Ever wanted to post a hilarious email thread or those pictures from a group message? Twitmail now lets users share email content with their Twitter followers by uploading an email URL which generates a separate link to the message.
As a privacy precaution, all email addresses are blanked out. The subject line and first 100 characters of the email become the text that is tweeted along with the link. The best links are catalogued daily via @twitmail_fav, and the most viewed or ‘favorited’ ones feature on the Twitmail homepage.
The Middle East is not a region people generally associate with tech startups. Oil, uprisings, but iPhone apps? Surely that’s more Silicon Valley than Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, Saleh Al-Zaid, the 27-year-old creator of Twitmail, is just one software engineer in the burgeoning scene of Middle Eastern tech innovators.
Twitmail has become popular throughout the Middle East since its 2010 launch, with 95% of its users hailing from the Arab world. These users share 800-1,000 emails every day, generating 1.8 million unique visitors per month. As Al-Zaid explains, Twitmail has a particular audience in the Middle East because of the large number of people swapping humorous emails with their friends.
“In the Middle East we have this culture of email groups,” said Al-Zaid. “There is so much content shared on emails only that doesn’t get the chance to be converted to a webpage.”
Much of Twitmail’s most-viewed messages are of a political nature. This frustrates Al-Zaid, who doesn’t want the site to centre around political or religious commentary.
“Most of the topics are politics because of the Arab uprisings,” explained Al-Zaid. “Honestly, I don’t like it, but we have other great content that is funny and informative.”
Al-Zaid points to the success of Abu Nawaf, a site started over ten years ago. Abu Nawaf launched as a Yahoo! email chain, then moved to a Google group. Their Google group account was closed due to its volume (it has since been reopened). The email group has now moved to a separate website, where users send in their messages for Abu Nawaf to select a best-of and then post. It currently hosts over 670,000 members.
Twitmail may just be the next Abu Nawaf for Twitter. In 2011, Al-Zaid secured investment for the site from three private backers who now sit on its board. He eventually left his day job to take Twitmail full-time in October, and is now on a trip to California to get advice on how to grow his company.
This is the second successful site for Al-Zaid, who launched Untiny – a site that lets users generate the original link behind an abbreviated TinyURL. Al Zaid created the tool in 2008 because TinyURL is blocked in Saudi Arabia, making it impossible to open shortened links from Twitter. Originally only in Arabic, Al-Zaid soon launched the site in English. So far, over 280 million links have been shortened via Untiny.
“Just one week after I made it in English, people were using it in Japan, China and Brazil,” said Al-Zaid.
Untiny doesn’t just get around blockages – it also acts as anti-virus software, revealing what is behind shortened links. Al-Zaid found the site difficult to monetize, which is why he moved onto Twitmail.
Al-Zaid’s road to Twitmail started back in 2005, when he started blogging and helped launched a group for tech buffs called Riyadh Geeks. Soon the group of friends grew and took to Facebook, spawning chapters across Middle Eastern cities. There are now 15 geek groups which act as an informal support network and idea incubator for Arab techies.
In the past few years, the Middle East has seen a rise in the number of tools available to tech innovators. ARABnet, a conference aiming to bring together regional tech entrepreneurs, met for the third time this year. While there is not much by way of centralized infrastructure to support tech startups, NPR reports that local incubators such as Egypt’s Flat6Labs are doing their best to help regional techies on their way. Things certainly seem to be on the up – websites such as ArabCrunch are covering an increasing amount of tech news in the Middle East, and the first Lebanese Startup Weekend will be hosted in Beirut this July.
Some of these Middle Eastern tech startups provide versions of Western models with an Arab twist. Among them is Qaym.com, launched in 2007, which is similar to Yelp but focused solely on food. Already incredibly popular, it also released an app last year. Dealwaty functions as an Egyptian LivingSocial, while I3zif.com reinvents web-based music schools by offering online music lessons for Arabic instruments such as the oud and tablah.
