"JO" YOUSEF ALAQRA is an entrepreneur and educator in the 50:50 Startups entrepreneurship program. Jo talks about his motivations for joining the 50:50 program, why he thinks a strong work culture is important, and what he wishes to see change with the current education system.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background and what are some previous experiences that you’ve had?
My name is Yousef Alaqra - you can call me Jo. I have been a software developer for 4 years now, since I graduated from An-Najah National University. After that, I got the opportunity to initiate my startup in the West Bank. Also, I’m teaching as a co-teacher at An-Najah University, so I’m helping students get more information about how businesses are running in real life so they can fit their business models into the real world. By providing them real scenarios and problems, they can solve and learn so much.
What is your motivation for joining 50:50 Startups?
Speaking about my motivation to join 50:50 Startups, I have always believed that having a good team will help you solve any problem in the world. Our world is full of problems: on one hand, we have problems related to education and on the other hand, we have problems related to health. By health, I mean, we can see that how coronavirus has affected the world and how current policy approaches can't give us a reliable solution to deal with this pandemic. We also have problems in the economy and we have problems with the environment. As we can see, our world is dying. Earth won’t survive in the next 50 years. I believe that I want to have a team, a very strong team that will help me solve the many problems that we will face, and sharing knowledge is the key— [this is] the culture I want to believe in.
Can you describe the type of team you are looking to create and work with?
I want to have people who are ready to share knowledge or are ready to work hard to make anything happen—no matter what the result is. 50:50 Startups gave me this opportunity to meet many people from different countries and see people from other sides of the conflict. As we know, having Palestinians and Israelis in a conflict is a problem, and I would be happy to share my ideas on how to fix the situation. By joining 50:50, I get the opportunity to meet people and to build a team, and I’m already in a partnership with two people from the 50:50 cohort. So this is my big motivation: finding a team.
Since you first joined the 50:50 program, there were a few events held to facilitate your journey in venture creation. What has been the most memorable moment thus far, or what event stood out to you in particular?
Okay so, starting from the first session, which was … it was hard to remember the name of the person. It was about communication and having your team solve problems, and it presented a main idea that I enjoyed listening to. I know it’s hard to communicate and have a good session through virtual meeting applications, such as Zoom, but the 50:50 program has proven their quality by providing very rich content at their events through virtual applications. They do things like split us into different breakout rooms, so 2 or 3 of us from the cohort could come together in different rooms to communicate better, share amazing knowledge and have an informative experience, even if we are virtually communicating. Going through the next meeting, I enjoyed the time when we met someone from Microsoft Startups, and how he talked about the importance of the company’s culture or startup culture.
Could you talk a little more about what the speaker from Microsoft Startups spoke about, and how it inspired you?
He talked about how having a good culture will give you the ability to better survive until you reach your goals. So this was very informative to me. I already—after the meeting—built my own culture which, I believe, will make a very good team. And the roundtable discussion was also amazing because I met with someone from the education field and she talked about the importance of education and the current problems that education is facing.
You mentioned being an educator as well earlier. According to the speaker from the roundtable discussion or to your own perspective, what are the current problems in education that you speak of?
The main thing we had in common in what we thought about education was identifying a problem with the way of teaching right now. Traditional teaching now has multiple issues, because real life is different than what schools, universities or other institutions tell students. In life, we experience situations, and after that, we should ask why these experiences occur and how can we learn from the results of our experiences to improve our knowledge. In schools, they don’t give us the experience we need; usually, there is one teacher who is speaking, and sometimes, there are students asking questions and doing some discussion. I have already made a virtual application that will help people improve their soft skills, and because the Microsoft speaker touched on that topic, I enjoyed that lecture. I am already working on solving a problem that is already existing in the real world. Going through all the topics of the session of the program, I think we received very informative knowledge, and I am ready to tackle my startup with my team. So every meeting with 50:50 Startups gave us so much information, so much knowledge, and a very, very good community.
What are some personal goals or professional goals you have for the time you’ll be spending in the 50:50 program? What do you hope to accomplish in the 50:50 entrepreneurship program?
Ok so, speaking about my goals in life and how they are related to the goals of 50:50, my goal is to help the world, the whole world, by fixing two problems: education and health. I’m already at that step in the 50:50 program with two team members. We have already teamed up to build a platform—a social platform that will help people to adopt a healthier lifestyle by giving them a straightforward goal, so they can form partnerships with people from both the other side of the conflict and their own side, so they can build healthy lifestyle habits through the application.
What has been the development process so far for your application?
After meeting with experts in the field, including dieticians, experts in fitness, workout, yoga, as well as other areas, they mentioned that one of the key challenges people face is to adopt a healthier lifestyle—to be healthy and to avoid diseases and medication. People are struggling to live in a good environment. Our environment affects us, our culture also affects us, in a bad way. So, we have decided to create an online social platform that will help people to create virtual environments with each other. We are building partnerships between those people so they can build their own environments through our platform. My goal is to improve this idea and hopefully to get more investments, so we can get more resources to improve this platform and to make it reachable all around the world. Our goal with the platform is to also address conflicts—not just the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but any conflict in the world. These conflicts I speak about don't have to be related to politics specifically, it can even be about conflicts with families and with brothers and sisters. We want to build a place that will help people live better.