.
When asked about a success story in Artilla, one of the audience members interfered saying he is one of their followers, and that he benefitted from the videos and even got a job after using their courses.
On the other side, Libeiroot tried to create a solution that might turn into a commercial business. It got them the third-place prize of $5,000 for their taxi booking app between Beirut and Damascus.
Omar Alsakka, cofounder of Libeiroot, with Amr Kahhaleh, said the app connects the big number of travelers between the two cities with specific drivers, for a commission of 15 percent. The app is currently in a trial version to prove its business model. It’s making 10 trips daily.
The Jusoor competition hosted 13 Syrian teams working in and outside the country at Beirut Digital District, to guide and train on topics like market research, growth, pitching, marketing and operational plans, and legal planning.
After five days of mentorship, the teams pitched their ideas in the last day to a judging panel from Asmahan Zein, director of Infofort, Maya Rahal, editor-in-chief at Wamda, Karim Samakie, head of business development at Sajelni, Abdulsalam Haykal, CEO of Haykal Media, in addition to Adnan Tarabishy, and Dania Ismail, cofounder of Jusoor and manager of the Jusoor entrepreneurship program.
Other interesting projects were:
- Tabeeb App connecting patients with doctors and allowing users to book appointments, get medical consultations and clinic locations.
- Ifrit provides a chatbot that helps companies answer their users voice calls, by using a smart algorithm built on machine learning and figuring out the depending on the context.
- Nahi is a software launched in Germany allowing users to identify food ingredients by translating it from German to Arabic.
In a side chat, some participants said they benefitted a lot from the bootcamp and the competition. But they would have preferred it to be divided into tracks because of the different levels the projects are in, which affects the type of mentorship, training and even the competition.
Feature image via Yaman Sadeq.