The Maktoob story: A source of pride
The big news this week is the sale of Maktoob.com to Yahoo! Rumours had been circulating for years regarding this deal, but it’s now official and the Internet media scene in the Middle East will never be the same.
To begin with, we should all feel extremely proud of the Maktoob team, especially the founders Samih Toukan and Husam Khoury who launched Maktoob eleven years ago, following a few years of experimenting with web development and Internet projects under their previous company Business Optimization Consultants (BOC), which even launched one of the first recruitment sites in the Arab World, Job Finder.
In 1998 they spotted a niche for Arabic email services and announced Maktoob at a computer show in Amman (METS 98) where the founders wore Maktoob T-Shirts and asked people to sign-up for an account. I remember signing up and grabbing my email address firstname.lastname@example.org which I’ve proudly used ever since, having beaten hundreds of ‘Zeids’ that would follow as Maktoob gained millions of email users in record time and its fame went beyond Jordan.
Maktoob (meaning ‘letter’ in Arabic) grew beyond its name to offer so much more Arabic and English content. Your email username and password became a gateway to so many other services.
I’ve been watching Maktoob closely since it started, and have worked with the Maktoob team on many occasions. The patience and determination of the founders and their early investors must be commended. From humble beginnings in a Jebel Amman office, Maktoob now has over 300 people in Amman, Dubai, Riyadh, Cairo and Kuwait.
There are many Jordan-based Internet media ventures that have been inspired by Maktoob, or have simply benefited from the awareness that Maktoob created in the region. When Maktoob opened its Dubai office, it was probably the only Arab website selling online advertising professionally in the Middle East, educating clients and advertising agencies about the future of marketing as we know it today.
It took years for proper revenues to materialize, but perseverance and leadership have been awarded now with this recognition from Yahoo!, whose acquisition of Maktoob will send a message worldwide regarding the emergence of the Middle East as an Internet media market.
It will also tell the story of Jordanian entrepreneurship against all odds. A story that involved hundreds of team members over the years, all of whom feel this success is theirs too.
The outpouring of support and congratulations to the Maktoob team following the announcement of this deal has been heartwarming. No matter what direction the new Yahoo! Maktoob takes, its place in the region’s Internet history is secured as the trailblazing industry-maker, born in Jordan. Congratulations to us all.