A job matching startup in Jordan

ShababJobs.com is the first online job-matching portal in the Arab World to specialize in part-time & shift-based jobs. Shabab means youth in Arabic. I met with the founder Fadi Sawaqedy and talked to him in detail about his experience founding and leading a technology based startup in Amman.

In the US, job sites like Monster.com have a dedicated section for part time jobs. SimplyHired.com just uses search filters to enable users to look for part time jobs. Only Snagajob has a differentiated focus on part time and shift-based jobs.

ShababJobs understands the unique recruitment  needs of companies in industries that are highly dependent on shift-based and part time employees. They focus on empowering employers to find qualified candidates that are a 100% fit. They enable recruiters in industries such as Retail, Fast Food, Apparel, Customer Service and many others to effectively target job seekers when they subscribe to Shababjobs.

ShababJobs has built tailored screening and assessment tools to enable employers to filter and evaluate hundreds of applications with ease. It also offers Facebook integration so that job seekers can search and apply for jobs directly from employer’s Facebook page.

Business model:

Unlike traditional job boards, ShababJobs does not charge per job posting (PPP – pay per post approach). The business model is tailored to meet the specific needs of the employers who need part-time/shift-based workers. Employers have unlimited job postings. They can announce when the need arises. They only pay for applicants that match the job requirements, this model gives those employers a much higher return on their job advertising costs.

Market size & description:

In Jordan around 70% of the population between the ages of 15 to 24 use the Internet, a number that continues to grow rapidly.

* http://www.insightsmena.com/

The number of job seekers applying for positions online is also growing. It may come as a surprise but actually, employees with LESS than a Bachelor’s degree represent 74% of the total Jordanian workforce. 68% of these haven’t completed high school!!

* Jordan Ministry of Labor annual report 2011

  • Workers under the age of 24 filled around 209,000 jobs in Jordan in 2011.

  • 26% of newly created jobs are from the Services Sector, a total of 17,160 jobs in 2011.

I love this startup and feel that they are actually making a difference. Fadi looked at the market figures and did something that makes sense, adds value, and solves a real problem. Things are not all rosy as its commonly the case with startups.

Challenges:

Despite a clear focus on the local market and securing paying customers including employers like Ikea, Subway, and Pepsi, ShababJobs is still facing many challenges:

  1. Limited number of mature investors (Angel and VCs). Many investors have unrealistic expectations of startup investments. They expect the startup to reach profitability and get a positive return on their investment in a short amount of time without taking too much risk. ShababJobs has paying customers and a proven business model but still its hard for Fadi to secure a series A venture round. This is mainly due to the fact that most VCs here are finance/accounting guys that care about ROIs and fund performance. Unlike Silicon Valley, where the VCs are usually serial entrepreneurs or seasoned industry executives with strong technical/business backgrounds.

  2. Within the few Angels and VCs in the market, only a couple focus on early stage technology startups. Yet there is a large number of technology startups spawning in the region. Many startups, few sources of capital, lots of competition.

  3. The current economic situation makes people more resistant to change and less likely to adopt new solutions. Fadi has seen this in both the public and private sectors.

  4. There is a lot of hype and buzz around startups and entrepreneurship in the MENA region. However, there is no real metrics to differentiate good startups from bad ones. Feels a lot like Silicon Valley during the dot com era (lots of activity and hype but no real game changers). I wish the focus shifts into actually solving real problems, problems that people do care about, that add value to society and creates jobs.

  5. Closing an investment round takes 6-12 months. That’s like 6-12 years for a startup.

  6. Finally, government regulations around e-commerce and online payments are still unclear and that introduces an unknown risk that can be a huge blocker in the near future.

I hope that entrepreneurs in Jordan can start focusing more on actual problems that people are facing everyday instead of trying to copy international successes and replicating them in the region. I wish Fadi and ShababJobs the best in taking their company to the next stage. If you anyone is interested in talking to Fadi, contact me and I can make the intro.

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By Moh Posted in Tech
Video

Google Drive is out

If you have not heard, Google Drive released. Now you can upload your files to Google Drive, sync them across all your devices, and share them securely with others. I’m a little biased, having worked on this launch, but biases aside, Google Drive is really awesome. You get 5GB for free just by signing up. Never send email attachments again and get confused with which copy is the latest.

