Finding talent in the MENA region can be a difficult task, there isn’t a specific place for people to find creative minded individuals with trusted feedback. The problem also exists for the people at the other end i.e. for freelancers who are looking for work. Where do they go? And how can they be sure to trust whom ever is hiring them.
Enter tasmeemME, a social network dedicated to creative talent, that allows for both companies and individuals to share work and connect with each other to form a working relationship. I had the pleasure to meet the entire team last week, and they were very nice to take the time to sit down and talk with me. They’re located in Amman, Jordan. And from what I understood they’ve recently moved into new offices after securing a round of investment last year. The office had a distinctive vibe which I can’t really explain but it felt like a place I’d like to work at.
tasmeemME is the brainchild of Noor El-Fadl who is a graphic designer that used to work in the “corporate world” (as she puts it) for a couple of years then decided to work as a freelancer. “I found it difficult to market myself and find work” explained Noor, which is one of the main reasons why she thought of tasmeemME and went on to launch it out of her basement in 2009. (Coincidentally they launched around the same time interactive ME launched in May 2009, so happy 3rd birthday tasmeemME!)
“tasmeemME was operational for a year, and then Arabnet happened – it was out of the blue, within 2-3 days we were there and we got pushed extremely quickly to the deep end.” Said Noor, describing her experience with Arabnet and how things quickly became serious.
Throughout our discussion we were interrupted by a special team member Balilah aka The B! A very cheerful and hyper dog, it was obvious she just wanted to play. I couldn’t resist not writing anything about her in the article, she was a delight!
Anyways I digress, back to the website, according to Noor tasmeemME is gaining traction and the user base is growing “people are enjoying using our network” she also added “as a pilot it worked out pretty well, users got hired and jobs were posted but now its time for a new expansion with a new revamp hopefully in the near future.”
Luckily for Noor she’s not alone she has a team that helps her make tasmeemME possible, currently they are a team of four people:
- Noor El-Fadl, founder & CEO (Although she doesn’t like to be called CEO because she doesn’t believe in titles – which I happen to agree with)
- Yahia Houry, COO
- Yamama Jaradat, Community & Outreach Manager
- Haya Majali, Junior Developer
Other than the fact they are successful at connecting people to work with each other, Haya attributes the early success of the site to the fact that freelancers can upload their own portfolios. “A strong facet of the site is that People like to browse and see portfolios, so they have an idea of the person’s capabilities” Explained Haya.
I then turned my attention to Haya, I wanted to know more about the technology side and how she manages to handle the website. Currently tasmeemME is built with Code ignitor which is flexible but difficult to manage from the backend, they are looking to change that in the near future to Drupal, how they ended up with Drupal is a long story according to the team. Although it isn’t as flexible as Code ignitor it is easier to manage, and at least for the time being they need something that is easy to manage especially that there isn’t a big team in house to do it.
We then moved on to talk about the daily activities going on at tasmeemME, I asked Yahia what he liked most about working at there “What I Like is that its challenging, every half an hour I take care of something different, there is lots of overlap in terms of our roles” he also added “in a startup if you think of an initiative you can run with it. Which is both exciting and kind of scary at the same time!”.
What sets tasmeemME apart in my opinion is what they are doing to ensure that the users on the site are genuine, “We’re meeting all creatives on the site. in person or via Skype. We ask them questions, such as what are their strengths (corporate design, illustrations, etc…) in order to create the most extensive database of creatives in the Middle East. And according to the information we gather we can recommend freelancers to our clients.” Stated Noor.
They offer recommendations to clients through an assisted search service where they get in touch directly with clients (or clients get in touch with them) and discuss what they are looking for and then they go off matching them with the most suitable candidate according to the client’s requirements.
As mentioned previously the site is completely free for both individuals and companies, and apart from their assisted search service they sometimes act as a promotional arm for some of their clients.
That is why they are thinking of introducing some sort of membership model to the website, in order to add a revenue stream, so we’ll have to keep a close eye on how and what will exactly happen with that.
As an example of their promotional work they are currently working exclusively with the Welfare association on a logo competition for a Palestinian museum in Beir Zeit, the museum is more a topical one than a historical one. The competition is running until May 20, 2012, and 1st place receives 1,500USD prize, 2nd 1000USD and 3rd 750USD. “Its really a great initiative to be a part of, we’ve done a number of these collaborations in the past with unesco and ruwwad/aramex” Said Yahia.
Naturally I wanted to know how well they were doing in terms of traffic or number of registered users, and Noor was actually quite happy to provide the numbers, but she stressed the fact that they are targeting a very niche community and that they haven’t been doing any marketing. Their registered users are 2,700 the majority of whom (60%) are from Jordan and 20% from Lebanon with the remaining from a mix of countries worldwide.
So how did they reach this number and what are they planning to do to increase it? This is where Yamama comes in, she is the community & outreach manager, although she spends her time meeting and contacting creatives that are adding themselves to the website, she also takes care of tasmeemME’s social presence.
So far all activities done were direct marketing and the majority of traffic and users were genrated organically. However they recently began advertising on social networks a few months back. “So far Its working good, all our marketing activities are mainly online and social” stated Yamama.
Obviously tasmeemME’s major aim is to bring people to the website and hopefully convert them to registered users. Which is why they believe social networks such as Facebook will help in the long run. Yahia mentioned an example of a previous campaign they ran on Facebook that generated 1,500 likes in a couple of weeks. “Once users like our page we can communicate with them better and make sure we cater to their needs in a more effective way.” added Yahia.
As to what they communicate with these users from Facebook and twitter, Yamama explained that they are currently posting scheduled items that they feel relevant to their users, covering topics such as design or social media, as well as job opportunities that match their skills.
So there you have it a quick look inside tasmeemME. I must confess I really enjoyed our chat and expect them to have a bright future ahead because they seem to know what they’re doing. So I would like to wish them the best of luck, a happy third birthday and want to thank them for taking the time to meet with me.