When Abdallah Absi, Zoomaal founder and CEO, tried touting big ideas to Lebanese backers, he was met with a frosty reception. One venture capital firm, he recalls, told him flatly that “we do not invest in students.” While Absi went on to take internships in finance to figure out the investors’ sweet spots, he believes the reticence of regional investors means next big things go unnoticed. “We have many creative projects, but people need funding and they cannot find it,” Absi argues.
“In the US if someone has an idea they can get funding from their university, from some research center, from the Government, from angel investors… In this region you don’t have most of these models.” Absi’s latest venture, Zoomaal.com, aims to realize innovative ideas by appealing to a growing community he feels is far less conservative: web users in the Arab world.
Using a similar model to US crowdfunding sensation Kickstarter.com, Zoomaal allows entrepreneurs and creatives to bid for funds from a base of online supporters. Users can pledge as little as $1 to projects of their choice, receiving scaled rewards based on how much they invest. $5 may get you a thank you on a project’s website, while a $100 dollar donation will net you anything from a personally engraved trinket to a guest appearance in the film you’re funding.
Zoomaal does not target startups looking for general funding, instead, it concerns startup projects that have a well-defined scope. And just a month after their launch, Zoomaal reached over $66,000, with two successful projects and 10 new projects on the site.
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