Two weeks ago, Forbes published an article about “the top 10 cities around the world to launch your startup” and it mentioned Tunis among these cities. One year ago, only few people agreed when I said the same thing and decided to launch a startup in Tunisia. Most people did not see what I saw. They saw economic and social problems, I saw opportunities. People talked all the time about numerous problems. Everybody was counting on everyone else to move but nobody was moving to solve these problems. I heard people talking about different fields of interest but they did not find enough Tunisian startups and success stories to mention…

In Tunisia, as an entrepreneur it’s still possible to become a pioneer

Tunisia is among the top 10 cities to launch a startup because not only there are many social and environmental problems to solve but also because there are many business areas where nobody or only a few people became active in. There is still an opportunity for an entrepreneur to be a pioneer in these fields. It is true that we have many barriers to start a business starting from bureaucracy, to regulation etc.; but also we have some assets that we do not find in markets of many developed countries. In Tunisia, quiet often, you do not need a PR agency for media coverage. Everybody knows everybody and if you are addressing a social problem, people will talk about you because you are offering a solution for them or for people they care about. When YallaRead was launched a few days ago, we were featured in Al Huffpost Maghreb, in an Italian online magazine and on local media without sending any email or press release.

Communication is the key to success

A thing that everybody notices when visiting Tunisia, is that we have many people sitting in coffee shops and talking for long periods. It is true that it is negative behavior but in my opinion it is also an indicator of the relevance that the word of mouth has in my country. The attention you will be given when starting a project in Europe or in a developed country is much less than the attention you will get when you start the same project to address a social issue in a country like Tunisia.

When I decided to start a business, many people considered that I am too young for that while I considered that I will be too old to start it later on. I was convinced that you do not have to reach a certain age or a certain level to change things if you are highly motivated. When I tell these people I am launching a book-sharing platform, they do not think it has big potential. They ask me why I am doing something like that in a country where statistics show that the number of readers is low. My answer was always that’s why I am doing it: I am launching YallaRead to reduce barriers to read, to increase access to books and to help people find books for free while saving time and money. The objective is to create a strong community of readers that can stimulate the desire to read for non-readers.

Scaling up to other markets

My co-founder and enpact were among the few who believed in my idea and gave me a chance to make it happen. When I started YallaRead, I was not thinking about scaling to other countries in the MENA region whereas now after my experience with enpact, I consider this option. Getting in touch with fellows from different countries helped me to identify the potential of my idea and understand what challenges I could face when entering these markets. I am sure that the day I decide to scale, I will go back to my fellows and mentors and ask for their help. When starting the programme, I was in a period when I highly needed advice and I was very happy to find it in this program where I had the opportunity to talk about my startup with other fellows and with my inspiring mentor Darius. Darius brainstormed with me as if he was my co-founder and shared his great recommendations such as to stop making the product perfect and instead to find the perfect users…

Finally, I love a quote that says “if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room” and with enpact I was very happy for being in the right room.

by Ahmed Hadhri