In an area where telecommunications are greatly restricted, with no 3G coverage, 25-year old Gazan entrepreneur, Mariam Abultewi, has created a version of Uber that works offline.
Abultewi came up with the idea for Wasselni when, as a 22-year-old, she was waiting for a lift in the middle of the Gaza Strip.
Funding for the idea wasn’t initially forthcoming when she initially pitched the idea to investors in 2011. With the help of Gaza Sky Geeks, the first start-up accelerator in the Gaza Strip, she landed an investment from Palinno, a Palestinian operation that works in both Gaza and the West Bank. It was one of the first start-up investments in Gaza, and she sees it as a step toward changing attitudes that still linger in the Middle East.
Three years on from that first brainwave, Wasselni now has 2,000 subscribers and about 70 vetted drivers.
Taxi drivers and taxi companies can join the system to get ride requests. They get real time notifications from the users using the mobile and web app who connect to the internet via Wi-Fi.
A taxi company deals with incoming requests from customers and then forwards them to their drivers, if the drivers don’t have smartphones. The taxi drivers/companies pay a portion of their Wasselni-linked earnings back to the company.
Wasselni also works as social network, allowing users to follow each other, find their friends’ trips, add comment on each other’s posts, and even ask to join their friends’ trips and rides.