Abdallah is creating a community movement that supports innovation across all fields of the Arab region and regardless of problem areas. He is doing this through democratizing access to seed capital for early stage Arab innovators. In doing so, Abdallah is building a bridge between Arab innovators and Diaspora as large diffused people willing to give back. He is also repurposing the aid funding industry, which is becoming more politicized and constricted to match the crowd’s fund for innovators.
Abdallah is creating an enabling environment for innovation across sectors and countries of the Arab region. He is transforming the region from one plagued with conflict and strife to one that contributes to the global innovation and knowledge production arena. Abdallah strengthens and expands the Arab entrepreneurship ecosystem and encourages the emergence of more youth entrepreneurs who contribute to the Arab World’s social, economic, cultural and environmental fields. Abdallah is achieving this through democratizing entrepreneurs’ access to finance at an early stage of their start-up life and launch phases. Through launching the first ever open Arab Crowdfunding platform, Abdallah is mobilizing the Arab crowds and Diaspora to understand what entrepreneurship is about, support and invest in Arab entrepreneurs’ creativity and innovation.
Through his platform, Abdallah educates and leads the crowd as well as traditional funding organizations to channel the abundant philanthropy money in the Arab region and re-direct it from charity to empower early stage entrepreneurs, who have limited access to resources and promise long lasting impact and change. In doing so, Abdallah creates access to innovative ideas and offers an easy, trusted and reliable access to young, new innovators.
Abdallah is architecting and tipping a new sector. He is changing the way traditional funders access new innovations. He uses the latter to combat the dryness as well as the bureaucracy of traditional development channels. The power of his idea has the ability to change the later structure through matching between existing funders (such as The World Bank and HIVOS) and potential projects that are spotted using his platform through a partnership between Zoomaal and the latter monetary institutions. This crowd-following investment mechanism has the potential to tip a new sector where reaching out to innovators becomes more democratized and effective. This matching mechanism requires Abdallah to enhance the infrastructure of his platform, which he is pursuing through attracting 2M$ worth-investments relying primarily on his success story of having the platform attract 100 different projects that worth 1.3 M$.
The lack of the ecosystem of creativity and innovation in the Arab region is the primary root problem that Abdallah is trying to solve. The lag in technological innovation as the ecosystem that can foster entrepreneurship and promote economic development in nascent, emerging markets in the Arab region is what has been consistently irritating Abdallah in the past 5 years.
Across the Arab region, many innovations are being dropped out due to the lack of seed funding that can sustain the work of the idea. Abdallah sees a problem in how investors are only attracted to prominent business models and leave behind a crowd of innovations that is hungry for capital. Many innovations have to do with cultural and social problems that may not have compelling business models, but still applying and scaling such innovations has a deep impact. Concretely speaking, the range of opportunities to attract funds to support projects is only generously available to entities with sound business models. This problem in the emerging markets in the Arab world impedes the momentum of innovation to accelerate towards developing the economy of the Arab countries sustainably. According to the latter constraint won’t let social and business entrepreneurship grow together, and the social sector will be left behind in return.
While everyone talks about “Entrepreneurship” as the solution for the “highest youth unemployment rate in the world” and the need for 80m jobs by 2020, but almost no grass-roots action is taken towards this direction in the Arab region. In order to support grass-root actions with a robust financial system that sustain the work of innovation in the region, the issue of “funding terrorism” arises. There is a need to authenticate the process of directing funds to such projects in a way that helps create a viral movement of entrepreneurship and innovation that gains more momentum with time.
Capitalizing on the latter contested scene of financing innovations in the Arab region, the problem of matching funds that are coming from monetary institutions that are concerned with the economic prosperity of the region. It is a fact that the system connecting the abundance of financial resources to the proliferating innovations that prevail among the Arab youth.
Abdallah is systematically and comprehensively tipping a wide range of sectors in the Arab region. He is relying on crowd-sourced investments targeted to innovative ideas across three categories, namely, technological innovation, cultural/social/environmental, and creative arts as well as filmmaking. By democratically mobilizing funds to these categories through matching funds through creating competition around issues in the sectors that are important to prestigious monetary institutions (such as The World Bank). These financial resources are directed to credible innovative ideas that are allocated through Abdallah’s platform. He is trying to systematically find other potential funding partners that focus on certain sectors so that he can tip different sectors across different countries in the Arab region.
Scaling to different countries across the region requires Zoomaal, as Abdallah sees it, to have Country Managers to tip different sectors in each country through building robust funding partnerships that can lead to better matching financial resources with innovations that are concretely reviewed by Zoomaal to ensure the effectiveness and promote the potential that these innovations have to drive the economy towards prosperity. The country manager will as well be responsible for educating the population on the necessity for democratizing funds to push the momentum of creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurship in the region.
Abdallah’s strategy is sectorial. He wants to have a country manager in each country and has at least 10 success stories across each sector in order to serve as tipping point to revolutionize each sector. His platform will serve as a head-hunting ecosystem for spotting good innovations in the region. He wants to facilitate the cooperation between different governmental, intergovernmental and nongovernmental institutions to tip different sector. It begins with directing the proper financial resources and then getting the right stakeholders to cooperate around credible innovations identified though Abdallah’s platform.
As Abdallah’s strategy seeks to gets the creativity to be a driving force for the economic development, he is working on creating a movement called “Bring Back the Arab Creativity” where the whole ensemble of innovations supported by Abdallah’s platform can shift the mindset of the Arabs by inspiring them through presenting successful models that are a clear manifestation of how creativity can be brought back systemically and systematically to the region and how each and every Arab who are living inside or outside their countries can contribute to accelerating the momentum of innovation and entrepreneurship through a crowd-sourced monetary support.
Abdalla is born in 1992 in Kuwait for a Lebanese entrepreneurial family. His father is an entrepreneur himself; he started his business in technology at Kuwait after being educated in the US and was a source of inspiration to Abdallah as he has always been his own boss as well as had a good control of his time. Aballah’s father work motivated Abdallah to start learning coding when he was 8. In addition, Abdallah’s father lost his money in his company in Kuwait that led Abdallah put financial personal plans to manage his spending and finances. The latter was concrete step towards enabling Abdallah independent of his parents financially by the age of 13.
During his late school years, he launched his first business with two of his school friends. They started attracting funds, but the market gap was very narrow and the business model was not competitive enough for the idea to scale. He started other initiatives that didn’t work and he realized that his main challenge was he didn’t have access to capital.
In university, he launched the Entrepreneurship Club (eClub) that aimed at bridging students to the entrepreneurship world through innovative activities; such as: Make your own hotdog. The process of making the hotdog would be the entrepreneurship cycle, so one would start with the base/education which is the bread, then the hotdog; the idea, then ketchup; passion, then mustard; teamwork. eClub organized the first Startup Weekend in Beirut after 3 years of inactivity, and soon after it, a snowball effect was created; Startup Weekend Saida, Byblos, Tripoli, Mount Lebanon all popped up. This club as well as his startup that he was working on during his 1st year in university made investors compelled to invest him in person, but not in his ideas as it lacked the business model that can make his idea thrive and scale. He was, afterwards, invited by one of the VCs to intern as an analyst in one of the prestigious VC firms. This was the time when he saw that Zoomaal is the next big thing to which he will give his lifetime. The first day he sent the pitch deck about Zoomaal to have 4 venture capital funds on board and he got 4 “YESes” in the first hour. They all wanted to invest $75k in a 19 year old on the condition that he continues my studies at university while he kicks-off Zoomaal. 1 semester passed, and he decided to stop his studies and dropout from college to focus on making Zoomaal the engine for Arab creativity.