A Q&A with the founders of Ajerni

Here’s a quick Q&A with this year’s Startup Weekend winners – Ajerni:

Q: How would you describe your experience with StartupWeekend?

It was insightful, creative, hectic, challenging but best of all it was fun. The thought of making a company in 54 hours has always baffled me, I thought it was impossible. Startup Weekend proved that not only can you make a company in 54 hours but also befriend great people that will help you in the long run.


Q: When did you realize that the app was viable commercially?

I’ve always thought the app would have a good revenue stream but I wasn’t sure how. As a team we constantly discussed what were the best options to monetize, at first we agreed on having a fixed rate for every transaction, then we got feedback that the chalet owners will feel we’re taking part of their share so we settled with a fixed price instead of a fixed rate.


Q: What are the challenges that you faced while building the app?

There were many challenges when it came to developing the prototype, specially since we wanted to stand out so we decided to make a functional prototype with a payment gateway. Since our application was using a combination of Android app development and web interface development we had to find the most efficient way of connecting them together to get a seamless experience for the user. The other main challenge was adapting a responsive layout to work with all android devices.


Q: What was your experience forming the team and working together? How are decisions made within the team?

Fortunately our team had two great developers. One of them was really good with app development, while the other has developed great web pages. So the prototype ended being a combination of the two. I was the graphic designer and was responsible for putting up the presentation together and pitching. We also had a business entrepreneur who helped alot with customer & feature validation. The mentors did a great job with helping us finance the business. Each of us had his own tasks, and when someone had an idea we would discuss it together and see whether it was worth adapting to the prototype. One of the issues we faced was there were so many ideas it was hard to stay focus on the core features, we had to drop some implementations for the sake of time and simplicity.


Q: How do you see the startup evolving in terms of product roadmap and regional reach?

We are in the process of meeting up with different lawyers to see where we can go with this and how far we can reach in Kuwait. We are planning to expand to GCC region once the app in Kuwait hits breakeven profitability. There are a lot of upcoming challenges when developing the full app such as syncing the database to the server and handling multiple reservations at the same time. We called the app “Ajerni” so that it wouldn’t be limited to private chalets but rather to everything that can be rented.

A Q&A with the founders of Taqsima

As the date of the next StartupQ8 Event approaches, we did a couple of quick Q&A’s with the two startup teams we will be showcasing. Here’s what the founders of Taqsima had to say:

* How do you remember your experience from last year’s StartupWeekend?

Startup Weekend was a very unique experience. It was very satisfying seeing what we accomplished in less than 60 hours of work. It made us realize just how valid creating and starting up a business is when you meet the right people who share the same dedication and ambition. Even realizing that there are people who are willing to push for a startup community. That in itself was great encouragement for us.


* When did you realize that the app was viable commercially?

Generally speaking, if there is a need for a service or product then it is viable commercially. Prior to Startup Weekend we have often faced problems organizing and playing football. At Startup Weekend participants were very vocal about the persistent issues with organizing football matches. We received some great feedback and suggestions. This further fortified our confidence that our service is needed. Following that is just a matter of business planning and deciding what model to adopt to fund and monetize the project.


* What are the challenges that you faced while building the the app?

Due to how common and widespread the problem is we are sure that we are not the only ones who thought of programming an app that helps organize football matches. Learning how to differentiate ourselves from others while retaining good value was our first challenge. From a technical standpoint, because everything is made in-house, we had a few issues learning the ropes. Just a few hiccups here and there, but we learned from our mistakes quickly and never stopped.


* What was your experience forming the team and working together? How are decisions made within the team?

We believe diversity in skills and knowledge was fundamental to forming the team. With a team of only three people we had to cover a very wide skill set while having basic knowledge of the other members’ key skills. This basic knowledge helps us with communication between the members in their scope of work while avoiding unrealistic expectations from each other. Regarding decisions, there is no hierarchy in our team. We all have to agree on the direction we are going. When ideas are in conflict we have to convince each other until we reach a mutual agreement, usually ending up with an innovative solution that neither of us could have achieved alone.