Others, such as Yebab.com, are specifically tailored to Middle Eastern audiences. Yebab.com provides an online Middle East wedding directory, which is a one-stop-shop for the product details and contact listings of everything a bride-to-be might need to plan her special days.
The most innovative tech startups work to open the region to non-Arabs. One of the most exciting of these is an iPhone app called Keefak, launched in January by Hadi El Khoury, a Lebanese native living in France. Keefak teaches Lebanese Arabic, a unique regional dialect frequently colored by French and English. Costing $4.99, the app appeals to the 15 million people of Lebanese descent who live outside the country, as well as tourists interested in learning the language.
AskNative, founded by Abdelmoniem Ragab and Seif Sallam, presents itself as an app that connects tourists with locals as they travel. Currently in beta and set to launch soon, the app will also offer translation services.
While the future looks bright for Middle East tech, the entrepreneurial ecosystem still lacks the stability of its Western cousins. For now, Twitmail must take to the U.S. if it hopes to be successful internationally.
“50% of Twitter users are in the U.S.,” said Al-Zaid. “Right now I am doing well in the Middle East but my idea is to build the tool for everybody, not just those in the Middle East.”
@11 months ago
#Forbes #Forbes Entrepreneur #Natalie Robehmed
In honor of Entrepreneur Month, here’s a secret for helping your new business succeed. You have an idea for a business – what’s next? Of the key steps in the process—building a solid business plan, choosing a management team, and creating a pro forma budget—here’s the most critical component: The business is not about you. For your business to prosper, you must put your entire focus on helping your customers succeed.
You must determine in advance that there are customers willing to pay for the product or service you have.
As Forbes contributor Alan Hall said last week in his article on funding, you must have customers who are willing to buy what you are creating before your business can move forward, no matter how great you believe your idea will be. Douglas Merrill also expressed it in his April 11 article on Innovation: Your Users Want a New Product That Will Help Them Succeed—Do You?
This is one of the fundamental secrets that have helped my own company, Fishbowl, succeed. We provide software that is the most requested inventory solution for use with QuickBooks. Larger Forbes 500 organizations use it as a standalone solution for inventory control, answering a very key priority for them—reducing inventory to a bare minimum for just-in-time delivery, which is critical to their own profitability. Smart companies see their inventory as cash.
Our customers dictate our product roadmap, new features, and the timing and priority level of updates. That priority is so widely open we even created a Facebook Group, Fishbowl Ideas, for customers to use in posting their hopes and priorities to us. It’s a wide open forum–you could even view it yourself. For nearly a decade, customers have been the source of some of our greatest ideas.
Listening to customers has forged a two-way partnership strong enough it’s helped our customers to be patient with us even when we’ve made a mistake. For example, an undetected bug caused our website to go down for a period of several hours during our last major product upgrade—we needed to rely heavily on the trust and faith our customers had placed in their partnership with us on that day.
In summary, to take your venture from the idea phase to a viable business you must be able to articulate a powerful value proposition for your product or service that will resonate with the needs of your customers and potential customers.
As our employee Derek Smith said recently, “Understanding your customers’ deepest needs is the key to understanding the value of what you have to offer. Talk to your customers and prospects. Discover their problems and concerns and you will discover your opportunities.”
It may be hard to accept, especially since a high degree of self-confidence is critical to an entrepreneurial personality—but in the final analysis, your success is about your customers. It’s really not about you.
@11 months ago
#Forbes #Forbes Entrepreneur #David K Williams
All high achievers have two attributes in common. The one you hear about is their self-confidence–the inner sense they can overcome challenges more often than not.
What is often forgotten (or ignored) is that most people who enjoy self-confidence were once plagued by fears born of imagined or actual inadequacies. The truly confident manage to flush much of that self-doubt from their systems.
In this sense, building self-confidence is a two-phase process. The first phase involves purging yourself of self-doubt; in the second, you build up your confidence. It’s like erecting a skyscraper: First you clear the site and lay a solid foundation, then you stack the superstructure. How high you go–how much confidence you muster–is up to you.
Here’s a 10-step plan. What follows isn’t easy, but the struggle is worth the reward.
