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Why innovative tech startups are thriving across the Middle East

Alsallal is the founder and CEO of Jamalon, an online platform that lets customers buy and ship Arabic and English language books. When I met him at his offices in Amman, Jordan, Alsallal was casually dressed in jeans and a tucked-in button-down shirt, his short beard covering a youthful, earnest face.

Alsallal is a Jordanian-born descendent of Palestinian refugees, and he started his highly successful online bookstore in 2010 out of his family’s home in Amman. Jamalon is estimated at making $2.6 million annually in revenue, employs more than 60 people at its headquarters in Amman, and recently opened an office in Dubai, the financial hub of the Middle East.

The company has been referred to as the Amazon of the Middle East, but that label doesn’t quite do it justice: The platform’s success, after all, is based on meeting a demand that Amazon has overlooked.

Jamalon offers more than 12 million books, including 150,000 in Arabic, and recently added a self-publishing book service based out of Dubai. Amazon, by contrast, offers only a few hundred books in Arabic, and is often difficult and costly to use in the Arab world.

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