Category Archives: Capital & VC

After Getting Funded, ArabCrunch Launches First Online Social Platform in the Arab World focused on Startups & The Technology Industry

After many days of hard work, after over a year of full time dedication to help startups and techies like you, today AC reached a major milestone: ArabCrunch.NET First Online Social Platform in the Arab World focused on Startups & The Technology Industry. With this announcement, the social platform, was what you the passionate startup and tech community wanted AC to develop for you  and as I mentioned back on April that AC will do it! when I wrote about the ecosystem that we need to have in order to help grow the tech industry in this region and turn our economies into knowledge based economy. Today Our promise is delivered, Here is the ecosystem in one place 🙂

ArabCrunch.NET, Helping The Arab World Innovate

ArabCrunch Group Extends Technological Reach with First Social Network in the Arab World focused on the technology industry

Amman, Jordan and Silicon Valley, CA – Tuesday, November 10, 2009 – ArabCrunch Group announced today closing a round of funding and the launch of ArabCrunch.NET, the first social network dedicated to creating an environment that fosters innovation, entrepreneurship and mentorship for Arab entrepreneurs throughout the world. ArabCrunch.NET offers a dynamic platform for collaboration amongst the various stakeholders within the technological ecosystem from Berkeley to Bahrain.

The launch came during a press conference held by Arab Crunch in cooperation with Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship at the headquarters of the Royal Scientific Society.

“ArabCrunch.NET will facilitate knowledge transfer and enable veterans from Silicon Valley to work with and mentor young talent from the MENA region,” said Bassel Yassine Ojjeh, a former Senior Vice President of Yahoo!, Inc. USA, a serial entrepreneur and Board Member of ArabCrunch Group, who led the round of funding. “We’ve built ArabCrunch.NET to fuel innovation, create a knowledge based society and an environment for job creation in the region that will serve high tech professionals throughout the 22 Arab countries and the western hemisphere.”

“We’re thrilled at the opportunity to be the first dedicated group that focuses on accelerating the innovation cycle both here in Amman and throughout the Arab world,” said Gaith Saqer, Founder of ArabCrunch Group. “Ever since we launched in 2008, we have been committed to finding the most compelling technological innovations that impact the Arab world – this next chapter allows us to help foster collaboration on a scale never seen before in our region. We have built a social platform that connects participants and helps them find crucial resources, build strategic partnerships and promote services.”

Since it’s unveiling in 2008, has grown to one of the most widely read technology blogs in the Arab world with over 30,000 monthly visits. Founded on the principle of “professional blogging,” has become the primary source of information about the latest technological advancements relevant to the Arabic world. An Arabic version based on “citizen journalism” was launched last month and has met with great success.

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About ArabCrunch Group:
ArabCrunch Group’s mission is to inform, impact, inspire and create an Arab centric technology ecosystem that delivers information, and connects Arab entrepreneurs both in the region and throughout the world via its properties,, ArabCrunch.NET and About Arab Crunch. The mission of ArabCrunch.NET is to help accelerate entrepreneurship and technology innovation in the Arab world by delivering an online social platform that connects participants of the technology ecosystem.
ArabCrunch.NET is the first online social platform dedicated to connect and support technology companies, entrepreneurs, techies, scientists, academia and investors in the Arab world. ArabCrunch.NET is a project from ArabCrunch, the publisher of and ArabCrunch Arabic Edition.

About Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship:
The QRCE is a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in October 2004 and is now a complement of El Hassan Science City. The center’s mission is to support economic development through offering a package of services to promote excellence and market technology. The centre particularly targets college students, researchers, inventors and initiators to enhance and build their personal capacities. QRCE offers this group consultation and works to develop their sense of excellence and initiative through a set of programs including Queen Rania National Entrepreneurship Excellence Competition, Technology Commercialization Program, Connect Jordan and Princess Sumaya University for Technology’s Entrepreneurship Society (DART).

My Experience with developers in Jordan.

I worked in several IT companies in Jordan and dealt with few programmers. So I can sum my impression about them as the following:


1- if they know programming that is what they know, they might be good at it but they are not creative.

2-Lack of entrepreneurial spirit:

how many programmers took the risk and started up their own businesses. Very few and if they did it would be custom app development.

3- lack of vision:

most developers in Jordan do not have a vision of how technology and the web will evolve.

4- I never know or heard about any Jordanian programmer who founded or confounded world class IT business like a web site or a web 2.0 business. If any did they mostly were a localized copycat of US website or a software.

