#UAEinnovators: Dubai-based Egyptian behind ‘Google for retail’

It’s the nightmare scenario for the faint-hearted shopper: you finally decide on the item that you want to buy, but are then faced with running the gauntlet of online retailers with slightly different prices and delivery times. And that’s before you decide to go looking for it in the mall.

Enter Mena Commerce, a Dubai-based start-up calling itself “Google for retail” in the region. Now when you are looking for an iPhone, just visit the company’s search engine at shopshopme.com, where you can find out where the phone is available, its cost and the delivery options.

Mena Commerce is the brainchild of Moustafa Mahmoud, a 31-year old Egyptian national based in Dubai since the early ‘90s. Mr Mahmoud started early in the technology world. He began coding aged 10, and entered university at 15, moving on to a series of roles with Oracle, EMC and SAP.

Mr Mahmoud started Mena Commerce in 2013, with investors from the Dubai government, Silicon Valley and Oracle. The company, which has already had three acquisition offers, is on course to become profitable by the end of 2017.

Its first product is Bivine, described as the region’s first real-time competitive intelligence solution for the retail space, offering insights into eCommerce trends for retailers and brands. Mena Commerce subsequently launched shopshopme.com partly at the urging of its retail customers, who understood the value of the data that the company had acquired.

Next month Mena Commerce will take shopshopme.com to the next level, offering listings for offline retailers as well as online.

What’s more, the company will next launch its first mobile app, which will use its own visual search function.

“If you take a picture of a product we’ll be able to tell you what it is and who is selling it. You don’t even need to search by text, all you need is your camera,” said Mr Mahmoud.

For the founder of Mena Commerce, the spirit of innovation is the be all and end all when it comes to running a business.

“In a competitive business environment, everything can be copied or replicated by another company except innovation, so that’s what really sets you apart,” he said.

“We decided to create something new. Even though [what we do was] unexplored and untested in our market, we thought it was worth the risk, and it’s worked out much better than expected.”


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