* How do you see the startup evolving in terms of product roadmap and regional reach?

We defined our direction and planned out our phases before approaching most of our technical work. We set expansion plans both vertically and horizontally within the infrastructure of the app and moved steadily. If our business develops to reach the milestones we are aiming for we will be confident in pursuing regional and gradually international reach.

Is the Arab World Missing Out on Big Data Opportunities?


What is Big Data?  According to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created everyday from various sources.  Every time we post something to a social media site, use the GPS functions on our mobile phones, make a purchase, collect information on the weather, or take a picture or video with a digital device the resulting data is what is referred to as big data.  And the analysis of this data is the key to gaining a competitive advantage, improving productivity growth, and driving innovation within organizations worldwide.

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in the Middle East are finally ready to adopt Big Data as a business tool.  Business leaders and CIOs in the region are keen to join the global Big Data adoption bandwagon.  This is clear from a recent International Data Corporation (IDC) survey of Middle Eastern CIOs, where 42% of the respondents claimed to be planning Big Data investments in 2013, up sharply from 11% in 2012.  Budget constraints and the lack of a clear business ROI case have been the key inhibitors to Big Data adoption in the region. 

However, Big Data adoption is accompanied by challenges  global and local  and service providers that can overcome these challenges will emerge as the winners in the region.  With a buy-in from CIOs and other C-level executives, Big Data has overcome the first key hurdle to adoption in the region.  But, its implementation will be accompanied by another set of challenges.  Some of these are global in nature, they include: dealing with variety (80% of enterprise data exists in non-structured and non-relational form), velocity (ability to analyse streaming data enabling real-time decisions), and volume (global digital content is expected to grow 50 fold between 2010 and 2020, and data storage is a key issue) of data.  Additionally, countries worldwide are struggling to build a skilled workforce with the necessary technical skills around Hadoop, MapReduce, Predictive Analytics, NoSQL, etc. which are all critical to Big Data implementation.  Yet, there are two challenges that are specific to the region, and that also present unique opportunities for Big Data service providers in the Middle East.

Low availability and usability of public data:  In order to generate meaningful conclusions, Big Data and BI tools need access to large volumes of information such as cartographic data, financial market data, socio-demographic data, regulatory data, and meteorological data.  However, as shown in the graph below, availability and usability of public information in the region is among the lowest in the world (MENA countries are beginners as opposed to the western countries, which are trend setters.)  Data portals in the region either do not have updated high quality data, or the government does not have the technology and the systems in place to share this data with companies and stakeholders. In both cases, there is an opportunity for service providers to educate — and work with — governments to improve the data capture, storage, and analysis processes.

For an infographic and a case study look at the source of this post at http://arabbusinessreview.com/en/article/arab-world-missing-out-big-data-opportunities#comment-87

Source: ArabBusinessReview.com 



Announcing: StartupQ8 Monthly Event for February 2014

This month, we are celebrating Startup Weekend, where participants formed teams and launched products with a business model in a span of 54 hours. Startup Weekend is carried out all over the world, and we just wrapped up the second Kuwaiti edition. We are excited to bring you two startups that were born in Startup Weekend: Taqsima and Ajerni.

Taqsima, which won third prize in the Startup Weekend 2013, is an app for football fans to organize games and play with friends. Ajerni, which won first prize in Startup Weekend 2014, is a platform where privately owned chalets can be viewed, rented and rated.

Here’s this month’s schedule (note the start time):

7:15 – 8:00 An interview with Taqsima’s founding team
8:00 – 8:15 Mini-break
8:15 – 9:00 An interview with Ajerni’s founding team
9:00 – 9:30 Networking

As always, the event will be in English and it is open to everyone. Register for FREE on our Meetup.com or Dawrat.com event page for more details.

See you there!

The StartupQ8 Team

Reminder: Startup Weekend is *tomorrow*. What are you going to build?

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