First of all, how are you and your Family doing in these COVID-19 Times?
Hamda Khochtali: Thank God, our team and their families are fine. The quarantine period was an opportunity for all of us to spend some valuable time with our families. In Jordan, Covid-19 is officially defeated, we at Baaz are super proud of what our government has achieved. Jordan had less than 500 local cases since the beginning of the pandemic and has done almost half a million tests, more tests/1M than the Netherlands or France, The government commitment to saving our lives and taking actions fast is an inspiration to all businesses in the country, which 95% of them are back operational 100%.
Tell us about you, your Career, how you Joined Baaz
Hamda Khochtali: I graduated as robotics and mechatronics engineer, but during the Arab Spring in Tunisia and my passion for social media pushed me to the heart of the world of media through digital platforms. I developed and led a number of popular online news portals in the Arab region and managed the Online Audience Development team at Al-Jazeera Network for several years. I met with Baaz’s founders about a year ago, and my passion for social media met with their desire to offer an alternative platform for Arabs. I am excited about what we will achieve in the upcoming years and for the future of the Entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region.
How does Baaz Innovate?
Hamda Khochtali: Innovation plays a huge role in our industry, if you don’t keep up with the latest trends and your users’ interests and ambitions, you will easily go out of business in a matter of months. Since social media users are always looking for something new and exciting, we have to stay ahead of the competition and look at every angle possible to help deliver the best experience. Since everyone is complaining about fake accounts, fake news and hate speech, our upcoming features will help Baaz offer a much safer and personalized experience.
How the Coronavirus Pandemic affects your Business and how are you coping?
Hamda Khochtali: Covid-19 outbreak sent our team home out of nowhere, but we were lucky to have multiple offices across the world and operating remotely for years. I would say the transaction to 100% remote operations was much easier than other companies or industries. In terms of financials, we had to redo our budget to make sure the fundings we have will be spent over the longest possible period, as you know, funding is much harder now. For an example in the US and Canada funding for startups dropped in Q2 by 10% compared to the same period in 2019 and in the EU the amounts have been raised by startups dropped by 21% in H1 compared to the same period last year.
Regarding our people, at Baaz we are super proud that we stuck to our values “People First” and we didn’t have salaries cuts and our team grew by almost 10% since the beginning of the pandemic.
What are the Lessons Learned?
Hamda Khochtali: I think the main lesson I learned during the past months is not to take anything for granted. Who would believe we will be quarantined for months or to lose our ability to travel or even send our team to work from home or organize our internal hackathons virtually.
How do you deal with Stress and Anxiety? How do you Project yourself and Baaz in the Future?
Hamda Khochtali: Baaz is an institute driven by young professionals who are passionate about what they’re doing. However, sometimes stress, and anxiety can hit hard every once in a while, and this requires us to always look at the bigger picture. We are very confident and full of hope of how things will turn out for Baaz in the future, we have weekly gatherings and gaming tournaments to help our family take their minds off stress and unwanted anxiety.
Who are your Competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the Game?
Hamda Khochtali: We don’t believe that we are in direct competition with anyone at the moment, we are looking forward to the day that Baaz is the most successful platform in the MENA region and even worldwide, and this will always remain our vision. We at Baaz have a big innovation team that’s passionately working on perfecting our product to provide the most personalized social media platform for the Arab region.
As a Startup from the Middle East, What are your views on Feminism?
Hamda Khochtali: Feminism has become part of any growing community, in the MENA region we have taken major steps in empowering women in both economically and politically, we have 2x females founder than silicon valley, and we have a higher percentage of females participating in tech events/activities more than any other place in the world, unfortunately on the social level we still have a long way to go, but we are in the right direction almost everyone across the region even in countries used to be known as conservative places from women. I firmly believe that empowering and progressive societies can never achieve growth and high impact without having everyone being equally treated and empowered without looking at their gender, religion, color, or any discrimination level.
How does your Work/Studies involve Women and their Perspectives?
Hamda Khochtali: Diversity is one of our core principles at Baaz, we look after all types of people regardless of their gender, religion, nationality, color. We regularly feature content on our own platform or other platforms during women-related events and occasions locally, regionally, and internationally. We also commit to female founders and female creators. In 2020 we will be producing at least 15 shows featuring female creators from all across the region. Moreover, we always make sure to celebrate our female staff internally and stress on the fact that Baaz rises with the time and efforts of its males and female employees.
Your Final Thoughts
Hamda Khochtali: At the end of the day, being a social media platform has its own challenges, but our passion for achieving our goal is our driving force.
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