I recently had an opportunity to chat with Woopra’s co-founder, Elie Khoury. Woopra is a real-time web-analytics tool which has received numerous accolades and was recently voted as one of the top 25 products of 2009 by ReadWriteWeb.
Elie is based in the picturesque area of Jbayl, Lebanon, an area known more for its historical significance, natural beauty and awe-inspring ruins than its budding start-up scene! Yet somehow, from within those ruins, this awesome jewel emerged!
On why Woopra was launched…
When you’re in a store, you could easily see what your customers are doing, and you could place a camera to track and record their every move… So why can’t you do that on the web? Well, I had been a webmaster for 8 years and have built numerous websites, and I was looking for a tool to help me do just that… When I didn’t find it, I built it!
On why he set out to conquer the world…
I’m not saying that the market in the Middle East isn’t appealing, but it’s still very young and the purchasing power online is still weak, so we looked beyond the region and tried to solve a global problem.
I would like to see more companies in the Middle East doing this… There’s no reason that they can’t, and there’s no reason to believe that we can’t export technology to the world. All you need is a computer, an internet connection and a good idea… You could buy everything else online: webhosting, support services, everything…
On challenges he faced in setting up Woopra
Well, it wasn’t easy. In Lebanon the government is not really equipped to support start-ups. There aren’t really any laws for start-ups, there is no supporting infrastructure and everything proved to be a complete challenge!
Still, if you have a good idea and some web-development skills, the local infrastructure should not discourage you.
In Lebanon we are known for being resilient, and almost never waiting for someone else to help us achieve our goals. That’s why the private sector in Lebanon has been so successful despite the lacking supporting infrastructure and public services.
The US is not even amongst the top 10 countries in providing Internet, and yet most innovations are born there.
Well, I didn’t really know much about getting funding when I started.
I contacted a few local venture capital funds, banks and other sources of finance but it was a novel concept and not many people understood what we were trying to do.
So, I went online and emailed some of the top and most well-known bloggers and venture capitalists, like Guy Kawasaki, and some replied.
Finally, I got a response from John Pozadzides, who has now joined the team at Woopra as CEO!
When I spoke to some of the other Middle Eastern Entrepreneurs, like Habib Haddad and Sami Shalabi, whether based here or in the US, we realized that we all faced similar problems and that there is a need to help and guide aspiring entrepreneurs in the region… So we set up Yalla Start-up! a forum to help guide those young entrepreneurs understand where to get funding, how to set up a company, what a VC is looking for and more…
Advice for Entrepreneurs
There has never been a better time for one to establish a start-up in the Middle East.
We all face problems, some of us accept those problems and learn to live with them while others just solve them. You need to Think Globally, look at the US and see what they are doing, what problems they are facing, and then think of how you could help solve those problems… A successful start-up is one that has been built to solve a problem.
Governments in the region are becoming increasingly aware of how important this is, and there is now more funding in the region than there are good ideas. So, all I could say to them is Yalla Start-up!
Finally, I would just like to thank Elie for taking the time to speak with me. It was by far one of the most interesting and inspiring conversations I have had. I wish him and the team at Woopra continued success.