5- working with Jordanian freelancers is a nightmare:

they promise you and then you get nothing. I dealt with many liars. In Arabic:Nasabeen.

6- Arrogance no risk taking:

if you want to cofound a company with a developer, he will think that he is every thing, and that his work is the most important and nothing else. This is wrong, in USA there are tons of startups every day, why not all of them succeed? What maters most is the idea how much value you offer to the end user compared to your competitor, that includes usability. Execution that includes: the development process and management. Marketing and PR: can you market your service in near zero cost to a wide audience to acquire the initial customer base critical for your future success, funding: to pay for your costs. Most of the ingredients of success is not done by a developer but by the management, I am not saying programmers are not important they are, one bad programmer can cause your business to be destroyed with a serious bug in the code that for ex: enable a hacker to delete your data base, but programmers are an important part of the process.

7- Too much emphasis in work security:

well it is natural that every one needs to secure a present income, but most programmers are not welling to spend their spare time innovating the next big think, they are not welling to partner with a business skilled person and start something from scratch because there is no enough funding. They will come to you after you secure the funding.

8- fact numbers 8: most IT companies who are world class businesses with 100s of billion market cap today, started from scratch some with 2 thousand $ or less seed investments, yahoo was founded at the dorms of Stanford uni, same for google, same for Dell who started with 1000 $ investment. Same with Sun, while HP started from the garage. Same with Apple. Myspace, also facebook started from the dorm .for none IT starbucks started with few thousands investment in one location, now it has thousands of shops around the world with billion of revenues.

How did these startup succeed while other did not?

1- value:

A- New product: they might have came with a new product: ex yahoo: a directory that helps to find websites- where to go across the web.

B- Improvements on existing products: yahoo directory was not enough to find what you want from the web, so google came with algorithm of a search engine and launched it services, now google is at least 5 times bigger than yahoo with around 150 billion market cap. Another example of improvements is facebook: social networking was there with friendster then myspace, but facebook improved the service with usable clean features. ( first facebook was only for Harvard students, provided a directory for students, something that makes Harvard students stay connected and help them get to know each other, a value nto offered else where for them, and then it evolved) so it started as a niche offering unlike mypsace targeting masses of teenagers, facebook initially targeted students and kept improving – innovating until now it has almost the same unique visit to myspace globally, while myspace lacked continues innovation for years it is playing now catch up game with facebook features.

2- Business model:

PC where there but what Michel Dell came with is a new business model: customize PC to each individual and use 1 to 1 marketing through mail, build to order, means he had almost zero inventory a huge cost cut, these things initially provided him with a competitive advantage to other PC vendors. While google monetized its free search engine with non intrusive contextual text ads which are effective for both advertisers and the end users.

3- Marketing and PR:

hotmail was the first web-based email, which is by it self represent 1st mover advantage, but what it did is it used Viral marketing: using your customers to bring more customers, which means free advertising for you, and a more effective way to acquire new customers, Hotmail embedded a small message at the end of every email that says: -get your free email from hotmail click here-, this term was coined by Tem Draper. The VC behind hotmail.

hotmail was sold to Microsoft for 500 million.

Another example Facebook used: address book email gapping to virally acquire more users. Also all these companies had a great PR strategy which helped them create a buzz and excitement about their products for an almost zero cost.

4- Management:

These companies had strong management people.

5- Funding:

Millions of Dollars in Funding were secured to these companies from VCs after they developed their products and acquired an initial customer base. Facebook first after few month of launching it raised 500 thousand $, then later millions up to 35 million, and recently up to 700million making its value to 15 billion.

Bottom-line: if you stumble upon a person with great idea -like me-, and with knowledge how to reach out customers, partner with him and work day and night to make it happen, you might in few years make millions of dollars

Tune in I will post a more detailed post in my blog about the ingredients of success for the successful IT companies. And soon I will launch a web 2.0 and mobile 2.0 blog in Arabic.

iPark incubates hi-tech entrepreneurs in Jordan

another article published on the Star by me back on Thurday,April 26, 2006

Based in Amman, (iPark) Jordan Technology Incubator is a business incubator specialized in Information Technology and telecommunication (ICT). It was established in 2003 by the Higher Council of Science and Technology (HCST) as a non-profit organization.

