Beating the odds: Palestinian entrepreneurs continue to thrive

In the second article of a two-part series, Ambar Amleh, chief operating officer at Ibtikar Fund, presents a few of Palestinian entrepreneurs who are all proud to be building their businesses from Palestine, helping change the negative image of the country held by many throughout the world

While challenges abound, Palestinian entrepreneurs continue to impress with their resilience and perseverance. They are not just focusing on their local market, but they see big opportunities in the Arab world, as well as global markets.

In the group of companies presented below, you will notice that these companies are all online, which is a way for Palestinian entrepreneurs to avoid the physical challenges of doing business in an economy that remains under Israeli occupation.

RedCrow Intelligence www.redcrow.co

Hussein Nasser-Eddin and Laila Akel started their big data-crunching risk analysis company in September last year, realising a gap in the region’s security market for comprehensive security alerts.

RedCrow is an online platform and a mobile application that assists those living and working in volatile political environments to avoid physical security threats by providing them with real-time intelligence. The risk mitigation solution is based on an automated process of aggregating data from the open sources, processing it and locating the threats on maps.

The founders of RedCrow Intelligence believe the primary reason for the failure of the intelligence community to detect alerts, and hence plan for the impact of rapid political changes occurring in the MENA region, was their inability or unwillingness to utilise open sources and the big data they produce effectively.

RedCrow, which participated in the FastForward acceleration programme last year, is currently in negotiations for further funding with several investors.

Kenz www.kenzwoman.com

Kenz – meaning treasure in Arabic – is a Ramallah-based e-commerce lingerie site primarily targeting the GCC countries.

Kenz’s co-founders, a Palestinian woman and an American woman, envision working closely together with the start-up ecosystem in Dubai.

“There is a lot that the Palestinian ecosystem can learn from the experiences of established start-ups in Dubai,” says Christina Ganim, a co-founder of Kenz. “Linking these ecosystems together and creating unity among them is something that we should strongly aim for.

“This type of unity creates long-term growth, employment opportunities for young people and, of course, sustainability. Connecting start-ups from both ecosystems will ultimately improve our communities and foster and support innovation and entrepreneurs across the region.”

Taita Leila www.taitaleila.com

Taita Leila – meaning grandma in Arabic – is a social enterprise that tells hidden and secret stories of the language of thread, reviving and restyling embroidery in a way your grandmother would be proud.

Taita, named after Leila Khalidi, the author of the book The Art of Palestinian Embroidery, produces high quality, modern clothing inspired by the long and rich tradition of Palestinian embroidery. Their clothes are made in Palestine, hand-embroidered by women in the West Bank, and sold online.

Their first collection, The Qabbeh, focuses on the stories and details of the chest panel of traditional Palestinian dress. The collection can be purchased via their website and shipped worldwide. The next collection is planned for October 2016.

AFKARMENA, a Dubai-based crowdfunding platform, helped them raise $36,000.

Noora Husseini, founder of Taita Leila, says: “Dubai is positioning itself as the epicentre of business in the Middle East, with fashion playing a big part. We focused on e-commerce for our business as it was the best way to overcome the political barriers, and to reach customers across the MENA region.”

Pinchpoint www.pinchpoint.me

PinchPoint, a Ramallah-based gaming studio, focuses on players’ behaviour analytics in three main areas: retention, monetisation and user acquisition cost, and the result of this analysis is what decides if the game services or not.

In 2013 PinchPoint’s founders, hard-core gamers themselves, decided to start developing games that would better fit the taste of the Arab market.

With a team of eight people, who specialise in free-to-play casual and super casual games, they have since released ten games, of which two are still in active development with more than 2 million players.

Speaking about their main challenges, Khaled Abu Al Kheir, PinchPoint’s CEO, said: “There are many challenges that we, as a gaming studio in Palestine, face, but the biggest one is access to talent. Local talent is very scarce and almost non-existent, and bringing in talent from outside is not practical.”

To fix this issue, PinchPoint has taken matters into their own hands, partnering with Game Zanga to organise a 72-hour game design competition, for the first time in Palestine.

PinchPoint is currently raising their next round of investment, which they plan to use to grow their team and expand operations outside Palestine.

About Ambar Amleh:

Ambar Amleh, chief operating officer at Ibtikar Fund, has also supported Palestinian entrepreneurs as a programme manager for Palestine for a New Beginning (PNB), a Palestinian non-profit company focused on entrepreneurship development. Through PNB, Amleh organised the Celebration of Innovation, a Palestine-wide competition of entrepreneurs, and Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). Palestine’s first GEW was awarded the GEW Hosts’ Award, an award given by the over 150 global hosts to the campaign that best embodies the GEW spirit.

Previously, Amleh launched and managed various donor-funded programmes, including the Arab Women’s Leadership Institute and the Queen Rania Award for Excellence in Education.

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