On a post-lockdown weekend, we virtually sat down with the co-founders behind the Egyptian designing SaaS platform DomDom. As they unraveled the story behind this smart platform, and how they are enabling user friendly automated design for businesses.
Definition 101.. what is SaaS?
An accurate definition would be: a digital platform that has automated backend processes, used to sell, distribute, and manage cloud-based software and services.
In depth with the Founders
Our resilient duo, both have history in business and a lineup of work experience that would make the success of their recent work just a matter of time.
Fady Salah, with his already established company years ago, Brainy Squad agency, is the co-founder and CEO of DomDom.
He earned his Bachelor degree in Political Science in 2012, and has been working ever since in different fields with a collective of 11 years experience. He worked in International Development and Political Analysis, had a job as journalist in Daily News Egypt, then he launched Brainy Squad.
Ahmed Turk, computer science graduate, and web development geek with over 7 years experience in web development as a freelancer and has a previous startup up his sleeve, he has the experience as a developer and a founder with insight to be the CTO of such a challenging tech startup.The DUO joined forces In January 2020 and started working on DomDom and they launched the platform on the 7th of April 2020.
With Ahmed’s dedication to freelancing, navigating and exploring the freelancing ecosystem in Egypt before it was well paved and popular in Egypt, and Fady running his digital agency, they had some projects to work on together 5 years ago, this is when their friendship followed, and eventually they co-founded their first startup together.
The young startup is running full power on the hard work of its co-founders, and their golden hire, marketing and business development executive.
“I have a digital and creative agency, 60 percent of our outputs are in the form of graphic designs, beside the wide range of services we have like content creation, videography, photography. But the bulk is always in design.”
Fady explained that his experience working in Brainy Squad revealed a definite need for graphic designing output, with only a number of options available for businesses, they tend to choose the budget friendly option with the most convenient quality.. But is it enough? You decide, deeper in this article as we lay them out for you.
“Over the past 3 years, we’ve worked with different company sizes, and we sometimes outsourced freelancers. Our rates were considered affordable, as we grew and we had more spending to do, our rates started to change. A portion of companies like SMEs and small startups couldn’t afford to work with our agency, and other agencies as well.’’ Fady tells us.
And here a problem is born, with limited, in-convenient options for all company sizes and strategies, a solution shall be introduced, that is curated for the Mena region specifically.
Option 1 : agencies
“Even though our price point might be less than other agencies with the same level of maturity and quality, many businesses were not able to afford our services.”
Option 2: freelancers
“So when our average rates are still not affordable for a huge portion of businesses, this is a problem.They need graphic designers, and most of the clients we work with, wouldn’t rather rely on freelancer graphic designers specifically, because of the un-guaranteed quality of work, and matching companies strict timelines.’’
Option 3: hiring a design team
“The other option for those businesses is hiring a design team which requires a costly monthly expenditure, and management skills for the team to ensure quality output’’, Fady continues.
Establishing a solution.. Option 4?
“So we decided we’ll start a company that has a similar model to Canva. A Saas platform, that is user friendly, accessible and doesn’t require previous experience in graphic design, so non-designers can easily use it to produce quality content.’’
DomDom vs Canva
By now you would’ve already asked yourself this, “Why use DomDom while we have Canva, the designing SaaS giant for over 6 years?”
Fady simply answers this question, ’’We are built and tailored for the MENA region’’
DomDom specifically targets and caters for MENA Region users, with a wide variety of Arabic fonts, Arabic templates besides the English one, and Arab stock photos where you can find a library of images of people who look like our identity and culture,the shops, the streets, the transportation, the buildings, images that you can relate to, and capture the essence of our identity as a business running in the region and targeting Arab users.
“And this is a problem that we have been facing as an agency with our clients to find relatable stock images that fit into the souls of Arab projects. And the budget usually doesn’t enable having customized photo shoots for each client, so we tend to use stock images that don’t relate to our identity,” Fady adds.
Even though DomDom and Canva run the same model, comparing the two companies is far from fair. Canva has been around since 2013 with a recent investment of 60M dollars and a valuation of 6 Billion dollars.
With a little over 3 months running, Domdom provides a reliable stable software, they have more than 5100 users with over 5,000 created designs on the platform. They have 1,000,000+ Assets, 200+ Stock Photos, 190+ Templates, 690+ Vectors, all available for free in their freemium model.
“We’ve been receiving positive feedback so far, with minor bugs that we so keenly fix periodically and we constantly work on enhancing the website for an optimal user experience,’’ Ahmed adds.
*Drum Rolls* premium rolling out
With only free subscription rolled out till now. On 17th of July, Domdom will be 100 days old, and they will launch their premium subscription option as part of “DomDom 100 days” campaign soon. We expect luxurious features, additions to their stock image library, in addition to enhancing the platform for an optimal user experience, so save the date.
Resources so far?
The founders were self funding at the beginning of their journey but shortly after, they joined and graduated from FEPS business incubator, with a seed funding of 50,000 EGP.