“The incubator aims at helping entrepreneurs to establish their own companies, in the most critical stage: The first two years,” said Omar Hamarneh, director of iPark, adding, “start-ups fail in their early stages not because their ideas are not innovative but because the founders fail to think and act as businessmen instead of thinking as engineers.”

Incubator firms in the West, provide qualifying new start-up businesses with a set of facilities—physical space, shared services, business, marketing and legal advice, and financial inputs—to facilitate their creation and assist them until “graduation”, when they have the capacity to “survive” in the outside competitive environment.

On the other hand Venture Capital (VC) firms raise funds to finance ICT companies in early, mid and/or late stages, in exchange for convertible preferred stock. That type of funding is interest free, which makes it consistent with Shar’ia (Islamic law). Usually VCs’ main focus is on investing in emerging and promising young companies.

iPark dose not acquire a share in the startup; it provides all its services from office space to furniture and IT infrastructure to managerial and marketing advise for only JD160 monthly.

“Unlike western-based incubators, iPark does not provide funding but tries to arrange funding from different sources: National Fund For Enterprise Support (NAFES) to help small- and medium-sized businesses of HCST; individual or corporate investors,” Hamarneh said.

According to Hamarneh start-ups in Jordan struggle to get funding. “We do not have enough seed funding in Jordan; for example if you have an established company that needs funding of JD2 million, VCs would oblige. but if the company was a startup which need seed funding for JD 30,000 it will not find”. He said. Adding that “startups that need seed funding are small, so the probability of their failure is higher, that means higher risk for the VC”.

To get qualified to iPark an entrepreneur needs a business plan that is evaluated by iPark; if it was not available, then iPark will provide free consulting to prepare it. iPark has contracted a lawyer and an accountant, who offer their services to the incubatees for a minimal charge.

“We examine the founders and their drive, iPark interviews them from 4 to 5 times, before accepting or refusing them”. Hamraneh said, to accept applicants, iPark looks at the business opportunity, the competitive advantage, financial maters, and the size of the market, “the size of Jordan’s market is small, so we also look at the ability of the founder at least to enter neighboring markets”. Hamarna said.

There are 18 companies working today in the incubator, and two more companies will be entering soon. “No company has failed all of them are successful” said Hamarna.

Four companies has graduated from the incubator: Dimensions Consulting Inc (DCI) specialized in chip design, Electric Pharmaceutical Services (EPS) a business to business pharmaceutical procurement company, the first Arab web hosting community and RAZORView Advisors strategic consultants.

DCI has graduated after 8 months because it expanded and it needed more office space, “the incubator is a brilliant idea, but they need to expand and host 100 companies instead of its current capacity of 22, in order to provide a scale for extra services,” said Muhannad Al-Saman, technical manager at DCI.

Saman had high expectations prior to enrolling in iPark as his business was lacking support. “The benefits derived from being part of iPark are the ability to launch right away the business with the availability of equipment and office space, and being in one place with other IT startups who share the same motivation and ambition,” Saman said.

Lu’ai Tawfeeq, general manager of EPS who graduated in October 2005, named the benefits in terms of affordable rental of office space which is equipped with high speed Internet, telephone, fax, copiers, printers, PC and office furniture.”

He added, “we benefited also from iPark database of customers contacts, legal offices and VCs. iPark referred us to Jordan-US Business Partnership (JUSBP) which covered 80 percent of the cost of documenting our software, plus paying a new employee’s monthly salary of JD100; iPark also referred us to NAFES fund which covered 80 percent of the cost of developing our business plan.” EPS was the first company to join iPark; it started with 3 employees and now employs five.

“The availability of the IT infrastructure at iPark enabled us to focus on our core business—community web hosting,” said Omar Qoudsi, president and co-founder of, adding, “while we were part of the incubator, iPark launched a finance and accounting workshop, for free, which was very beneficial for us.” Like Saman, Qoudis, complained about the limitation of fiscal space, and demanded the incubator to offer more consulting services in accounting and finance, and to carry out checks on its member companies and how they are progressing.

Jeeran started with 2 personnel and now it has a staff of nine, according to Qoudis who declared that is profitable, with 550,000 registered users from all over the Arab world and 400,000 web sites.

“The incubation offers a good environment that hosts many companies under one roof; it gives you an insight into the market, and enables you to exchange expertise with other companies,” said Majed Qasem, managing director and founder of RAZORview, which joined the incubation in 2003, and graduated in 2005. It grew from an initial staff of one to the present seven employees.