Wajeez, an app that offers Arabic audio and text summaries of non-fiction English books by foreign and local writers, has secured $3 million (11.25m Saudi riyals) through an early stage (pre-Series A) funding round led by technology venture capital fund STV.
Set up in December 2020, the audiobook company already has more than 800,000 subscribers. Wajeez, which has offices in Amman and Riyadh, currently has a library of more than 3,500 Arabic audio and text summaries.
Other participants in the funding round included Abu Dhabi's Shorooq Partners, Jordan's Mawdoo3 and Wise Ventures.
“Despite there being more than 400 million Arabic speakers globally, there is relatively little Arabic content available. People in the region often have a preference for shortened summaries of books and content, rather than full books,” said Wajeez co-founder and chief executive Mohammad Zatara.
“Through Wajeez, we offer anyone the opportunity to distil the main points from the most popular and award-winning non-fiction books, in Arabic, saving people the time while still extracting the key points.”
Although Arabic-speaking Mena users comprise 7 per cent of the world’s internet users, Arabic content constitutes only 3 per cent of overall internet content, highlighting a big gap between demand and content, according to Statista.
Start-ups in the Mena region secured $1.03 billion in funding last year, up 13 per cent compared with 2019, according to data platform Magnitt. E-commerce start-ups and FinTech companies received the bulk of the money.
Wajeez was founded by Mr Zatara, former chief executive of Amman-based online book shop Faylasof, and Rami Abu Jbara, a former executive at Sky News Arabia and Asharq News, who now leads the company’s content strategy as a co-founder and chief content officer.
In addition to text and audio summaries, Wajeez aims to expand into shortened podcasts (WajeezCast) and business-to-business partnerships, in addition to developing products in other languages such as Turkish and Urdu in its next phase of growth.
“We are happy to partner with a fast-growing start-up like Wajeez, which marks our first investment in the Levant,” said Talal Damen, senior associate at STV.
“With the largest library of non-fiction summaries in the region, the company has created a flywheel that only gets stronger with more time, content and listeners.”
STV has backed some of the Mena region’s most disruptive technology companies, with more than $500m in capital. The venture capital fund began operations in 2018 and has offices in Riyadh and Dubai.
STV was an early investor in ride-hailing company Careem, which was later acquired by Uber for $3.1bn. It has also backed Egypt’s online healthcare start-up Vezeeta and UAE-based Trukker.