What does it take to be a successful local startup? If Nawaf Felemban, CEO of Kasra, is any measure the components are niche concept, vision, humility, technical acumen, mentorship and grit. Tonight Nawaf will be sharing some lessons at Doha Tweetups for their event feature on startups.
Kasra is a user-driven content site and community network focused on a myriad of topics ranging from fashion to technology. All the articles are created by a growing community of writers for each other in their own voice. Translation for non-arabic speakers like me: Kasra is the accent symbol in the Arabic language and means “break”. This speaks to their mission – get people comfortable and, dare I say, enthusiastic with sharing a wide range of community and user-driven content in Arabic. It is a “break” from the formal use of Arabic infusing every day people’s content of their own interest and own voice. All the content is in pan-Arabic neutral language to serve all the various dialects across the region.
What’s Under the Hood
Kasra was spun up with a minimal viable product (MVP) with a launch in May 2014. The goal to test out the idea was proven viable from the outset with 1000 Facebook followers within hours. Now their imprint is a over 1 million unique views per month (metric over 6 months). Add to this: They are the fastest growing website in the Arabic speaking world. Considering that the online market segment is 150 million people, they are in front of some serious opportunity to grow.
For technology, they started out with a WordPress site, but are currently building out the next version. The newer shiny Kasra is being built with node.js, react.js, Mongo db. They choose this platform for the (java script framework, optimized for asynconryous and scaleability )
A strong plan about social analytics and engagement are to their ongoing success. They have a number of tools and tactics in their toolkit. Nawaf suggests that startups use, at minimum, Twitter insights and Facebook Analytics. These engagement As Nawaf points out, basic tools like these plus big data tools for your customer usage tools will help measure reach and reveal strategic next steps.
Kasra is growing talent within the community. By fostering a space to create compelling content, they are encouraging their contributors to become great writers and share best practices. They want to inspire the next generation of writers to share articles (even long form version) across the Arabic-speaking world.
Nawaf is building a strong team ethos by encouraging staff to take a leadership role in the industry while inspiring others around them to learn. Their strategy is two-fold: attract top talent and foster local talent. He said there is a gap with technical skills so while they focus on building their technical skills, they want to give back to others. Mentorship and community are core to the Kasra backbone. There is a gap of mentorship in the region. While he has located this for himself, 90 % of local entrepreneurs need the help. They need mentorship from people with actual entrepreneurship experience not just theoretical.
Here’s to seeing more startups learning from each other. Thanks Kasra for sharing your story about making it happen step by step.