Phase #1: Eliminating Self-doubt
Step 1. Understand Its Origins
Self-doubt crept into your system as a baby. As toddlers, we all looked at the power our folks had and thought: “Gotta be like them.” This wish isn’t the problem; putting our parents on pedestals is. It’s complex, but from the moment we crave power akin to what we feel our parents have, we continually contrast our sense of self with our ego ideal—an imagined, perfect self, derived from our image of our “super-powerful” parents. Since no one can live up to the standards set by ego ideals, we spend the rest of our lives (to greater or lesser degrees), plagued by doubt. This is irrational, of course, but true.
Step 2. Accept It
There’s a school of psychotherapy—called “acceptance therapy”—based on the insight that admitting you suffer from a problem reduces the distress it can cause. (Conversely, denying the existence of a problem, or beating yourself up for having a flaw, is always debilitating.) Everyone, even superstars, feels like a fake or failure at times. We all have imperfections. Recognizing that those whom you admire most have them, too, is the trick.
Step 3. Fess Up
You’re probably not done with Step 2 yet. Chances are that real acceptance won’t kick in without sharing your anxiety with someone you trust. Think you’ll flub a presentation? Give one to friends. Doubt you command respect? Ask someone you admire (but don’t report to) if all is okay. Worst case is that whomever you confide in will give you negative feedback that you can use to improve. Admitting what plagues you (and then learning that others feel the same way) will help you realize that while self-doubt is vexing, no one dies from it.
Step 4. Look At The Facts
If a claustrophobic person gets stuck in an elevator, it’s hard for them to focus on the certainty that, any minute now, it will be moving again. Fear and panic simply take over. The same tendency is true with self-doubt, but unlike with claustrophobia, a few hard facts can help. Example: If you’ve been promoted somewhat recently, remind yourself why you were tapped. Make a list of all your valuable skills and accomplishments. Read them aloud if you have to. But–and this important–don’t lean on a prepackaged pep talk, a la the old Stuart Smalley character on “Saturday Night Live.” False self-praise will do more damage than self-doubt.
Phase #2: Boosting Self-confidence
Step 5. Know That Nothing Is Inherently Threatening
If possession is nine-tenths of the law, then perception is 100% of the truth. A dreadful event can be made manageable if you tell yourself you have the stuff to cope with it. Remember that.
Step 6. Confront Your Fear…
Okay, for most people, that last Jedi mind trick isn’t enough. Fear, no matter its source, is a formidable adversary. That’s why you have to pick a fight with it. William Jennings Bryan claimed, “The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear.” Setbacks are inevitable–suck it up. (For some help there, see How To Bounce Back From Failure.) Resilience is the steel skeleton of self-confidence.
Step 7. …But Choose Your Battles
Specifically, this means taking on challenges that are egosyntonic–that’s shrink-speak for behaviors and feelings that match your view of who you are. It is much easier to boost self-confidence by confronting challenges of your choosing than by tackling what someone else tells you to do. If you pick the battles you engage in because you believe in their aims, your self-confidence will increase along with your winning percentage.
Step 8. Once You Master Something, Stretch
Nothing erodes self-confidence like shooting fish in a barrel. Add more challenge to every task you tackle and your self-confidence will grow in lockstep. Level off for too long and you’ll be on the slick slope to burnout. (For more on that toxic topic, read How To Prevent Burnout.)
Step 9. Never Solicit What You Hope Will Be Confidence-boosting Feedback
“How am I doin’?” may a good question for politicians to ask their constituents, but it’s a bad question for those looking to boost confidence—mainly because it smacks of insecurity and probably won’t lead to honest feedback. For more on the value of constructive criticism (and how to give it, if need be), check out: How To Tell Someone They’re Wrong (And Make Them Feel Good About It.
Step 10. Beware Hubris
In all things, too much is no good. That goes for self-confidence, too. Believe in yourself–just don’t be a jerk about it.
@1 year ago
#Forbes #Forbes entrepreneur #Steven Berglas