I received a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Jordan. Then, from 2002 onwards, I held several posts in the Jordan Telecom Company, starting my career in the marketing department before moving into a managerial role at Wanadoo, which later became a part of the Orange Group in Jordan. That took me into the Enterprise Unit as a Marketing Manager and from there I moved to the Strategy Unit, where I served as the Director of Project Management. I eventually took up the PR, CSR and Corporate Communications Director role this year.
Rana Al Dababneh, the PR, CSR, and Corporate Communications Director of Orange Jordan:
“BIG by Orange is the only accelerator in Jordan that focuses on the growth phase—a hugely critical time for start-ups as 90% of them fail at this stage.”
“BIG by Orange Jordan is part of the Orange Fab network, Orange’s program to support start-ups across the world. Every year since 2015, we select six start-ups and offer them support and mentorship, growth acceleration, training and co-working facilities, as well as advice on marketing and communications.
The program focuses on Jordanian start-ups, but it’s open to all entrepreneurs in the region so long as their services extend to the Jordanian market. For us, it’s all about “corporate entrepreneurship responsibility”. We don’t ask for any revenue or equity shares from our start-ups, we’re just here to give back to the community, support entrepreneurs and their potential contribution to Jordan’s economic development.
We don’t just limit ourselves to ICT (Information and Communications Technology) start-ups, but work with any new, young firm that has a product with a positive social impact. In fact, we’ve partnered with gaming start-ups, search engines, a teaching platform for students with special needs, start-ups in the audio books sector— you name it and we’ve got them covered!
The start-up culture in Jordan is very active—70% of the start-ups in the Arab world are here in Jordan. There’s only one other real accelerator here, called Oasis500, but they focus on the idea phase. BIG by Orange is the only accelerator in Jordan that focuses on the growth phase. It’s a hugely critical time for a young company—statistics say around 90% of start-ups fail at this stage.
So far, we’ve had great success with the program. One of our start-ups has signed commercial contracts to supply its Arabic-language chat-bot to a major partner. Others have been brought on to provide content, games and training services to companies and projects within our network. We’ve also developed a relationship with Facebook that allows us to host a chat-bot competition in partnership with Facebook Messenger and co-host a Facebook F8 Meetup.
Most importantly, every start-up we’ve worked with through the BIG by Orange program is still in business and growing, which is remarkable in a culture as competitive as ours.”
“BIG by Orange offered us an excellent work environment and all the tools and resources we needed to build our products and services and present them in the most professional manner possible.”
Arabot was founded in May 2016 in Amman, Jordan, by Abdallah Faza and Kais Hassan. It focuses on building affordable Arabic Bots that use state-of-the-art natural language processing engine to improve and automate customer experience for telecom users in the Arab world. Abdallah Faza, co-founder and CEO of Arabot, tells us more about his company.
Where did the idea to create Arabot come from?
Facebook had announced that they were opening up the Messenger platform, allowing businesses to create chatbots for the service. However, introducing chatbot services and AI conversational products to the Arab world required a bot that could converse in Arabic. Two weeks after this announcement, sensing a paradigm shift in customer-business interaction and a demand for Arabic-speaking bots, we decided to create Arabot.
You joined BIG by Orange during its third season. Can you tell us more about your association with the program?
Arabot was established at BIG by Orange. BIG by Orange’s design and structure allowed us to develop arabot unique values. Right from the beginning, the program offered us an excellent work environment and all the tools and resources we needed to build our products and services and present them in the most professional manner possible. The program also introduced us to Orange’s network of partners and customers. Thanks to the program, we signed our first contract with Orange Jordan—the country’s leading telecom provider—organized a bot hackathon in partnership with Facebook and signed with top regional brands such as Aramex and Bayt.com.
How is the company doing today?
Our company is growing! With nine members on the team now, we have expanded to the Gulf region with customers in the UAE and soon in Saudi Arabia, and have registered a 25% quarter-over-quarter growth in revenues. We have also partnered with Kleptica, a pioneering company in business and process automation, and are working with them to offer a unique bundled-package solution for both companies and government organizations to help them improve the efficiency of their business processes.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Believe in your idea, carefully choose your business partners and colleagues, and build a product that improves existing services or solves key problems and challenges. Once you’ve got this under your belt, there is probably nothing more important than getting your products to the market/price fit—where your products can satisfy market needs and demands at acceptable prices for targeted market segments.