The Entrepreneur bug has been going around the Middle East for quite some time now, with the most significant obstacle being the lack of knowledge and resources to turn ideas into businesses. Wamda.com (meaning spark or flash of light) was created to overcome exactly that.
The project scheduled to launch on the 1st of September, 2010 has been in the workings for around 6 months now, backed by Abraaj Capital the region’s biggest private equity group and one of the world’s 50-biggest, managing around $6.6 Billion of funds and stakes in about 2 dozen companies. If you haven’t heard of Abraaj you’ve probably heard of some of their successes such as Aramex and Maktoob (sold to Yahoo! last year for not less than $180 million).
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It has been so interesting we went straight to the source and asked them what exactly Wamda.com is? Ovais Naqvi, Wamda Product Leader at Abraaj explained “It is a platform to facilitate entrepreneurship in the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region”.
“We asked ourselves, how is it possible to increase the capacity of Entrepreneurs in the region, and put them on the same footing as their counterparts in more developed markets. We’d first have to invest money in SME’s, which is what we’re already doing, the other thing would be build entrepreneurs capacity by providing inpiration, knowledge and a platform they can connect and share on”.
‘Inspiring, Empowering and Connecting Entrepreneurs’ sounds like an overly-ambitious catch phrase even for a group like Abraaj. To increase the capacity of a generation of entrepreneurs is a complicated task to say the least, which one would assume would begin with something like starting a free version of Harvard Business School in the Middle East. But you haven’t seen Wamda.com yet.
After speaking to Ahmad Humeid CEO of SYNTAX, the Jordanian based company that has been commissioned to build Wamda along with their sister company Spring, I was provided access to Wamda which is now in private beta, and boy does it look good.
Below is a screenshot of the landing page after login, it comes in Arabic and English which is how Wamda is built (bi-lingual) with a smart design, although I might have went with some brighter colors myself.
Wamda as a platform was built to make sure whoever fully engages and utilizes it, will have all the tools he or she needs to turn a brilliant idea into reality.
Wamda.com is built on 3 concepts:
- Entrepreneurial Journey
These concepts happen to constitute the platform’s information architecture as shown below all within a Social Media context:
Although this all sounds quite interesting but you must be wondering where all the data is going to come from, I for one assumed it was a User Generated content model, which is true, sort of.
Abraaj Capital and its subsidiary Riyada Enterprise Development (RED) have partnered up with some of the region’s biggest and most prestigious business and entrepreneurship firms to provide what they think every aspiring entrepreneur might need from the first ‘Spark’ of an idea, all the way to ‘Sustaining’ a positive cash flow generating business.
This content ranges from business plan templates you can use to put your idea in words, to checklists that will help you start your first business.
Some of the more well known partners are shown below:
The story isn’t over, Wamda didn’t stop at getting major business partners to help secure top notch entrepreneur-builder quality material, no, they created their own massive collection of videos organized into categories with regional awareness, and country specific content you can dig into according to where you live or work.
These videos provide success stories and advice from successful regional and global entrepreneurs of like of Naguib Sawaris, Fadi Ghandour and others.
When we asked Ovais Naqvi why Abraaj did it spending a hefty unspeficied amount of money in the process, the answer was among many “to show that Abraaj is willing to help build the community”. We do think the initiative is admirable, but hope the fact the hand picked quality material comes from it’s partners, it won’t affect the amount or diversity of the content negatively.
We also hope SYNTAX and Spring will be able to create a sustainable and manageable platform that won’t turn into another data repository of massive size that intimidates rather than educates and inspires.
Combining Abraaj Capital’s behemoth business and financial abilities with the talent in award winning SYNTAX and Spring, have produced a platform that looks like it will possibly transform the entrepreneurial landscape in this region.
So if you’re an aspiring Entrepreneur in the MENA region looking for knowledge, connections and possibly even funding, Wamda.com is where you want to be.