x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Arabic humour scores a hit

Jordanian website Talasim to receive ?50,000 investment from Seedcamp for winning a contest for the most promising internet startups in Europe and the Middle East.

Talasim was the only Arab company among the 21 ventures selected to participate.
Talasim was the only Arab company among the 21 ventures selected to participate.

A Jordanian website that lets users view and share humorous Arabic-language content is one of the winners of a contest to find the most promising internet startups in Europe and the Middle East. Talasim was the only Arab company among the 21 ventures selected to participate in the week-long Seedcamp event in London. Zeid Koudsi, Talasim's co-founder, said: "We were really under the spotlight as the only Arabs participating. Everyone there were so happy about our concept, because they all understand the need for self-expression in our part of the world. Building a platform for Arab self expression is something everyone really wanted to support."

As one of the event's six winners, Talasim will receive a ?50,000 (Dh269,772) investment from the Seedcamp organising team, which will take a 5 to 10 per cent stake in the company. Talasim will also benefit from mentorship and promotion by the team of venture capitalists which runs Seedcamp. The site has 12,000 registered users and delivers more than one million page views each month, figures Mr Koudsi said he expected would double in the next three months as the new funding allowed for technical upgrades.

Mr Koudsi started the site as a blog hosted on Jeeran, the Arabic internet community that was co-founded by his brother, Omar. As the popularity of the blog grew, it was turned into a dedicated site run by Mr Koudsi and its co-founder, Sabri Hakim. The company has received early investment from Jeeran, whose offices it shares in Amman. The Jordanian capital has emerged as a breeding ground for technology startups. Its community of internet entrepreneurs was most recently brought into the spotlight when Yahoo acquired Maktoob, the country's most successful web business.

The majority of Talasim's content and users currently originate in Jordan, and Mr Koudsi said his team would work harder in the coming year to expand its appeal across the Arab world. Attracting more content from Egypt, a centre for Arabic entertainment, and particularly comedy, is Mr Koudsi's priority. The site relies on developing close relationships with the amateur comedians and entertainers who produce its content, and Mr Koudsi said this focus would continue as the site grew. "Comedy is a very sensitive, complicated thing," he said. "You don't build it just by putting up ads and asking for submissions, you need to meet the talent, sit with them, have a cigarette and understand what they want to do."

Earlier this year, Talasim was named as one of the 10 most promising startup companies in the Arab world at the Investing In Technology conference in Cairo. The conference, organised by the Arab Science and Technology Foundation, based in Sharjah, brought together 33 Middle-Eastern startups, which presented their businesses to panels of investors and venture capitalists. @Email:tgara@thenational.ae