Jordan-Based Arabic Content Platform Mawdoo3 Raises US$13.5 Million In Series B Funding
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Jordan-based Mawdoo3.com, an Arabic content website that reports more than 45 million unique users a month, has raised US$13.5 million in a Series B round led by UK-based investment firm Kingsway Capital with participation from US-based investors Endure Capital. Launched in 2010, Mawdoo3 hosts nearly 150,000 articles online covering a wide range of topics ranging from lifestyle, health, education and food.
The company took its aim to create an Arabic content repository online a notch above earlier this year, as it announced plans to launch Salma, an Arabic version of voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa. According to Mawdoo3, Salma will be deployed to answer questions from their platform, thus creating a new channel for Arabic content. “Salma will be used as an Arabic voice interface service for businesses in multiple sectors including travel, automobile, telecom and electronics, enabling consumers to engage and transact with these businesses via voice,” says a statement by Mawdoo3.
The startup aims to utilize the funding proceeds to expand Mawdoo3’s library of Arabic content, and leverage emerging tech like AI to provide users easy access to content in their mission to enrich the state of Arabic language online. “Serving B2B solutions by using Arabic Natural Language Processing (NLP) tools kit for companies that want to cater to Arab users, as well as investing in our own products and services through ai.mawdoo3.com [are some of our objectives],” says Rami Al-Qawasmi, co-founder and CEO, Mawdoo3. com. “Our success story with Mawdoo3 [has] built for us many investment opportunities with different investors on both local and foreign funds... As a result, we selected the investors who [had] belief and trust in our mission and vision, along with our capability to continue our journey forward to success.”
Commenting on the funding, Tarek Fahim, Partner, Endure Capital, said, in a statement: “If you think being the number one Arabic destination worldwide with more than 45 million monthly unique visitors is enough, think again: this is just the beginning. Mawdoo3’ s unique data sets and technical talents give them a head start on the AI race. We at Endure Capital are proud to be a part of their journey.” I ask Al-Qawasmi about the fact that their latest round seems to have come from investors outside the region, and what could be its implications for the startup, and the entrepreneur admits that “existence of foreign investors will give [Mawdoo3] access and reach to international markets, and give us a global perspective that will facilitate the recruitment of talent to raise the level of our work and develop it on with global standard.”
Mawdoo3, according to Al-Qawasmi, is a result of observing a huge gap between trusted and credible Arabic content online and the number of Arabic internet users who search for the information in their native language. “According to internetworldstats.com, there are more than 421 million Arabic speakers worldwide, with 184 million of them are internet users; on the other hand, the Arabic content available online forms less than 1% according to w3techs.com, which include a lot of untrusted sources like user-edited or generated blogs and forums,” says Al- Qawasmi.
The co-founders (Al-Qawasmi and Mohammad Jaber, who first met during a volunteering event) thus decided to “empower Arabic language” with Mawdoo3. com. Jumping spontaneously into the world of entrepreneurship, the duo borrowed the required initial money from their families, and registered their company. “[We] started with a very basic website that was developed internally with very limited resources,” says Al-Qawasmi. Being pleased with the progress -which was not without challenges such as finding high quality writers- the duo developed and trained an eager team to scale Mawdoo3. And the entrepreneur believes that with Salma, Mawdoo3 users will now also be able to reach information they seek, simply with their voice and dialects.
And as for what sets the startup apart from other content platforms, Al-Qawasmi says that along with hosting the largest Arab user base in the world, Mawdoo3 has “set standards to ensure that [their] contributors provide trusted content to the readers.” The friendly user interface also helps them provide an enjoyable user experience for the tech-savvy Arab audience, he adds.
According to Al-Qawasmi, the improved adoption and acceptance of entrepreneurship in the MENA region, and specifically nations like the UAE, has also rubbed off on Mawdoo3, helping the enterprise gain more attention as a success story in the digital/online industry. Along with this, developments in the areas of emerging tech such as artificial intelligence, and support of government entities like Smart Dubai are a few other factors that make the Mawdoo3 team optimistic about the company’s future.