I thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to the “MENA Titans”, those handful of successful dotcoms that have come out of the MENA region over the past decade or so… and when I say a handful, I literally mean 3 or 4… the most significant ones being Maktoob, Bayt, Zawya and Souq.com. These are the companies that have boosted the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Middle East, and should be respected and remembered.
For those of you who didn’t know what it was like in the Middle East back in the late ’90s and early 2000′s, let me try and put it into context for you. There were approximately 3m Internet users in the WHOLE region, with everyone on dial-ups meaning websites taking over a 2 or 3 minutes to load.. i.e. you can go and make a coffee and come back just before the site is up.. with each click taking another 2 minutes.. and there was no Google or Facebook, so trying to reach your target audience was a huge challenge!
This didn’t stop those brave few entrepreneurs who realized the potential of the Internet in making our lives easier. So let’s pay our respects to the innovators who ignited the growth that we are now witnessing in the Middle East.. Yes, that’s right.. It has taken over 10 years for the early adopters to come on board! Like the PayPal Mafia in the US, these entrepreneurs are catalysts of change and pioneers of MENA entrepreneurship. Let’s hope, with time, they can create similar successes to their US counterparts…
I created the image below to show you how much the MENA digital landscape has evolved from 2000 to 2010 (MENA Titans), and 2010 on-wards (MENA UP AND COMING). The ecosystem was hugely under-served over the past 10 years, and since 2010 we have seen a huge wave of entrepreneurs entering nearly every vertical on the web/mobile with interesting businesses that have the potential to grow into the MENA titans of the future. We are now in such an exciting time in the technology space, and I for one can’t wait to see how this image will change over the next 10 years.
I know there are many companies I’ve missed out on (apologies for that). This picture just puts things into context.