Published on Arab Voices

5 startups led by women that are shaping the future of entrepreneurship in Jordan

Eman Bushnaq, founder of Meem online Arabic dictionary, working at her laptop. (World Bank) Eman Bushnaq, founder of Meem online Arabic dictionary, working at her laptop. (World Bank)

Jordan’s entrepreneurship ecosystem has been evolving over the past decade resulting in the growing participation of women entrepreneurs. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report, Jordan’s female-to-male ratio for Total Entrepreneurship Activity (TEA) went from 0.26 in 2016 to 0.59 in 2019, an improvement of around 127 percent in only 3 years. Jordan has also developed gender-friendly policies for women to equally access credit, sign contracts, register a business, and open a bank account, in the same way as men. This evolution has been reflected in Jordan’s outstanding score of 100 out of 100 in the entrepreneurship indicator as measured by the World Bank’s Women, Business, and the Law (WBL) report.

Supporting entrepreneurs in Jordan, both women and men, over the last decade, Oasis500 is a pre-seed and seed fund manager and business accelerator, that provides startups with funding and full access to their acclaimed hands-on six-month business acceleration program, offering technical support and guidance from highly experienced coaches/mentors, among other services. This helps entrepreneurs to build innovative business models and establish scalable startups.

We spoke to Luma Fawaz, CEO of Oasis500 since December 2018, to tell us how she has supported women through the fund & accelerator. Named by Forbes as one of the Middle East’s ‘Top 100 Power Businesswomen’ for the last two years running, her strong passion for enabling women entrepreneurs contributed to Oasis500 record numbers of participation:  80% of its employees are women, and 40% of Oasis500’s 175 portfolio startups have women founders. Throughout her career, she told us she always stepped out of her comfort zone and pushed the limits towards creating a better reality for women leaders in business.

As we look to continuously promote entrepreneurship and private sector job creation across the MENA region, the World Bank’s Innovative Startups and SMEs Fund (ISSF) for Jordan, co-financed by the Central Bank of Jordan, invested US$3 million in Oasis500’s second fund, called Oasis Venture 2 (OV2). The ISSF is the largest early stage/small-and-medium enterprise (SMEs) investment fund in Jordan and is committed to facilitating funding for Jordanian startups and SMEs demonstrating ambitious vision, innovation, and high growth potential.

Oasis Venture 2 is working to invest up to US$100 thousand in technology and tech-enabled startups. To date, the OV2 Fund has supported an impressive and inspiring group of women-led companies in Ed-tech, Fin-tech, Heath-tech, and social support platforms. To mark International Women’s Day this month, we wanted to highlight some of these companies and their women leaders:      

1) Meem is a leading comprehensive platform for Arabic-speaking business professionals and students. Founded by Eman Bushnaq, who spent years in the Bank sector, this platform provides more than 20 thousand business terms and definitions to users.



2) Habaybna, an online resource and learning hub that provides specialized content on development disabilities in Arabic throughout the Arab region. Reem Afranji co-founded the site when, as of a mother of two sons with development disabilities, she struggled to find reliable Arabic resources on the internet to support them. She decided with her husband, Mohammed, to develop Habaybna platform, which provides similar families in the region with specialized Arabic content and support.



3) Tanda is a financial solutions platform that capitalizes on the need for alternative banking products in a region characterized with high financial exclusion. Founded by Zeina Kharouf, she saw that the overall lack of financial services in the Arab world hindered women’s access to financial services. Tanda helps underserved and vulnerable women to build their financial literacy and participate in formal financial activities.



4) Fitely is a health and fitness go-to platform that aims to make healthy living simple, accessible, and more convenient in every way. Siwar Al-Khalid founded the platform after she struggled for many years to find the equipment and accessories needed to build and maintain her healthy lifestyle, so she decided to develop alternative ways to make her search easier. Fitely serves a one-stop shop and help users find the best nutritionist or fitness experts and booking appointments.



5) Khibraty is a leading digital expertise marketplace that ensures successful matchmaking of the right professional consultants & advisors with those seeking their support, in an efficient manner. Founded by Abeer Qumsieh, has extensive experience in human development, strategic planning, organizational development, she focuses her philanthropic work on aiding women and youth to become business leaders in different industries, with the belief that women and youth are the future of the workforce, when empowered and given adequate learning and development skills throughout their careers.





Ali AbuKumail

Senior Private Sector Specialist

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