Part of our “How I Did It” series, featured in the January 2017 issue of Inc. Arabia. Insider stories from from some of the Middle East & North Africa’s most innovative companies; and the grit and wisdom from their founders.
It all started nine years ago. I had just been promoted to the head of department position at software firm to run large IT projects. It was a great job but also came with a lot of responsibility.
In the same year, my father suffered a stroke and lost any ability to move or speak. Things changed for me overnight. I was now dad’s devoted nurse at night and the sole source of income for the family during the day. It was quite a stressful time for me, as you can imagine.
To fight that off, I turned to one audiobook on self-help and leadership, which I used to listen to in my car during the office commute. It worked like therapy for me.
That audiobook helped me gain the confidence and motivation I needed to overcome those incredibly tough challenges and get through that period. I was able to gradually restore all that positive energy I once had.
I also wanted my sister to listen to this audiobook. I thought it could help her with her life too. But she asked for an Arabic version instead, and not the English language one I was listening to.
But this was at a time when no Arabic audiobooks existed.
This was the spark that led us to start Masmoo3. We wanted to extend the benefits and value of audiobooks to Arabic-speaking listeners, who form a large chunk of the global population.
We began with a home recording studio and a simple concept note, and not any elaborate business plan. We started slowly, concurrently looking for seed funding starting in late 2009.
Coming from the corporate world, I lacked any experience in raising funds. We thus started with very minimal seed funding (secured in late 2010) followed by a small angel investment.
Although audiobooks startups around the world spend over a million dollars to build their initial audio library, we spent less than $100,000 to make ours.
However, even with our limited resources, when you compare us to the mainstream Western audiobooks startups, I can claim without any hesitation that our Arabic audiobooks were the best you could find worldwide.
But that did not prevent us from hitting rock bottom and being out of cash in 2013. After 18 months of false investment promises, we had to close our spacious office and rent a smaller one.
My sister Ala’a had to lead Masmoo3 business activities alone, and I had to work in a full-time job not only to secure some personal income but also to return to my startup with fuller pockets (at the end of 2015). It took a while, but gradually, we have come back to life.
The year 2017 signifies maturity as far as our business is concerned. We have been around for six years now, and in our second year with the Audio Publishers Association. It is also our second year of having released the Masmoo3 Pre-loaded Audio Devices. In early 2016, we marked a 250% jump in revenue growth. We have come full circle. We have learned a lot through this journey.
I am painfully aware that we must continue learning and developing to get our audiobooks to the under-served Arabic-speaking population—I hope that I am able to and they too can use some of them to prepare themselves to overcome the endless challenges of life like I did.
Photograph by: Hussam Da’na