Launching a startup in Palestine is not easy. Entrepreneurs face a lot of challenges; poor infrastructure, the harsh political atmosphere, few opportunities to raise funding, talent acquisition difficulties and more. But Peter Abualzolof was undeterred by these challenges. In 2012, he left his job in the United States to return to Ramallah, his home city, to start his own business.
The Start of Mashvisor
When Peter returned to Ramallah, he met Mohammed Aljebrini, and together they founded Mashvisor. The Palestinian real estate platform was founded to help people in the United States enter the world of real estate investment. This is done through a search engine that provides accurate, customized analysis reports for real estate investors. The content varies between research and news, which helps real estate purchasers make sound investment decisions.
“I have been passionate about programming from the age of 19, I always loved building new things. I have launched over ten projects from 2005 until today, two of which have been successful. So I decided to try the experiment with Peter,” says Mohammed Aljebrini, CTO and co-founder of Mashvisor. He added that the real estate industry is huge and largely untapped. This encouraged the co-founders to move forward with the project.
“We established a pilot site in 2013, for a small number of users, and for only 10 US cities, to get feedback on user experience. Within a year we were able to expand to cover the entire US.”Peter Abualzolof, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, MASHVISOR
“Our biggest challenge in Palestine is freedom of movement. Also, in my experience, the registration process for companies and setting up operations in Palestine is overwhelming,” Aljebrini told WAYA about starting a business in Palestine. Like other startups in the occupied territories, Mashvisor also struggled with access to funding.
Acquiring Talent in Palestine
Another obstacle Mashvisor faced was finding the right talent to make up their team. This was particularly difficult since their work is in a foreign real estate market on the other side of the world.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in Gaza is 52% and 17.6% in the West Bank. However, entrepreneurs are determined to overcome these difficulties. On average, Palestinians launch 19 startups, annually in the West Bank and Gaza, 66% of which did not receive any financing.
PALESTINIANS LAUNCH 19 STARTUPS ANNUALLY
Nonetheless, Mashvisor was able to raise $800,000 from Ibtikar, 500 Startups and others. With the investments, the company was able to create new departments by employing tech specialists, sales executives and marketers.
What’s Next for Mashvisor?
The Palestinian real estate platform has over 50,000 monthly visitors, according to Aljebrini. Mashvisor also has 5,000 subscribers. The subscribers pay an annual or quarterly subscription fee in exchange for information and analysis. This helps them keep up with properties they are interested in investing in. Through the search engine, the subscribers can extract reports and have access to what they need in less than 15 minutes.
The co-founders’ goal is to build a huge database of users and expand their services to include a feature for individuals to be able to rent out their apartments. They also hope to raise more money in another funding round to expand their product.
The co-founders believe that the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Palestine is still in the growth stage. It still needs a lot of development and investment. “Government institutions and investors need to do more to support Palestinian entrepreneurship,” they tell WAYA.
Aljebrini’s advice to entrepreneurs is; “Always treat challenges as opportunities, especially in the entrepreneurial sector, because we meet new and unconventional challenges every day. “
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