Wajeez: Startup enters online book market with bite-sized Arabic renditions

Mohammad Zatara, the founder of Wajeez, a Jordanian subscription service. (Photo: Rami Abu Jbara)
Mohammad Zatara, the founder of Wajeez, a Jordanian subscription service. (Photo: Rami Abu Jbara)
AMMAN — This week, Jordanian subscription service Wajeez closed a $3 million funding round. The startup distills best-selling books from around the world into 15-minute-long Arabic audio summaries.اضافة اعلان

Speaking to Jordan News about the inspiration behind Wajeez, founder Mohammad Zatara said that “the new (generation) does not have time like before, like (young people) did seven or ten years ago.”

Before founding Wajeez, Zatara spent seven years at a start-up called Faylasof — a MENA-based online bookstore. His time selling physical books inspired him to start Wajeez.

“I decided to keep the same role but try to (summarize) English and Arabic books so that you could read or listen to them in fifteen minutes.”

Wajeez’s soft launch took place in January of 2020, but the official launch took place almost a year later.

Zatara explained that Wajeez focuses primarily on non-fiction books, adding that self-improvement and business books tend to be the most read. There are over 2,500 books currently available on the platform.

“We have an algorithm that helps us (choose) books … like if they have good rating, if the author is famous, when the book was published, how many people bought it, if it's best-selling on Amazon or Goodreads; we have an algorithm that calculates this information.”

“We have a threshold of 8 out of 10. If the book gets 8 or above, we choose it,” he continued.

Zatara laid out the seven-step process of summarization that takes place after a book is selected.

“We have a long process of summarization, just to ensure the quality.”

This starts with writing — a process through which writers summarize the book in bullet points. The second part invites in creative writers who rewrite the summary in an “exciting way.”

“Sometimes when you read a book you get bored … some sentences don’t give you an exciting feeling,” Zatara explained.

After the creative writers, proofreaders ensure that the most important aspects of the book have been covered. Then comes language and audio checks, followed by narration and publication.

Zatara noted that Wajeez’s current target audience is working adults.

“In the Arab world, (around) 40 percent of the population is between the ages of 18 and 28. It’s a good mass-market potential for us.” So far, the app has amassed over 800,000 users to its time-saving summaries.

Currently, Wajeez has more than 500 “direct and indirect” jobs, with more than 50 full-time employees working in Jordan.
“Our team is made up of seven nationalities, but we are trying to focus on Jordan.”

“Today, Jordan is a hub of many creative people and we have very huge potential. Jordan (can) become the hub of startups in the next few years … we have the human capital,” he added.

“The plan for the future is to expand into other languages … to focus on the product and make sure people spend time on it and use it, and that the product is going on the right track.”

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