Gallery AlSharq is selected as one of Red Herring’s Asia Top 100 Tech Startups


This story is provided by MIT Enterprise Forum- Pan Arab Region

Some people are often dependent on the Internet, and tend to find themselves wasting time searching for the ideal image to include on their website, blog post or even advertisement.

Riham Mahafzah was among those people, before she decided to take action when she founded Gallery AlSharq, a website that sells exclusive oriental and Middle Eastern stock photography, images and digital content.

“I used to work as a Creative Director for thirteen years in advertising,” says Mahafzah, “I know the pain that people go through while searching for online images that reflect on their identity.”

Gallery AlSharq, third place winner of this year’s MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) Arab Startup Competition in partnership with ALJ Community Initiatives, was recently selected as one of Red Herring’s Asia Top 100 Tech Startups, a competition that highlights exciting startups from around the world.

Mahafzah says that she didn’t apply to the Red Herring’s Asia Top 100 but was scouted by an editorial team that searched for entrepreneurs with potential startups across the region, which later led to two days of pitching in front of jurors.

“It’s tough for a startup to make a balance between working and growing the business, while at the same time paying attention to such competitions that add value to the business’ achievements,” shares Mahafzah.

It was only five months ago that Gallery AlSharq won third place in the sixth MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition. Tagging the competition as “an unforgettable experience,” Mahafzah says that she gained a lot of experience during the events.

“I really enjoyed the hackathon as it was something new,” adds Mahafzah, “It was very creative and very mind-opening.”

“The focus and dedication that Riham exhibits towards Gallery AlSharq, and her relentless efforts to turn her vision of the business into a reality is admirable and makes all the difference between success and failure,” says Khaled Sadeddin, Senior Manager of Incubation Programs at Enterprise Qatar. Sadeddin mentored Mahafzah during the MITEF Arab Startup Competition in April this year.

Mahafzah benefited from networking at the MITEF Arab Startup Competition. “One of the startups even bought a bundle from our website,” she adds.

Since the competition, the Gallery AlSharq team has expanded from only four people to eleven today. The startup has 50,000 images in its library, with an additional 30,000 images that will be launched on the website in about two months once tagged. Many of these photos are generated from over 300 photographers in the region.

“We have been working on creating new contracts that will help us in expanding our library,” states Mahafzah.

Gallery AlSharq’s target is the media agencies in the MENA region, followed by production houses, media platforms and the online community.

“In fact, everybody’s going online,” says Mahafzah, “Businesses are online and need some images that are reasonably priced and high in quality.”

“It is normally difficult to search for specific oriental themed images on websites,” shares Dana Rousan, Creative Director/Manager/Creative Services at Arab Radio and Television (ART), an Arabic based entertainment platform. ART is working on sharing their content with Gallery AlSharq so that both organizations may gain exposure and benefit from one another.

“Gallery AlSharq has been a very useful tool in providing an Arabic oriented flavor, matching our marketing strategy,” emphasizes Rousan.

Today Gallery AlSharq launches itself in the digital world with two types of payment: subscriptions and pay-as-you-go bundles.

“The network is growing day after day, and we are always fine-tuning and adjusting our website to fit in with our every-day client,” says Mahafzah.

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