Drive also comes with a web viewer interface that allows you to view over 16 file types in the browser (even on your smartphone or tablet). And yes, the viewer supports all Microsoft Office file types. Enough talking, you should try it out for yourself and see what I’m talking about 🙂   Check it here.

Games on Demand (Cont)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a little bit about 3 companies that will provide Games on Demand namely OnLive, OTOY, and Gaikai. There is another service that is related but not directly, its called Spawn Labs. Spawn Labs calls its product a sling box for games. They sell their box for $199.95. Here is a video and description of their service:

At the simplest level, the Spawn HD-720 captures audio and video from the console and streams these signals with extremely low latency to the Spawn Player across the network, and the Spawn Player receives and plays these video and audio streams on your computer. The gamepad connected to the USB port on your computer passes gamepad control signals through the Spawn Player across the network through the Spawn HD-720 and into the game console. So audio/video is going one way, and gamepad control actions are going the other way across the network. The Spawn Labs website helps to manage secure access to the game consoles, but connections, once made between the Spawn HD-720 and the Spawn Player, are point-to-point connections.

You have to make sure that the game you want to play is in the console but now since a lot of games are digitally distributed, you can just access them directly on the console hard drive.

I can see this service being a lot more valuable for game studios than actual game players. I think a successful offering from OnLive, OTOY, or Gaikai will be much more competitive against Spawn Labs. With Spawn Labs, you pay a flat $200 fee to remotely play games you already own on your own game console (which already cost you $250 on average for the console plus the price for games). Part of the console experience is that you get to play games while sitting on your couch. With OnLive, they give you a micro-console that you can hook up to your TV and its exactly the same as having one of the regular consoles there. You can still play online on your PC/MAC with OnLive (and on Gaikai/Otoy but Gaikai/Otoy don’t offer a micro-console). The pricing of these products will be key especially that their target audience is mainly hardcore gamers (who probably own consoles already).

Up until now, I thought OnLive, OTOY, and Gaikai were the main players but turned out there are more.

There is another player in the field that has been operating behind the scenes. A start-up called Playcast from Israel. Their model is to enable to play games on demand using traditional set-top boxes. So their model is to partner with video distribution networks (Cable and IPTV) companies to deliver the service.

Last but not least, MVI, an affiliate of Intel Capital recently invested a small amount of money in Toronto’s TransGaming, which is working on a GameTree.tv on-demand games service. Here is a dry video presentation of this service:

And a description:

“The GameTree.tv Gaming Platform allows consumers to browse, download, and play a rich catalogue of video games right from their HD TV, all from a single consumer electronics platform such as a next generation cable set-top box. GameTree.tv’s gaming content will appeal to a broad consumer demographic and will be made available through cable operators and other distribution partners globally who are adopting the Intel CE Media Processor as the basis for their next generation of consumer electronics platforms. “

This field is getting crowded and yet no one has proven that they can scale when all the players are logged in at the same time. Some people are still skeptical about the latency and bandwidth issues but from an engineering perspective, I think scalability is the big monster not latency. Who do you think will win and why?

Games on demand

There are 3 main companies working on the Games On Demand concept (the ones that I know off so far at least). Mainly, OToy, OnLive, and GaiKai. Here is a brief description of each and a video showing the service in action.

OTOY is developing technology for delivering real-time 3D rendering through the browser. OTOY has partnered with AMD for creating these render farms. The service can be used for games among other applications.

Onlive develops server-based video game processing, allowing games to run without game consoles or high-end computers, moving away from a system in which games are purchased and downloaded. OnLive debuted in GDC 2009 with a splash and I talked about them before here. With OnLive, you have to download a browser plugin for your PC or MAC or you can use a Micro-console to play on your TV. Out of the three companies mentioned here, I believe OnLive has the most complete solution to the Cloud Gaming initiative.

GaiKai is a company backed by David Perry and based in Amsterdam also trying to deliver Games via a web browser without any plug-ins or custom Micro console. The game will run in a Flash player streamed to your web page.

Sony Ericsson releases Android powered phone … then I end up talking about PS3

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10


Two days ago I posted about Android catching up to the iPhone
and wished for an Android powered PSP. I wrote about this before here and here. Well it does not seem far fetched now with the new Android-powered Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10. Engadget has more on the pre-production model here and GIZMODO here. Looks like Sony still has some few hurdles to overcome to deliver on this phone. However, poking around online, I found the following piece:


Sony Ericsson’s head of portfolio planning, Steve Walker, said that this is just the start, and that in future we’ll see closer integration with other Sony products, though he wouldn’t comment as to whether the PS3 was a possibility, via Remote Play like the Sony Ericsson Aino.

