Established in December 2012 by co-founders Elie Habib and Eddy Maroun, Anghami is a mobile app that lets users download and listen to Arabic and international music on their cellphones. It is now the most downloaded music app in the Middle East, with 3.4 million users. Anghami is a start-up success story that benefited from Lebanon’s support infrastructure.
“Over the last couple of years there has been an ecosystem starting in the region,” says Habib. Anghami raised its first round of funding — $1 million — from venture capital firm Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP). It is now finalizing its second round of funding with a Saudi company for $1.5 million. According to Habib, the company’s valuation has multiplied by five since it was founded last year. In October they joined the network of Endeavor, an entrepreneurship-advancement non-profit which helps companies grow. Since May they have expanded from three to twenty employees.
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Habib and Maroun are seasoned entrepreneurs and went straight to venture capital funding, bypassing the start-up competitions generally held for young and inexperienced entrepreneurs. “I have founded three companies,” says Habib. “When we launched with MEVP as a seed company, we raised $1 million dollars, which is far more than the competitions,” whose cash prizes do not exceed $50,000.
With their recent entry into Endeavor’s network, Habib anticipates getting a lot out of their mentorship program and experiencing considerable growth. “Having Endeavor connecting us to people in the United States and Europe who have experienced start-up growth, consumer businesses will actually be able to help us scale so many facets in our business,” he says. Habib stresses that entrepreneurs cannot create a company without having proper mentorship — something Lebanon still lacks.
Habib speaks favorably of Lebanon’s growing support infrastructure for entrepreneurs. When he started his first company in 2004, there was no support for burgeoning entrepreneurs. “Incubators were something that were not remotely available,” he says.
“Clearly an entrepreneur in 2013 in Lebanon is so much better off than in 2010,” says Habib, referring to the support infrastructure for startups that has boomed over the past couple of years.