Doha, Qatar: Winning Challenge 22 is acting as the perfect springboard for global expansion, according to one entrepreneur who won the prestigious innovation award in 2017.
Stefano Fallaha, CEO of Fallound, was in Doha as part of a visit organised by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC). The week-long trip provided startups of the flagship innovation award the chance to meet with key stakeholders throughout Qatar to present their projects and discuss potential partnership opportunities.
An opportunity, Fallaha says, that would not have been possible without the help of the SC and Challenge 22.
"We met very senior stakeholders at each of these organisations and I can say with absolute certainty that we could not have got these introductions without Challenge 22," he said. "We have had strong interest in our product from a number of high-profile, globally-renowned companies within Qatar – which is very exciting for us all."
Twenty-year-old Fallaha – who in March was listed in Forbes' 'Middle East's 30 Under 30 2019' list – founded the Fallound mobile app to give users personalised audio recommendations to match the length of their commute times from over 30 million hours of audio content.
"It started out as a voice-based social network," he explained. "You would follow people and people follow you back, and you would share voice recordings. I outsourced the development and launched a product but quickly realised that people wanted to consume content rather than share it."
He continued: "I spoke to the users and found out they were consuming the most content when they were driving, so I tapped into the podcasting market. I bridged the commuting part with it to make it easy to discover and listen to audio podcasts on-the-go. It helps people stay educated and entertained while driving."
Fallaha continued: "Our vision is to educate people on the go. This is why we have partnerships with telecoms in the Middle East and Africa – Fallound is making audio educational content available to millions in these regions.
"Listening to audio has been around for decades and the technology behind it is just as old. In an era of distraction, we believe in the power of listening. Millions of people listen to the radio during their commute every day. The most challenging part is finding topics and channels that align your preferences and your commute time."
Fast-forward 18 months, and following his Challenge 22 win, Fallaha – who was also listed by Executive Magazine as one of the top 20 entrepreneurs in Lebanon in 2015 and was a Young Entrepreneur of the Year nominee in Arabian Business magazine's Startup Awards 2018 – has put his studies temporarily on hold to work full-time on Fallound.
Such is the pace of development since winning Challenge 22, he has also hired a team of eight full-time members to help move the startup to the next stage.
"It's a time we need to expand our growth even more – as we grew 110 per cent from last month till now. We are raising funds, closing partnerships and finalising contracts," he continued.
"The next steps are to expand, get more users and achieve worldwide reach. If we start off in Qatar it can absolutely become a springboard for this level of expansion – especially with the international reach and exposure the companies we have met with in Doha have.
"Proceeding further with one of these stakeholders would be a huge opportunity for us to expand globally."
As for long-term plans – during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Fallound could be used to follow matches or team news. It has already launched on the iOS App Store and the Android Play Store – where it ranked highly in the news category – and is set to launch on Amazon Alexa-enabled devices in the near future.
The team also has plans to integrate Fallound's technology into car manufacturers' software and is in talks with global companies of this industry.
"The constant support of Challenge 22 has made this dream a genuine reality," Fallaha concluded.