• Salina KUO

Meet the Team Behind the Startup-in-Progress, Sportii: Ali, Guy & Uthman

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We had the opportunity to speak to the team of trio from the 50:50 cohort that is working on the startup, “Sportii.” Ali, Guy and Uthman share their motivations for joining 50:50 Startups, and they tell us a little more about how Sportii was conceptualized.

Tell us a little more about yourself: what’s your name, where are you from and what field have you studied or worked in.

Guy: Ali should start because he has the most interesting one.

Ali: Okay *laughs* I don’t think so, but OK.

Guy: Unique, unique.

Ali: I’m 27, my name is Ali and I study computer science at the Open University right now. I’m from Jaffa.

Guy: My name is Guy, I’m originally from next to Jerusalem, but currently living in Tel Aviv. I study Business and Management in Ben Gurion University, and most of my professional experience is in educational NGOs.

Uthman: I’m Uthman. I was born and raised in Nicaragua, but both my mom and dad are from Palestine. Right now, I’m living in Kafr Malik, which is a town around Ramallah, 30 minutes away. I study computer sciences in Al-Quds University and I’m 27.

Why did you join the 50:50 Startups Program?

Guy: I joined 50:50 Startups because I wanted to be in a certain program that gave me tools, mentors and like, pretty much the base to do something of my own. As a person, I know that I grow in programs like this, or [through] programs in general, so I was looking for an opportunity that’s like this. [This is to] eventually get to my own venture in a certain way, and to really get the tools and experience—to have more in the future, and also to have connections and to get to know people from different fields that are important to me, because in my field, I don’t know too many tech people that can do something together with Palestinians, Jewish people, Israelis, and Israeli-Arabs all together. It’s very interesting. I love to travel, so to get to know people from different backgrounds—whether it is ethnically, academically, or geographically—I really enjoy this kind of atmosphere.

Ali: For me, I did the Tech2Peace program over the summer. That’s why I was introduced to 50:50, and I really enjoyed the Tech2Peace program. The 50:50 program is about things I care about—Palestinian-Jewish cooperation, entrepreneurship, and also a little bit of tech, so I thought it would be a nice chance to meet some people, grow my network and also maybe get a startup going.

Uthman: For me, I joined 50:50 because… same as Ali, I was with him in Tech2Peace seminar last summer in Yeruham, and we heard about 50:50 that way, and it caught my attention actually. I’d seen a lot of startups going on lately and with COVID, a lot of friends have been trying to do their own startups, so I said why don’t I give it a try and see how it goes.

Tell us the story of how the idea of your Startup came to be: how you thought of it, what was the motivation behind it, and what do you want to achieve with it.

Guy: We first started with the idea that we called “WeShare,” for creating a peer-to-peer rental marketplace, but we changed the idea after doing some research. We needed something more precise and more [suited to the] resources that we have. So we took this “rental” idea in a more specific direction and now, the idea is pretty much to give [people] access to sports games and fitness workouts in public spaces by placing smart lockers in places that you might use them, [whether] it’s in the beach or in the park. So, it’s the idea of creating something with a value of togetherness, community and sustainability—I think it’s something that both ideas share, with this concept.

Uthman: Well we also [want to see] if it’s possible to create communities with people—this is more of a future project than the project we are working on. Let’s say, for example, Ali is looking for a football in the area and I am also looking for one. We can meet together and play together, so we will get to know each other. The idea is to have small communities in certain areas [where] they can keep in contact, and play and practice more sports together.

Now about startup accelerators: they offer a variety of tools for startups to succeed and receive funding, business skills, mentors, and networking opportunities. How do you think this program with 50:50 Startups will help you to achieve your goal with this startup?

Ali: I think the biggest value we got so far from 50:50 is just the fact that it brought together a bunch of people who are interested in these kinds of things. Thirty to forty people who are looking to do something entrepreneurial—it’s already quite a big value because otherwise, if you were looking for people like that to connect with, you wouldn't know where to look. It’s also different from Tech2Peace because Tech2Peace wasn’t about that, it was more about the conflict, dialogue, about teaching tech—nothing specifically about startups there. I do think that this kind of program would be much stronger live because many of the people we met are just on Zoom, and I imagine in previous years, you could build a stronger connection with your cohort. Also, I think the following stages of the 50:50 program are going to be interesting. Going to the Azrieli College, meeting everyone physically and maybe going to Boston later.

Uthman: I also want to add onto what Ali said. Like the connection they have with different lecturers and people, it’s also quite beneficial for us since before coming to 50:50 and to the cohort, I didn’t know anything about entrepreneurship. I just had this idea of starting my own business and that’s it—and to start making money. I didn't know the basics and all that, and they did a good job actually making us understand, with the lectures, how you start building something from the start and see what might sell.

If you have to pinpoint a moment in the 50:50 program that greatly influenced you, what would that be?

Guy: I have a moment that I didn’t share with Ali and Uthman, but both of them are part of this moment. Ali and I had the opportunity to meet a few weeks ago in Jaffa, and we walked around. In the beginning, when we understood pretty much that we were going to be a team, Ali, at 11:00 at night or 11:30, Ali said maybe we should talk to Uthman and I had no idea who Uthman is, but he said great things about him. When you have this third person join us, suddenly you are a team—you’re not a couple, you’re a team. I never talked to Uthman before, but I had a good feeling in that moment when Ali shared with me that Uthman should be a good partner who should join. So this is my memorable moment.

Uthman: To be honest, I’ve never had any moment that [stood out from] anything because all the things we have done until now have been done through Zoom, and most of the time it’s in front of the computer. It feels like I’m doing the same thing, repeating it every Monday, so it doesn’t feel like anything amazing. It hasn’t happened yet, but maybe, hopefully, when we start meeting personally, it will happen after we get permits once more, but we’ll see.

Like, you cannot build anything that [stands out] in your life through Zoom, I don’t think. Well, maybe you can, but with stuff online—you can meet anyone online. So I don’t know.

Ali: I remember the… I remember some of the sessions being really good, but it’s been a while so I don’t remember which one, and like the title of the sessions, they kind of blend together. But I do remember there were a couple sessions which were very informative…otherwise, I also don’t know yet.

Maybe the moment [will be] when we finally all come together, when we have a gala and we meet. It can be dramatic.


Interview by: Adi Nassar

Transcription by: Salina Kuo

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