Crowdfunding is not just for start-ups… even businesses which have gone past the launch phase and has an operational track record can tap in. This is what two Dubai-based entities are out to prove.
Conceived as an online B2B directory, Search in MENA.com has so far managed to get more than 14,000 companies listed, with the portal averaging 1,500 visits daily. Its stated intent is to attain revenues of $1 million by 2015 and secure a database of 250,000 plus listed companies.
The founder of MENA Network, Salim Akil, is now tapping additional funding through eureeca.com, the crowd investing platform.
“We started with $30,000 to build the website, get a license in Dubai and do the sales,” said Akil. “After one year, we received funds of $100,000 from Silicon Oasis Founders (owned by Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority) and after one more year we now have a team of six and ready to expand. Hence, our decision to come to www.eureeca.com.”
The concept of B2B online marketplaces dates back to the time of the first dotcom boom. But it is only over the recent past that tech infrastructure and broadband speeds have allowed businesses – irrespective of where they are – to place and secure online orders. China’s Alibaba.com, on the cusp of one of the most coveted IPOs in recent times and in which Yahoo! is a major shareholder, is an obvious global success story of an online B2B marketplace operator who has gone on to bigger things.
In the Middle East there have been attempts to forge a B2B platform, either within individual markets or a wider cluster. However, these have always tended to play in the shadows of the glitzier business-to-consumer or e-tailing counterparts.
“Certainly, the B2B e-commerce space is largely overlooked in the MENA region, with a lot of businesses simply not having an online presence,” said Akil. “There is plenty of room for Search in MENA.com to expand.
“We will focus on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, in addition to Turkey, other Gulf markets, Morocco and Tunisia. In terms of competitors, we know of Alibaba and Kompass that operate out of Europe and China.”
The crowd investing process is ongoing, with 41 per cent of the funding target achieved to date. It will be open for another month.
But wouldn’t Search in Mena.com need to acquire new revenue streams to make it a more viable entity rather than just rely being a listings directory?
“I agree, only selling membership subscriptions will mean Search in MENA.com foregoes the chance of doing e-commerce,” said Chris Thomas, CEO and cofounder of Eureeca.com. “That’s why in our business plan we want to expand and rework the portal to be able to tackle high amounts of buying and selling activity which will yield a commission.
“This will make the business model of Search in MENA.com a lot more attractive… similar to Alibaba today.”
Akil, meanwhile, has an eye out on the main chance – “Next year we will add features such as b2b tenders and a marketplace, which will help the companies sell their products through the website.”