This company is part of Executive’s Top 20 for 2015. Read more stories from our entrepreneurship in Lebanon section, for the latest analysis on the country’s ecosystem.
Industry: Interior design and ICT
Product: Interior design website
Product launch: 2015
Employees: No fixed employees; 14 freelancers
Founders: Tarek Jaroudi, Mohamed Sabouneh and Ghassan Abi Fadel
In 2014 Tarek Jaroudi, Mohamed Sabouneh and Ghassan Abi Fadel, students in the American University of Beirut’s (AUB) MBA program, were frustrated with the lack of easy communication between interior designers and potential clients, and came together to form Moodfit. Having conducted extensive research with suppliers, designers and clients, the final product is an online interior design program which enables a user to transform a space with the help of top interior designers, and removes the need for the continuous on-the-ground presence of an interior designer; the only physical interaction is done with local home decoration suppliers. Through an interface the customer uploads photos of a to-be-decorated space, as well as the dimensions of the area, and subsequently receives three to five ‘mood boards’ (suggestions) from competing interior designers, the vast majority of which are Lebanese. There is no obligation to pay if the user dislikes the mood boards from designers, but if the user chooses to proceed they select a mood board and pay $300 per room to receive the basic package of services from the relevant designer (furniture plan and shopping lists). Target markets for the basic packages can be mid-income range individuals within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, but Moodfit are looking to expand to a more expensive ‘premium’ service which they would retail.
The website was launched in September 2015, and now the team has seven ongoing and 30 pipeline projects from all over the MENA region, despite only launching social media advertisements in Lebanon. The company has raised much of its funds through grants and competitions, and was the winner of the $15,000 first prize at the Darwazah Innovation Competition. Now Moodfit is looking for seed funding of around $300,000 to cover its first year of expenses, and enable them to hire their own developers and remove the need for continuous outsourcing. This is needed for its new platform, a more complete version of its current website, which it hopes will go live early 2016 – very much adhering to the lean startup model. Future expansion plans also include an app, unhindered by low internet speeds as Jaroudi explains the upload/download process is similar to that of the photo app Instagram. Moodfit’s revenue model is 20 percent commission of the user fee, and large scale referral fees from local furniture suppliers and manufacturers. Its projection for 2016 is a rate of four projects per month in the first month, growing at a rate of 15 percent, which it is already outgrowing due to positive exposure. This would allow them to break even in their third year and become profitable in their fifth.
Moodfit’s model is scalable, because it starts ‘lean’, and thus can be easily modified to fit all manner of customers, and appeals to the modern day crowd source mentality, which they utilize by connecting people to interior designers rather than placing them on a continuous payroll. The fully functioning automated version of the startup will be tried and tested in Lebanon and can be easily rolled out across the entire region. In terms of local job creation and social impact, Moodfit wishes to use the seed funding to expand and create a local sales and computer development team, and argues that its platform creates value by facilitating interior designers’ access to markets, thereby ensuring work, while simultaneously offering users the ability to use designers at affordable prices, without expending unnecessary resources.