Yomken.com is a non-profit open innovation and crowdfunding platform which launched its pilot phase in Egypt in October 2012, with seed funding from the World Bank’s Youth Innovation Fund.
Yomken helps micro and small enterprises meet their design challenges by posting challenges online on a Web platform, and sourcing innovative solutions from supporters (problem solvers), thus bridging the gap between those with a problem to solve, and people with the skills needed to help.
Furthermore, Yomken provides a crowdfunding channel for innovators to post their product ideas on the platform to raise funds and transform them into actual products. Customers get access to a set of innovative products which they can pre-order, thereby financially supporting the production process.
This partnership with Yomken builds upon Silatech’s focus of providing innovative solutions to young Arab entrepreneurs, by combining micro-financing opportunities with technology and helping people engage with their communities. An earlier social investment by Silatech—Kiva Arab Youth, developed in collaboration with Kiva.org (the world’s largest online microlending platform)—has helped support more than 60,000 individuals raise nearly $3 million to fund 2,500 young entrepreneurs in the Arab world, using a Web-enabled microlending approach.
Dr. Tarik M. Yousef, CEO of Silatech, said “This partnership with Yomken further enhances Silatech’s approach to innovation, and provides people interested in Egypt as well as the broader Arab world with a way to reach out and help their community, while helping young entrepreneurs create economic opportunities for themselves.”
Projects like these are essential for many countries in the Arab region, during a time of great need. With more than 60% of its population under the age of 30, and nearly one in four unemployed, Egypt’s youth are increasingly driven to self-employment to build a better life.
Without access to the necessary funds or expertise, many of these microenterprises set up by young people are unable to survive or grow. At the same time, Internet usage has grown by more than 20% from 2011: estimates suggest that more than 31 million people in Egypt use the Internet today, with more than half of those actively using social media. There is an opportunity to use the Internet to close the gap between entrepreneurs who need capital and expertise, and people who have both and would like to help.
Tamer Taha, CEO of Yomken, said “It is time for leveraging the wisdom of the Arab crowd to transform innovation into added economic value, even for the microenterprises working in low-tech industries. We consider our partnership with Silatech as a step forward towards this shared vision.”
This innovative crowdsourcing approach is a first for the Arab region, and sets the stage well for larger initiatives in the future that use technology to create opportunities for “smart giving,” by creating a sense of connection as well as improving transparency.
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