A passionate reader in love with books, Eman Hylooz was able to raise her first round of investment worth $230,000 from 45 investors from all over the world, in one of the first success crowd investment stories in the Middle East. Now a runner-up at the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition semi-finals, Hylooz tells BarakaBits how her startup abjjad took shape.
Tell us how the idea behind abjjad took shape.
I had worked together with my partner Tamim Manaseer in a software development company for more than 6 years, where we got solid experience in building high quality software. We both are passionate readers with the vision of being a reason for a positive change in the Arabic books’ world. This how we decided to build the first Arabic network for book lovers in the world! Hani AbdulHameid joined abjjad in 2012 as a shareholder.
How do you assess abjjad’s growth in this period?
Pretty amazing! Our traffic and user generated content for books has tripled in one year. Our global rank is now 77,321 and we ranked 1,651 in Algeria, which has the highest rate of Arabic books readers. Google has also officially recognized abjjad as book rating system, and actually 77% of our traffic source comes from Google.
What’s its biggest achievement?
We have launched a product for the Arabic Book Publishers, where they can present their e-Books for our readers with two options: free online reading with advertisement, or paid offline reading without Advertisement. Our first publisher is Dar Alsaqi, ranked among top 10 publishers in the Region. They operate in London and Beirut. 15 other publishers signed contracts with us, and there are more than 50 publishers in the pipeline.
And the biggest challenge?
Getting Arabic publishers on board to sell their eBooks based on 50% commission and digitizing the Arabic eBooks to be converted to electronic books format in massive amounts to be able to create a big eBook library as fast as we can.
What are your expectations about participating in the MIT Forum competition?
After closing a round of $230,000 in February 2014 and reaching very impressive milestones for the year 2014, abjjad is now looking for further investment to grow faster and more aggressively especially after proving the concept and the appetite of the Arabic readers, writers, and publishers in the world. We are now looking for strategic partners to help us in reaching a higher level of success. The MIT competition includes getting focused, mentorship sessions, and allows the entrepreneur to write a very mature Business Plan that would add a lot of value for the coming period. This is an opportunity I am looking forward to. To get introduced to entrepreneurs from all over the Middle East, this is an opportunity that I would never want to miss!
Keep up with the MIT Competition on Twitter at @MITEFarab