Shamim Kassibawi, the Founder of Play:Date, speaks to Gadget Voize about the app and her startup story
Tell us about Play:Date? Who is the target audience?
Play:Date helps moms, dads, kids, and families in general. The primary goal of the app is to help build a social circle for your child via the setting up of ‘play dates’. We understand how vital friendships can be at a young age, and expanding a kids social circle not only helps develop important life skills but it is also less likely that the child will have social and emotional difficulties later in life.
Additionally, users have access to several discounts, deals, complimentary entry at kid-friendly events, etc. In today’s day and age, we understand it can be difficult to run a family due to increasing costs, hence our number one goal is to create a convenient way for parents to build their kids’ social circle and provide families with an affordable experience.
Kids and parents are the core of our business – Play:Date’s target audience ranges from children that are 0 months up until 12 years of age.
How did you start up? When did you start up? How did you arrive at the idea behind your company?
My “appreneur” journey with Play:Date started two years ago when I realized a lot of the kids living in today’s cosmopolitan lifestyle did not have much of a social circle. Everyone is so busy leading such fast-paced lives that a lot of parents often have a hard time introducing their kids to others their age – this was a gap I identified while living with my sister and her kids.
I wanted to help families and this is how the idea was formulated. The next step was bringing it to life. However, a number of factors had to be considered – would parents be comfortable uploading their child’s data online? How would profiles be screened? Was it secure? After lots of research, trial and error, Play:Date was born.
Tell us about your team? How many members? Who is involved in the day to day operations?
I’ve always believed in maintaining a small tight-knit team. Given the right support, a small team can get work done quickly and efficiently. We are a total of 5 employees at Play:Date where everyone is given a responsibility and the freedom to ‘run their own show’. We currently handle marketing/PR, finance, operations/admin, designing and media-buying.
Did you come across any challenges during the initial days?
Personally, it has been technology. For someone that comes from a purely PR and Communications background, understanding the technical aspects was difficult. Technology is moving so fast we can barely keep up. There’s literally a new invention or innovation every other day. However, the solution for this is to constantly educate yourself, adapt and of course, have the right partners/team -you need to have the right people to guide, support, inspire and value you.
How is your service different from similar companies on the market?
We don’t really have a direct competitor. In fact, we encourage entities from the community to collaborate with us and together we can all work towards the same goal – connecting kids and making friends, thus expanding the community. I’m a firm believer in ‘“competitive collaborations”— this long-term partnership, truly do strengthen and mutually benefit all parties involved.
Was the funding self-funded or do you have external partners?
Play:Date has been solely self-funded for the last two years. However, we are now looking at raising capital and growing the business.
What are your future plans with your company? Any new markets/target audiences you plan to reach?
From a future plans standpoint, we’ve got lots of idea’s brewing in the pipeline that we would love to explore. I’d like to provide mothers and women in general, a working environment that is best suited for them. A place where they can work flexible hours, bring their kids to the office and have a nursery/daycare centre at Play:Date HQ – this is my long-term vision.
With regards to new markets, during Play:Date’s pilot phase we noticed that after UAE, the US was our biggest market. It certainly is super exciting to see this grow organically and is something we will be tackling as soon as things are perfected on the ground here. The US is definitely our next target!
What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
My top three tips for a budding entrepreneur is :
Passion: This is so important! You are going to be eating, drinking, breathing and living your idea – almost 18 hours a day I would say – you need to know your stuff and love it.
Do Not Chase Money: avoid chasing money, money is great and you might be passionate about it, but that’s not enough. As someone once said “Don’t chase the money chase your dream”.
Create A Strong Support System: you need to have the right people to look up to, inspire and value you – the inner circle as I like to call it.
UAE Entrepreneurs Launch Private Messaging App
UAE-based entrepreneurs have launched a private messaging app, which enables users to send voice and written messages that disappear as soon as they are sent, read, and played. “The application called Oh!Message, brings users back to the classical period of simple communications tools, but by using the best privacy-enhancing features, to be the first chat application with this high privacy developed in the ME region by Arab expertise,” said Mohammed Othman and Haian Nayouf, the makers of the app.
With this free app, the sent message will disappear from the sender’s account after 10 seconds if it is read by the recipient or not, and it will also disappear from the recipient’s account after 10 seconds of opening or playing it. The message will be destroyed completely within the application and will not be stored on the app servers. Each written message is limited to 100 characters while the audio message is 10 seconds.
“Oh!Message is end-to-end encrypted but it has also other features that make it the most private app among messaging apps,” said Engineer Mohammed Othman, Co-Founder and Chief of Technology at Oh!Message. “In this app, which is available in Apple and Android stores, the user doesn’t appear online while using it, and his/her location is not tracked.”
“The first period of the app launch is in the UAE, the Gulf region, and Arab countries,” said Haian Nayouf, Co-Founder and Chief of Communications at Oh!Message. “The UAE is the capital for talent, companies, and investments in the areas of digital and technical excellence globally, and this has greatly motivated us to work on this project in UAE, and the app is the first of its kind in the Arab world with these strong privacy features.”