“At the end of the day what is really nice about running a SAAS startup is that you can scale very big without increasing your expenses that much, having a billion dollar company with not so many employees is a possibility, not like with running an agency, the bigger you scale the more human resources you will need.’’ Fady adds.
“We’re doing social media marketing only for now due to limited resources, and the most efficient channel for us is Facebook, we have a customer acquisition cost of 4.3 EGP, which is hardly attainable through any other platform. Planning on using more marketing channels when we have new resources pumped in’’, Fady tells us.
“Before we started, it was just an assumption, but as soon as we started the demand and need was validated. Our traction within a limited time proved we are on the right path, and with time and resources, the potential is endless.’’
“My motivation is to maintain the user experience in our SaaS platform, We are always trying to provide the users’ needs regarding features. Working on the spot to fix any problems’’, Ahmed describes.
The challenge of running a SaaS startup?
Running SaaS is not typical tech management, an automated platform means always more options, more demands, more to provide.
“What is very challenging is to monitor potential users’ needs, we receive comments for diverse requests and we’ll never be able to cater for all at the same time,’’ Fady tells us.
“We have to be careful and calculate what we choose to develop and when. We have 13 design types, we’d receive requests for youtube thumbnail design, a mug template, a t-shirt template, and the possibilities are endless’’, Ahmed adds.
The demand for such a platform exists, with more responsibilities upon the founder to know what their users and potential users need.
“The l price point at the end of the day won’t be expensive, and anyone can afford the subscription, so if I cater for your need as a user, and I can make it happen, you’ll potentially be a paying user. The trick here is how to prioritize the demands,” Fady explains.
Ecosystem or no Ecosystem?
Asking this question to a number of entrepreneurs, there have been opposite opinions, and they vary based on each entrepreneur’s personal experience and their perception of the surrounding circumstance, we care to show you all opinions regarding that matter.
Fady’s experience and perception within the entrepreneurship ecosystem is a reason he believes that the ecosystem in Egypt is strong, evolving and growing rapidly, with so much to offer for entrepreneurs, all of them, in a wide range of industries.
“I definitely believe we have one of the most mature ecosystems in the region. We have a line of dedicated stakeholders who are actively funding startups. There is governmental awareness of the importance of entrepreneurship, and it is reflected in entities like TIEC, Itida, Fekretak Sherketak, and also we have great incubators, all this was not there 4-5 years ago. There are alot emerging startups, and the support exists. Even though a lot of startups fail, the founders harness the experience and knowledge to start another one and another one,” Fady elaborates.
But his feedback is not solely based on his experience as DomDom founder and CEO, he has been a part of the “behind the scenes’’ of many leading entrepreneurship supporting programs and incubators even before starting DomDom.
“Brainy Squad digital agency is the one behind FEPS Business Incubator, and for a while it was behind Masr El Kher, innovation station, Entelak, Rowad, we have a lot of experience working with incubators and we’ve seen how keen and professional they are in their selection process and providing the support and training for founders’’, Fady tells us.
Investment…a goal or a way?
“Investment is not the primary goal, but if your user is the main goal then investors naturally follow as a goal’’, Fady says.
As we watch closely the hype of the investment news, and how most of the audience are bedazzled by the numbers, not completely understanding the process of reaching this investment, and that an investment without a startup’s solid growth and scalable base is a short lived contentment with disasters to follow.
As we remain neutral to the answer to this question, we listen to our interviewees’s opinion.
“Because you deal with both sides, the users are the source of revenue and profit, and they validate the potential of growth, and the efficiency of the service. On the other hand there is the investor, someone who can support the business financially and trigger an accelerated scaling process, in return he benefits from his percentage of profit. So both users and investors are complementary for growth and scaling and providing the service for a wider range of users’’, Fady explains.
With Canva still raising investment as we mentioned before, DomDom’s future plans definitely involve growth and scalability that will surely be accelerated and multiplied with injecting investment.
‘’If the investment opportunity is on the table, why waste it? There is a huge potential of how scalable this business can be, the graphic design industry in the MENA Region is valued at 147B dollars’’, Fady adds.
While Canva’s bulk users are concentrated mainly in Europe, the US and parts of Asia, DomDom plans to expand into the MENA Region, later Africa, and Latin America, for now their user base is 90% from Egypt.
“By then, we will have our perfect recipe that we can customize, localize and apply to each region’’, says Fady.
Wrapping it up with valuable advice:
“In every crisis there is an opportunity to explore, like Zoom, it has been there for quite some time but the pandemic lockdown caused exponential growth. The opportunity presented doesn’t have to be in the tech industry, or startups related, but there will always be an opportunity in crisis,” Fady directing his message to our readers.
“Tech is a deep ocean, and now we are utilizing tech in every aspect of our lives, everything is tech enabled, so my advice for developers is not to limit oneself to what you know, always strive to learn more, constant updated knowledge is complementary to experience,” Ahmed adds.