Muslimbc.com Linkedin For Muslims.

27 Apr, 2008

Muslim Business Club or muslimbc.com was beta launched last year by Rias A. Sherzad and Farid Zazai, the company is based in Hamburg, Germany and is self and angel funded. Muslimbc.com is a professional social network like linkedin and Xing but for Muslims.

The site is currently in beta. It has many features such profiles, blogs, groups, messaging and simple Bookmarking of content across the network.

We asked Sherzad the CEO of muslimbc.com few question about his startup, where he said that they will be coming with new features soon, such as marketplace “questions & answers section, three different types of calendars and a few additional features that are kept secret yet”. It would be interesting to know what they are.
The site is currently in English but Arabic and German support is coming in about 2 month.

muslimbc.com is not famous yet, It has a little over 1200 members as of may 2007 according to his interview with IslamCrunch. – Discloser: ArabCrunch is not affiliated with IslamCrunch.

You can find my profile on muslimbc.com here.

Here is the full interview:

What is Muslimbc.com’s mission?

Empowering Muslims and non-Muslims from all over the world to connect to each other, get into business with each other and profit from those relationships. What we do for the Arab/Muslim/Asian world is what LinkedIn did for (mostly) the U.S. and what XING did for (mostly) Europe.

Vision?

Our vision is to become the largest social network in that region. Currently LinkedIn and XING have more members there but they’re not specifically aiming at the region in terms of culture and specific needs. You can’t and will most probably never find information on Halal banking on LinkedIn or XING, you won’t find the possibility for women to setup their accounts with additional privacy etc.. This is just one of the many things we will be offering in the future.

When did you launch the website?

The official first launch was last year on March, 1st 2007.

Number of partners, employees?

The website was founded by me, Rias A. Sherzad, and my partner Farid Zazai. He’s a Dubai businessman and responsible for business development matters mostly in that region while I’m the overall CEO for the company. We have three developers working on the site so if you count all of our weekly hours together it‘ll come to about 3 people working fulltime on it.

Founders background?

Farid has a strong banking background and has worked at reputed investment companies like Trinkaus & Burkhardt and Capital Stage in Germany. He is now pursuing his businesses in the UAE, where he‘s active in the fields of property development.
Rias is the IT-guy with a solid experience of around 10 years in the German and British and Arab Internet and IT world, working for companies such as Sony Europe, Royal Mail of England and Siemens.

Headquarters and offices?

The headquarter is Hamburg, Germany. As a little anecdote on the side: this is also where LinkedIn and XING’s founders have originally come from…
We will also be opening a little office in Dubai, UAE InshALLAH.

Source of funding?

Privately funding by Rias A. Sherzad who is holding the majority of the shares. We have a very known and skilled business angel on board and are negotiating with potential VCs from Germany/U.S.. We’re also checking out Dubai‘s VC market and see if anyone there is interested in investing but up to now the Internet business is pretty undeveloped there so it’s hard to convey the message what the Muslim Business Club is all about and why they should invest into it. They‘re into Import/Export and property development and having an Internet business make profit is a new world to them. So over there it’ll take a while until we have opened minds about this business.

How different are you compared to XING and LinkedIn?

We’re aiming at a different market as we’re specifically trying to add features and content to the site that is of matter to our target group. Also we will take cultural and religious matters into consideration, e.g. we will try to include more women into our platform and make them become a stronger part of our society. The beloved prophet‘s (s.a.s.) wife Khadija was a businesswoman as well and we have already noticed by the number of women who have signed up until now, that many of them are working from home and running little businesses. Why not give them the chance to expand their businesses to markets they would have never reached any other way? It wouldn’t be a wise move to keep 50% of our people outside and not let them take part.

Number of current members?

It’s a five digit number that we will be releasing within the next few weeks.

Highest country membership rate?

That’s clearly India/Pakistan, the UAE, Maghreb countries, the U.S./U.K…. in general it’s countries with a huge Muslim population that has access to the Internet. When counting the highest number of members from a certain city then it’s Dubai which is on top of the list.

Number of unique visits?

