Mar 20, 2021
Is Yazan Sehwail the most successful Palestinian founder?
An ambitious bet
Yazan Sehwail was raised in Ramallah before attending Hamilton College in the United States for his bachelors degree. This is a familiar path for many young, talented and educated Palestinians. After finishing his education, Yazan decided he would move back to Palestine and try his luck at what he was trained in: software and product development. After starting and failing what he describes as a “Groupon” style app, Yazan would become, in his own words, “addicted” to entrepreneurship.
In 2013, he created and led his first truly successful business, InnerChip. InnerChip developed enterprise web software for companies such as BMW. He served as the CEO for almost 5 years and led the company to profitability while being completely bootstrapped
In 2017, Yazan tried his luck again. He created UserPilot, a SaaS company that helps product teams worlwide deliver personalized in-app experience, thus facilitating growth. The idea for this company came from Yazan’s frustration with how making minor changes to a product’s UI would take days. After building a scrappy MVP, which he convinced a Dutch company to try for free, UserPilot now generates millions in annual revenue.
Userpilot is a low-code web-based toolkit that helps product and customer success teams quickly fool-proof their user experience. — Yazan Sehwail
UserPilot now offers a plethora of products and solutions to help product teams achieve feats such as user onboarding, feature adoption, customer retention, account expansion, and in product communication. Through their blog, the UserPilot team offers useful insights into the often jargonny and technical world of SaaS.
Thoughts on the Palestinian entrepreneurial ecosystem
As a Palestinian founder, Yazan has tried to better understand what separates mature entrepreneurial ecosystems from nascent and underdeveloped ones. Contrary to many observers who cite “lack of resources” as Palestinian’s entrepreneurs’ main hurdle, Yazan pinpoints two little discussed issues.
First, Yazan believes that there is a lack of role models for Palestinian founders to look up to. Indeed, he says, even if those role models don’t reach out to founders directly, the sole fact that they were successsful would give hope to hundreds of ambitious Palestinian entrepreneurs to try and start something themselves. Yazan candidly admits that when he started UserPilot, he didn’t even really believe it would work. Maybe, after all, Yazan is the role model he claims Palestinian entrepreneurs are missing.
Second, Yazan was moderately critical about the outsourcing sector, which many tout as a huge opportunity for Palestine’s economic development. Indeed, many talented Palestinian software engineers work either remotely or on-site for big American, European or Israeli companies. While this undoubtebly provides prosperity and jobs, Yazan also warns that it drastically reduces the amount of young Palestinians that will create companies of their own.
When it comes to ideas about how to remmediate to that problem, Yazan has a couple solutions. He thinks the process of starting a company in Palestine should be simplified. Furthermore, Palestinians with start-up ideas should have the available help and resources to at least commence their entrepreneurial journey. In terms of concrete start-ups, he thinks would work well in the region, Yazan believes the development of a mobile stock trading application such as RobinHood would have phenomenal success in the Arab world.
There are a lot of good ideas to explore in the Palestinian market. But whatever you do, make sure to validate the idea before investing yourself into it. — Yazan Sehwail
Who are we?
GrowHome is a platform connecting diasporas to entrepreneurs back home. The problem we’re trying to solve is twofold: on one hand, diasporas often gain professional and financial resources abroad which they want to share with people back home, but they have no easy way to do so. On the other hand, entrepreneurs in emerging countries have incredible talent, but lack access to business opportunities. On GrowHome, diasporas can mentor, collaborate and fund entrepreneurs from their home countries.
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