Taiwan’s First International Streaming Platform Called Taiwan+ is Now Live
Taiwan Plus (Taiwan+), the first English-language international streaming platform of Taiwan, was unveiled by Vice President Lai Ching-te, Legislative Speaker You Si-kun, Culture Minister Lee Yung-te, Central News Agency (CNA) Chairman Liu Ka-shiang, Taiwan+ CEO Joanne Tsai, and H.E. Ambassador Jasmine E. Huggins of Embassy of Saint Christopher and Nevis at the National Taiwan Museum in Taipei on Aug. 30.
Targeting an English-speaking audience, Taiwan+ consists of media professionals from the U.S., the U.K, Canada, France, and Australia, as well as local industry professionals, who work collaboratively to deliver the latest news about Taiwan, international affairs, and covers a wide range of topics. The platform also sources stories from Taiwan’s public and private media organizations.
Golden Melody-award-winning singer Sanpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw opened the event with a music performance. Held with COVID-19 prevention measures in place, the event was joined by representatives including Izumi Hiroyasu from Japan, Jordan Reeves from Canada, Andrew Wylegala and Don Shapiro from the U.S., and Henry Chang and Giuseppe Izzo from Europe.
H.E. Ambassador Jasmine E. Huggins of the Embassy of Saint Christopher and Nevis in Taiwan said the international video platform is expected to connect Taiwan with the world. President Tsai Ing-wen expressed her pleasure to join the launch of Taiwan+ with a video message, saying “Taiwan+ is an exciting new initiative to tell Taiwan’s story. Generations of Taiwanese fought to transform this country into a vibrant democracy that protects freedom of speech and expression.”
Premier Su Tseng-chang wished the platform success. He stressed that Taiwan is a democratic and free country guided by the rule of law, and cares about universal values of human rights, freedom of speech, and diversity, noting that this is why many countries are willing to make friends and do business with Taiwan. Vice President Lai said, “I hope that the platform can be the starting point from which the world learns about what Taiwanese people think and want, what Taiwan is doing, and what we can contribute to the world.”
Legislative Speaker, You noted that, with China’s intimidation and political oppression against Taiwan, the establishment of Taiwan+ allows Taiwan to tell its stories to the world through its voices. Taiwan+, a project commissioned by the Ministry of Culture to the CNA, marks an important milestone in the country’s history of mass media, Minister Lee said. He expressed his gratitude to legislators and professionals for making this happen.
“I hope to make this platform a form of expansion, connection, and infinite possibilities, just like how Taiwan incorporates ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity, and introduce Taiwan to the world through dynamic storytelling and news,” said Tsai, a senior media professional with over 25 years of experience in international media outlets, such as NBC/CNBC, National Geographic, and Fox International Channels.
The content of Taiwan+ can be played on the Taiwan Plus app or viewed on its website and social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.
“Selfdrive” Launches Smart Mobility App
Selfdrive, an entity of Pinewoods Tech Serve, has launched an all-in-one Smart Mobility App. The app is serving as a game-changer for the car rental space offering its users a seamless, reliable, and convenient mechanism to rent a car on demand. The cutting-edge mobile app provides direct access to dealership fleet to its users, allowing them to rent a car by the day, subscribe by the month, or lease a car up to 3 years, offering complete flexibility in booking duration.
The company to date has served over 50k customers and witnessed a 30% MoM growth in customer base in the past six months. The app is built on a proprietary tech foundation concept, Search – Select – Pay, that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to match customers’ profiles with the cars that they would like to drive, making the selection process and renting a car absolutely seamless experience.
This app is available to download on Android and iOS, which offers users the option to select from 65 different car models across 15 different car brands from 45 different locations in the UAE within three hours. Some of the key brands available to rent are Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Renault, Mazda, Infinity, Volkswagen (VW), BMW, and many more.
Speaking about the launch of its app, Soham Shah, CEO, and Co-Founder of Selfdrive said, “As one of the largest car rental service providers in the UAE, we strive to offer exceptional service to our customers every step of the way. We bring together exclusive offers on the app starting from AED 49 per day and AED 999 per month. That’s not all, with the launch of ‘Lease Pro’ in this app, users can now rent a brand new ‘Zero Km’ car under its 12 – 24 – 36 months subscription that would be exclusively registered on demand by the car dealer.”
“The smart mobility platform is a testament of our commitment to curate best deals on cars direct from the dealership, whilst making it possible for anyone to rent a car on demand and get it delivered too. This alleviates the hassle of going through multiple car rental agencies to find the best car models and rates on offer,” added Shah.
The Car rental market accounted for $86 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $131 billion by 2026, projecting a CAGR of about 7% during the forecast period. Selfdrive launched in 2017 is the UAE’s largest car rental tech platform that has crossed 2000 cars on road.
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