Jeeran Story Is No Different Than The Story Of The Typical Silicon Valley Startup.
Jeeran is an interesting Arab internet company because its story resembles the stories you hear about in Silicon Valley (USA): A Tech startup that starts from the founders’ garage or dorm and then makes it big (example: HP, Yahoo and Google to name a few.)
Jeeran was founded in 2000 by then two Jordanian students and entrepreneurs Omar Koudsi and Laith Zraikat in Amman, Jordan as an Arabic web based WYSIWYG tool to create websites similar to Yahoo’s closed Geocities . The founders learned web development by their own and launched Jeeran.com, first from their homes.
Later on, they got incubated in Amman based incubator iPark. Then Jeeran graduated and opened its own offices and started recruiting more people.
Around 2005, Jeeran added an Arabic blogging platform that is similar to Google’s blogger where users can start their own blogs in Arabic, the platform was in-house developed using Microsoft’s .Net technologies. Today, Jeeran Blogs hosts around 140,000 blogs and competes with Yahoo’s Maktoob Blogs, Albawaba Blogs, along with Blogger and WordPress.com since the last 2 are Arabized now.
In October 2007 Jeeran got funded with around 1 million (JD) Jordanian Dinars according to sources. (0.71 $ USD = 1 JD) From one of the most active regional venture capital firms IV Holdings in the region.
Also in2007 Jeeran launched Khabbr an Arabic clone to the popular social media site Digg. Khabbr has not really taken off like Jeeran blogs or Digg it self. It currently has around 7,500 members and is based on the PHP open source software digg duplicate Pligg.
Around that time, Jeeran also added video and photo sharing and social networking capabilities, however at the time the design of the users profiles was not streamlined like the what you see on facebook, it is more like MySpace HTML customized users’ profiles (MySpace is cleaning up its users profiles design.) In this front Jeeran competes with Ikbis from Jordan, D1G from Jordan AlsoFacebook from USA, Netlog from Belgium and Masrawy from Egypt along with Yahoo! Maktoob’s As7ab.
As a proof that Intel Capital has started to get serious about investing in the region’s tech companies, May 17th 2009 was the day when Jeeran received its second round of funding from Intel Capital along with another IV Holding portfolio, ShooFeeTV. The amount of funding was not disclosed and I have not heard a solid number yet.
As with Khabbr, Jeeran maintained its what I call Give Them A New Brand Name strategy for its new projects, when In June 2009 it launched its new offshoot and a very good replacement for the Forum based Arabic poetry websites: Sejaal.com a web 2.0 community for Arab poets that also offers poetry competitions.
Jeeran is also an Investor in Talasim a Jordan based “Arabic comedy” website, that I referred to as useless website with some silly content. A comment that one of its founders was not happy with when he approached me yesterday during Amman Twetfestival event. (Sorry it is not a personal attack, but I do not like allot of the content on Talasim and I am free to express my opnion )
Today, Jeeran claims a 1.4 million unique registered members and over 7 million unique visitors per month (April 2009). Though, some sources told me that most of Jeeran traffic is going to Jeeran blogs, however this information could not be verified.
Though Jeeran story is similar to Silicon Valley success stories since it got started using very few resources, it took its founders a longer time to get funding, than any of their US based counter parts and has not realized an exit yet.
This is true, partly because back in 2000 and mostly until now there were few, if any active Venture Capitalist (VCs) and tech investors in the region. Let alone that international tech investors did not look seriously to the tech industry in Arabia.
Saying that, I am sure that Yahoo’s Maktoob acquisition of Maktoob is a game changer along with the Internet giant Google’s serious efforts in the region. As I said before when AC broke the acquisition news, now VCs and Investors alike see an exit to their investments, which would diffidently change their view to the returns of their investments in Tech Industry around the Arab world, a view that ArabCrunch has been trying to change for a while now by giving FREE buzz on this blog to tech entrepreneurs and the industry in general in this region along with events such as ARABCRUNCH DEMO.
Stay tuned for more details about Jeeran and IV holding on ArabCrunch as I have promised before to Interview separately Omar Koudsi the cofounder and CEO of Jeeran and Emile Cubeisythe managing director of IV HOLDINGS, but due to the busy schedule the official interviews never took place. But Inshallah soon I will do separate interviews with both of them.
#University of Jordan Photo by Roba Al-Asi.
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Tags: social networking, Google, maktoob, yahoo, facebook, Incubators, blogs, AC, myspace, Maktoob Blogs, Blogger, jeeran, VC & Capital, Intel Capital, TALASIM, IV Holdings, Entrepreneurs, Socail Media, Branding, faceboo, iPark, Time Line, Sejaal, Belgium