Tapping Into Opportunity: Nour Al Hassan, Founder And CEO, Ureed
As the founder and CEO of the UAE-based translation agency Tarjama, Nour Al Hassan is someone who has been working in the linguistic and editorial services arena of the Arab world for over 10 years now. And it is essentially because of her prolific experience in this domain that one is compelled to sit up and take notice of her newly launched enterprise, Ureed, a digital editorial marketplace that aims at connecting businesses and freelance linguists to collaborate on a variety of content-related tasks, which include copywriting, editing, documentation, translation, and more.
After all, for businesses seeking to reach online audiences in the Arab world, the need for Arabic content in the digital realm cannot be understated, and Ureed, with its network of freelancers, seeks to capitalize on this opportunity. “Ureed.com is the region’s first marketplace focused on editorial and linguistic services,” Al Hassan declares. “You can simply go online and hire talented freelancers to work with you, safely and easily. Whether you’re seeking creative copywriters to write your website content, or simply need someone to proofread your work, Ureed is the way to go.” Much like Tarjama, which employs more than 400 full-time and part-time workers across the Arab world, Ureed is also focused on using talent from the Middle East to help businesses communicate better to their audiences in this region.
In terms of a value proposition, Al Hassan notes that Ureed’s offering will be particularly of interest to smaller-sized enterprises like startups or e-commerce platforms, which, while having large volumes of editorial work to be done, may not be able to afford the high margins that the typical agency model would charge for such tasks- they now have a much more cost-effective alternative at their disposal. As for why she chose to launch Ureed at this point of time, Al Hassan points toward her assessment of the landscape around her. “I saw an opportunity for making the service more accessible for a wider audience more efficiently,” Al Hassan explains. “I felt that Ureed was the natural evolution of our industry, similarly to the evolution we’re witnessing today with taxi services or hotels being disrupted, or at least complemented and improved, by their online and app-based peers.” Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and Ureed’s appeal (and potential) as a business can be best exemplified by its current state of affairs.
Al Hassan also notes that such a set-up allows for Ureed to cater to a variety of clients- be it your average internet user wanting to get an article translated for their personal blog, or a company seeking tens or hundreds of articles written or created on daily basis. “We have different models that cater to both types,” Al Hassan explains. “The Standard Service is where a user, whom we refer to as an ‘Employer’ can manage the process of finding people and getting the job done by themselves on the platform, and we have an Enterprise Service, where companies simply communicate their requirements to an Ureed Project Manager, who in turn takes full care of the project(s) from start to end.”
With Ureed being a new entrepreneurial endeavor for Al Hassan, I ask her how she’s finding the startup journey this time around, having gone through this process last in 2008, which was when she launched Tarjama. “It’s never easy starting something new,” Al Hassan candidly admits. “The process and growth are as tough as in the old days of growing Tarjama. But what helps Ureed is my great team, and the experience we have in the content and translation space.” But have there been any changes in the ecosystem at large- is it at all easier to set up (and run) a business today in the region? “It’s tough being a startup,” Al Hassan replies. “Gaining clients’ trust, [while] being a small company, is never easy. Clients tend to always want to give business for the big well-known names. It’s changing now slowly to help startups more. As for other hurdles, it’s very expensive to start a business- from license fees and registrations, and now, tax, it isn’t a very inviting environment for business to start and grow. Getting financial support and loans from banks for SMEs is almost impossible. Access to capital is getting better through venture capital funds and angel investors, but [it’s] still not enough.”
Such steps have helped Tarjama to come into its own as a regional enterprise today, and indeed, its success does bode well for Al Hassan’s leadership of Ureed today. In terms of capital, Al Hassan says that Ureed has had only an initial seed round, which was entirely self-funded. “We didn’t actively seek any funding at this stage, but we still managed to attract a lot of interest from various investors,” she says. “What we’re sure of is that we’re very open to building strategic partnerships that could expedite the growth of Ureed.” After all, Al Hassan sure has some big dreams for Ureed- she aims for it to be “the largest marketplace for Arabic content writers and translators in the world.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done- but Al Hassan doesn’t seem to be too perturbed with the idea that Ureed may have to tackle some tough times in the days to come. “I don’t think of stopping,” she says. “It’s normal to have tough days- they actually occur more often than the easy ones; it’s the nature of the business! But the idea of quitting doesn’t apply in our environment as a company. We need to keep going until we reach our next milestone- and so on…” If her response is any indication, then Al Hassan seems to be quite comfortable tackling the journey of entrepreneurship one day at a time- and it’s a modus operandi that her peers in the ecosystem should perhaps take to heart as well.