Entrepreneurs regularly face many obstacles and hardships in Palestine. Despite this Palestinians are committed to starting their businesses in their homeland to participate in the growth of the territories’ startup ecosystem. Two such entrepreneurs are Faris Zaher and Sameh Alfar. The duo launched their startup, Yamsafer, in Ramallah in 2012. “Our dream was to build something bigger than Palestine, something that could work in the entire Arab region, so our dream was worth the risk”, Alfar tells WAYA.
Accessing the World Through Palestine
“When we founded the company, there was no great demand for e-commerce, so registering the company was tricky. We did not fit in any category that qualified us to work easily,” Zaher says. On the other hand, Alfar thinks that the geographic location of the company and the troubles that come with it as a marginal issue. The difficulties they faced in building the business and the product itself, and finding talent were bigger challenges to him. As well as, maintaining the business model and growing the scope of their work, all while focusing on offering the best hotel prices.
When Yamsafer launched it was a hotel booking platform. However, it has recently expanded to include flight reservations to all global destinations. Yamsafer is available in both English and Arabic.
Yamsafer in Numbers
In 2012, Sadara Ventures invested $1 million in financing in Yamsafer. Three years later the startup raised $3.5 million from Global Founders Capital. In 2019, Yamsafer’s total funding amount reached $10 million. The financing helped the company expand and the co-founders were able to invest more in developing their platform, advertising and talent acquisition.
The booking business currently has about 700,000 hotels and properties around the world, available to its users. In 2019 Yamsafer launched its flight booking service for over 700 companies flying to various destinations around the world. The cofounders tell WAYA that they aim to maintain Yamsafer’s growth rates. In time, they want to become the number one application for online reservations for all travelers in the Middle East.
Zaher concludes the interview with WAYA saying, “The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Palestine has really improved and the economy is heading in the right direction, so one day we will be able to more financially independent. I believe there are a lot of capable people that can build many large companies on a global scale.”
If you see something out of place or would like to contribute to this story, check out our Ethics and Policy section.