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Joining Start-Up Nation

Living and working on the edges of Israel’s Start-Up Nation, Palestinian and Israeli Arab high tech entrepreneurs are trying their hand getting companies aloft by leveraging their closeness to Israel’s technology juggernaut and the low cost of Palestinian engineers.

“There’s a great opportunity in Palestine to create a start-up with a great cost structure,” Tareq Maayah, chief executive officer of Shopzooky, a maker of  social shopping apps, which was set up in Ramallah last year. “You couldn’t beat it without going to India,” said his partner Sam Taha, chief technology officer.

Shopzooky’s app brings customers of bricks-and-mortar stores together with shoppers to share information on prices, specials and opinions on products available in their neighborhoods. Apple’s App Store is already selling the Shopzooky product and it will be available on Android smart phones in June. Its ad platform, which Maayah and Taha are counting on to generate revenue, will begin in the summer.

The two are seasoned technology executives – Maayah worked for the German company Siemens in Ramallah and was a co-founder of the web 2.0 company Ghosts. Taha held senior management positions at U.S. start-ups, among them Employ ease, which was sold for $160 million in 2006 to ADP. Both were educated in the U.S.

Meanwhile, two young Israeli Arabs – Adi Omari and Mohammad Zoabi, both age 22 – have also taken up the high tech challenge, forming a website-building company called Widgex.  The service, which is still being develop enables the technology clueless to build their own website using a series of widgets, which is a small application that can be installed and executed within a web page by an end user.

“It’s much more flexible,” Omari told The Media Line. “The page is a widget, so you can structure it so that each user’s website looks different There are no control panels or delays. You just click.”
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