An Interview With The Founder Of Mawwell – Middle East’s Crowdfunding Portal

Launched in Beta in July 2013, Mawwell is the first rewards based international crowdfunding destination for creative and mawwell joannainnovative projects with a special focus in the Middle East and North Africa market.

Mawwell, which means “fund” in Arabic, aims at giving the opportunity for project creators who may be too small for venture capital firms or too innovative for bankers, to attract the attention from individuals whose financial support will help the projects concretize themselves.

Project creators can post a project in one of the above categories and run fundraising campaigns, with a deadline and a target amount, in order to fund their creative projects. Each campaign targets pledges who are looking to support creative or innovative projects against non-monetary rewards.

“We are very excited about the launch of Mawwell as the first crowdfunding platform to fully address the EMEA creative projects crowdfunding needs.” said Joanna Truffaut, Founder and Director of Mawwell.

The following is a Q&A we had with Joanna with regards to Mawwell:

Why launch Mawwell when there are already so many other crowdfunding sites globally as well as in MENA?

“Let’s face it, there are very few truly international crowdfunding platforms. Ulule and Indigogo are definitively international, meaning you can post a project campaign from almost anywhere in the world. Now contrary to Indigogo, we are not entering into the life/charity type of projects campaigns.

In addition none of these international platforms have the deep knowledge that we have of the MENA market – its subtleties, its challenges and its phenomenal potential.

Hence there is room for additional international crowdfunding platforms for creative and innovative projects.”

How is Mawwell going to be unique versus other other MENA based crowdfunding sites? 

“- Aflamnah is mainly “film& documentaries” oriented, Mawwell is creativity & innovation cross categories oriented. Moreover, nevermind how much you raised on Aflamnah, you get to keep the money, whereas, similar to Kickstarter, Mawwell adopted the “All or nothing” which is reassuring for the pledgers (and enables a project creator to attract more pledges/funds) as the creator only get to keep the money if he/she reach or exceeded his/her target. Finally, Aflamnah creators need to pay USD 100 in order to be able to post a project. It is free to post a project on Mawwell.

- Eureeca is an equity based crowdfunding platform. Pledgers are actually investors. They expect equity in exchange of their financial support. Backers at Mawwell are pledgers. They financially support a projects against a non monetary reward they might choose to receive. Creators at Mawwell keep the full ownership of their project which is not the case when a creator chooses equity crowdfunding.

- Yomken is a non profit organization mainly addressing the needs of micro and small enterprises in the Egyptian market. Mawwell is international and targets creative and innovative projects.

- Zoomaal: only accepts projects made by Arabs only.  We accept great creative projects.”

Some MENA based crowdfunding sites seem to have closed in recent years, including Flooosy, perhaps. What are the sector’s greatest challenges? 

“Although MENA currently represents the fastest growing region in the world for eCommerce growth, online payment still remains a challenge:

- Low credit card penetration in certain countries except for the UAE

- Internet users lack of trust when doing online transactions

- Few international payment gateways

- Recent awareness about crowdfunding in the region

But all this is changing very rapidly.”

Why have three of four starting projects based in the UAE? 

“We wanted a maximum of 4 projects to launch with. Mawwell received projects from the Canada, UK, Egypt, UAE, KSA, Jordan, the US…

It simply happened that many of the projects that caught our attention for launch as per our selection criteria happened to be from the UAE!

It may also be a sign that the UAE is becoming a major hub for creative and innovative people in the MENA.”

Are there any investors who have backed Mawwell? If so, how much has been raised in funding so far? 

“For now, Mawwell has been self funded. We may look at raising Venture Capital at a later stage.”

What are the goals/milestones you’re hoping Mawwell will reach at the end of the year, or next year, in terms of projects/funders/capital raised etc.? 

“Mawwell hopes to become the leading EMEA rewards based crowdfunding destination for creative and innovative projects within the next 36 months and #1 in terms of funds raised in the MEA within the next 24 months.”

How can such platform make an impact on entrepreneurship, economic equality, or other things? What was your vision behind starting Mawwell? 

“Crowdfunding is still fairly untapped in developing countries. MENA soaring eCommerce market  – estimated to reach 15 billion in 2015 (up from $9 billion in 2012) according to market studies, as well as the strong will of MEA countries to tackle social problems by helping in starting businesses / boosting entrepreneurship are favorable for the growth of crowdfunding in the region. As you may know, youth in the MENA confronts the world’s highest youth unemployment rates. Vice versa, crowding can help boosting entrepreneurial initiatives by taking projects off the ground, by bringing financial supporters in a region where angel investment organization rarely exists.  We talk to project owners directly, the ones who are too small for VC or too innovative for banks, we meet with incubators and project creators at incubators.  It also offers great opportunity for men and women to gain more visibility for their projects and get funding.”

Who is Joanna Truffaut?

“Joanna Truffaut, 36,  Founder and Director of Mawwell.

Three years ago, I had launched, a virtual incubator which gained a lot of traction in the 12 months from its launch by building a strong community of startups/investors/developers.

Unfortunately, it became a sunk cost as we were not able to monetize it hence it became too expensive to maintain.

Then I came across the concept of crowdfunding through Kickstarter and I though that after all, it could be possible to monetize online the idea of connecting creative or innovative projects with supporters willing to financially help a creator.

So Mawwell was born where Ibtikarati failed.

I know MENA very well as I lived closed to 5 years in the Gulf where I have managed a portfolio of Investments in online new ventures in the UAE. I have also been a strategic advisor on innovation and investments strategy to two Digital media subsidiaries of Saudi Telecom Company Group. Finally I have coached and mentored over 20 online startups in the region including cyberight (anti piracy software), the dress-room, etc. For me, Mawwell is fantastic platform to bring about an even  larger positive impact on creativity and entrepreneurship in the region.”

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