This currently doesn’t apply to us as for us the number of members and their activity is important and not how many people visit the site. We prefer having 3 members coming regularly (= 3 unique visits) instead of 8 members just visiting us once. When we start our advertising scheme we will be evaluating and releasing this number in more detail.

Who developed the site?

A partnering company from Germany, Wortzwei GmbH, and, very small parts of it, myself. I’ ’m into software development and can’t just not touch the platform myself

What technologies you used developing the site?

PHP / Symfony-Framework, Java 6, MySQL 5, XML, Debian Linux.

When will you translate the site to Arabic, Turkish and other languages?

Most probably, InshALLAH, this will happen within the next 2 months. We just did the relaunch, which means we redeveloped about 98% of the code and once the site is stable we will be getting into the translation. We will start with translating it to German and Arabic and then the remaining languages (Turkish, Spanish, French, Urdu etc.).

What are the Premium services you will be launching, when will they be launched and how much will they cost?

We’re still evaluating a few of the ideas we have and therefore can’t give exact details yet, but mostly it will be additional features such as an improved address book or exporting contacts. Also we will be seeking cooperations with external partners who will be offering special deals to our premium members, such as reduced goods that can be bought on- or offline – such as booking a Hotel, tickets to fairs or purchasing books.

What other features are you planning to launch?

We will be adding a marketplace, a questions & answers section, three different types of calendars and a few additional features that are kept secret yet.

What is your business model and how will you make money?

Mainly we will be focusing on the premium services, which will make up about 25% of the business model. Advertising will be another 15% and the rest of t he income will come from the marketplace and the partner programs etc.. About 40% of our income will be made through the previously mentioned feature that is still kept secret. But rest assured that our competitors don’t have it yet but we have clearly identified it as one of the most interesting and potentially profitable parts of such a platform.

What is your marketing and PR strategy?

Just as other websites we will be mostly growing (and did up to now) through viral marketing. We will be running cooperations with companies that have good media exposure and we will be organizing events but the viral factor is what we rely on mostly as this is how we’ve been growing up to now.

You have some bugs on your website, why aren’t you on beta version?

Being on Beta“ is another way of telling the world Yes, we’re a web 2.0 company“ as Beta“ is a term which has derived from that world. We don’t consider us as part of the web 2.0 hype and don’t want to get affiliated with it through such terms. We did thorough testing and there should be no bugs but even if we run the site for years people will always find bugs. This is because of newer browsers, unsupported plugins, font-sizes etc. and we can‘t tackle them all but think we have covered at least some 99% of our potential audience.

Where do you see your website after 1, 2 and 5 years?

At the end of this year we will be crossing a high 6 digit number of members and be a known entity in the Arab/Muslim/Asian Internet world.
Within two years we will be profitable and have decent media exposure.
Within five years we will go IPO after being the absolute market leader and unavoidable platform for anyone interesting in networking in our target markets.

What are the lessons you have learned with this venture?

Choose your business partners right, don’t fall for people offering you help and asking for shares, trust but verify and invest your funds wisely.

What advice do you give to Arab and Muslim tech entrepreneurs?

Find like-minded business partners, be patient when things don’t work out as expected, don’t go astray from Islamic principles when starting your business and start slow and don’t invest your whole savings into your project. Give away shares instead of paying anyone at the beginning, but don’t give away too much of your shares. Always make sure you keep at least 60% – 70% so you can still give away some shares when bringing in new business partners. Cooperate with others and make sure it’s a fair win/win situation and not a one-sided profit just for you.

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  1. Muslim Business Club to rebrand to SALAMBC–Screenshots | ArabCrunch  |  November 1st, 2008 at 4:24 AM #

    […] Asia, Europe, International, Social Networking, Startups, Web 2.0 | Permalink muslimbc which I interviewed its CEO Rias A. Sherzad back in Apri , is in few days time –next Tuesday- to rebrand to SALAMBC […]

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    […] SALAMBC is the result of the rebranding Muslim Businesses Club, the company’s cofounder Rias A. Sherzad  was AC’s first Q&A post. […]

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