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: Technology and social networking
Product: Mobile app
Product launch: Late 2015
Founders: Stefano Fallaha and Emad Yehya
Adviser: Habib Haddad
Fallound is a startup founded by Stefano Fallaha and Emad Yehya, a high school student and a computer science undergraduate at AUB respectively, who identified a gap in the social networking and messaging market. Habib Haddad, the chief executive officer of Wamda, serves as their advisor. Their product is a ‘hands-free voice-based’ app which uses 27 second voice notes to create and deliver a stream of online content that forms the base for a social network. Fallaha conducted extensive research into how podcasts, an episodic series of digital media files, could gain greater traction and success, and from this developed the idea of having a short voice clips platform, hot on the heels of the way many users in Lebanon and the wider region send voice notes through the mobile messaging giant WhatsApp, which still predominantly caters for text chat facilities.
The app works by allowing the user to create a profile and upload voice clips which can be adjusted with ‘audio filters’ such as backing music or voice alteration. These clips are tagged for their content, for example ‘science in Lebanon’, and contribute to a news stream of consecutive clips which can be searched for, selected and played by the listener, akin to a playlist on iTunes with skip and other features included. Yehya is the brain behind the construction of an algorithm which automates and selects which clips from which profiles are fed to the user, and in which order. Fallaha also notes that user popularity metrics will be built into the algorithm’s programming. The content is people generated, and can be controlled using voice commands. Their main marketing feature is that Fallound caters for individuals who are occupied by a task, like driving, and can only operate in a hands-free capacity. The ‘voice’ is a traditional method of communication, and Fallound wishes to re-modernise the usage which they believe has the power to outstrip texting on the basis of its simplicity and speed.
Fallound’s main source of revenue will be through radio advertising, an industry which is worth $34 billion per year worldwide according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ global and media outlook for 2014-2018, as the app itself will be free to download. The project has thus far been self-funded, with estimates around $15,000 to date. Fallound has scheduled to launch the Android version of their product at BDL Accelerate on December 10, and their iOS version in January 2016. For seed funding, Fallound will seek investment of $100,000 to $150,000 from angel investors. Their future projections are estimates, but they anticipate heavy usage of the app in the first year, as they have entered discussions with Touch, a mobile operator in Lebanon, for future collaboration projects. They have planned for their marketing campaign to include celebrity endorsement, which Fallaha has also approached, and preliminary testing from 200 beta testers of their most viable product has yielded very positive results according to Fallaha. Fallound’s target market is global, as everyone who uses app-based services is considered a part of it, and their current focus is to create a large user base. Their expansion ideas would also bring more developers onto the team, which would provide many needed job opportunities to encourage Lebanon’s programmers to stay in the country with employment.