News Digital Media Viability Lab

Digital Media Startup Companies in the Arab world 2019

Maharat Foundation in partnership with DW Akademie developed in 2019 a study to explore the reality of digital media startups in the Arab world.

The study is based on field research in three Arab countries: Lebanon, Morocco and Jordan. The study looks at media startups in these countries in order to answer an important set of questions regarding the companies’ origins, working conditions, as well as the general framework of their operation.  The work was carried out by three different research teams – who asked the same questions in each country:

  • What is the reality of digital media startup companies?
  • What are the challenges facing media startups?
  • What are the elements of a nurturing ecosystem for media startups?
  • What is the legal framework for establishing these companies?
  • How much freedom are they granted?
  • Which economic model do they adopt, and how successful is it in ensuring their independence and viability?
  • Are there basic skills for creating a new business model for the media?
  • Do the higher education institutions in the Arab world show interest in media and innovation?

This study answers these questions extensively and explains the reality of startups in these countries. It also presents the difficulties that hinder their growth and attempts to provide recommendations aimed at promoting the success of innovation initiatives in the Arab world.

Based on these three studies, it appears that a strong trend towards the establishment of digital media startups in these countries is now emerging. It seems also clear that these organizations are now making serious efforts in order to gain their place in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship as well as in the establishment of new economic concepts. In addition, the existence of incubators and funds supporting such innovative initiatives can motivate innovators to implement their projects.

However, it also seems clear that startups are struggling with many obstacles, such as the absence of supportive laws and regulations, the broad limitations that restrict their freedom and activity, the difficulty in accessing information, and the absence of advanced information networks.

In addition to these constraints, the absence of new appropriate economic models for these startups is also a challenge, given the failure of old financing models. This implies that self-financing initiatives are much needed, through the response of these projects to important societal needs.

It is important to note that universities in these countries have not yet taken the necessary scientific steps, which are the introduction of the concepts of innovation, leadership and business in academic curricula.

Moreover, the political and economic conditions in the Arab world today generate additional obstacles, such as difficult political systems, the absence of basic funding for technological infrastructure and the scarcity of advertising resources.

All types of startups in developed countries have proven their importance in terms of economy, growth, public service, as well as with regard to responding to the new needs of society arising from information technology. Several experiences presented by the study have also shown this important role for media startups in the Arab world and the society’s need for them in several fields. Therefore, it seems necessary to develop plans by both the public and private sectors in Lebanon and the Arab world, in order to support and sponsor these initiatives and to develop the legal, financial and technical structures that would foster the launching and incubation of these projects.

To read the full study: Digital Media Startup Companies in the Arab world 2019