Given that Sony barely released the PSP GO recently, I don’t see them investing in a new handheld console-phone combo platform right now. Coupled with the upcoming PSP versions of LittleBigPlanet, Assassin’s Creed and Rock Band, the PSP is getting back some attention that has been focused on the PS3 for the past couple of years.

Lets look at some numbers. According to Joystiq here, Sony has lost close to $4.7 Billion dollars on the PS3 so far. Also according to VGChartz, Sony has sold 25.74Million PS3 units so far compared to 52.31Million PSP units. The Xbox360 launched a year earlier than the PS3 and their total sales so far is 32.78Million units. That’s not too bad. By end of April next year, I think we will have a good idea of the PS3’s overall performance in this generation. It seems to me that by April 2010, Sony will have shown most of their cards for the PS3. I say April 2010, because FF XIII, God Of War III, and Gran Turismo 5 will all be out by then (MAG, Heavy Rain, and The Last Guardian may all be out by then too). These titles should enable Sony to capture a lot of the PS2 users back to their side. Knowing that the PS2 sold over 138 million units as of August 18, 2009, the potential to sell more PS3s is huge.

If this generation cycle manages to stay for 10 years, there is a big chance for Sony to recoup its losses on the PS3. I got to all these numbers just to see if its feasible financially to create a PSP phone.

Android catching up to the iPhone – anyone else to step up?

iPhone vs Droid

iPhone vs Droid

Droid

Droid

After reading Mobile Crunch’s review of the Motorolla Droid device vs the iPhone, it finally seems like someone was able to catch up with Apple(feature wise).

Each phone platform has such tremendous merits. Androids got better navigation; the iPhone has a better browser. Androids got unbeatable expandability and flexibility; the iPhone OS is mind-numbingly easy to use and the rate of growth and drive behind the App Store is simply explosive.

Samsung is also making Android powered phones and we will soon see more Hardware makers jumping on the Android bandwagon.
I wrote before here
and here how it would be awesome to have a Sony phone with an open operating system platform like Android. It finally seems like that its viable for Sony to compete with a unique value offering. Now that Sony has adopted the “It only does everything” line for the PS3, they should do the same with the PSP. A powerful handheld console like the PSP coupled with a smart phone functionality would be something I would buy in a heart beat.

Sony!!! Should I buy their stock?

Before I left the US, I had a good chat with several friends including Mark Deloura about the future of Sony and their potential next steps and where their market is headed. Now that I’m in Tokyo, I got to attend the Sony Developer Conference and saw up close and personal some of their efforts from their mother land office.

Here some interesting evidence that Sony is heading the right direction:
– More PSN offerings including
– PS1 and PS2 games
– General media content including first party exclusive programming like Qore and many other media offerings from 3rd parties
– Enhanced PS1 and PS3 re-releases on Blu-Ray. For example the God Of War 1&2 games for the PS3(announced here)
– PS3 price cut and large hard drive capacity along with a slimmer (and faster model)

– A great line up of exclusive and non-exclusive games scheduled for 2009 and 2010 including: Heavy Rain (exclusive), Final Fantasy XIII (exclusive to Sony in Japan), Final Fantasy Vs XIII (exclusive to Sony everywhere), The Agency, God Of War III (exclusive), Uncharted 2(exclusive), Assassin’s Creed 2(non-exclusive) and Assassin’s Creed PSP(exclusive obviously)
– Sony is investing in new technologies like Facial and photo recognition (announced here) also as we know they have demonstrated the Sony motion controller

– Potential PS Phone (check here and here)
– Sony will introduce 3D LCDs by 2010 (check here)

Well after all that, I still have not answered the question. Is it a good time to buy Sony stock? I think the answer is yes. Its based on evidence that Sony has been trying to cut a lot of fat and increase their PS3 sales. Now the issue is that Sony is a huge company and their gaming sector is only a portion of their business so if they do well in games, that does not mean that the company will do well overall. I would like to add more analysis here but I gotta head to CEDEC tomorrow. So what do you think?