The story of Kharabeesh
Jordan-based Kharabeesh has come a long way to become a multi-million dollar company
July 2, 2013 12:28 by Maha El Gazzar
Part of media group Think Arabia, Kharabeesh’s (scribble in Arabic) popularity gained huge momentum after the Arab Spring due to the viral videos it presented on toppled Arab leaders, such as Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak. Co-founded by Jordanian bloggers Wael Attili, Mohammad Asfour and Wafa Nabulsi, in 2008, Kharabeesh is famous for producing Arabic-language animated cartoons, music videos and talk shows that generally tackles political issues in the Arab world.
“I started Kharabeesh when I was much younger and had more hair,” says now-balding Attili, CEO of the network. “We just wanted to do something funny and experimental.”
The company started with four people in a tiny apartment; Kharabeesh’s 2000sq ft office is now located in the heart of Amman, which Attili describes as very inspiring. He also stated that the company has an estimated market value of $7 million.
Unlike most entrepreneurs, Kharabeesh did not start with any clear business model, according to Attili, rather just the desire to make “silly videos”. The partners were not sure how to sell their new project, let alone monetize from it. “Eventually no one wanted to play our content, as most viewed it as petty and too edgy,” he says.
Kharabeesh then decided to publish all its videos free on YouTube. Coupled with the hype of the Arab Spring at the time and the rise of online videos, the company quickly made a name for itself in the digital world. “Most of my friends became celebrities simply because they decided to put themselves in front of the camera and post their videos on Youtube,” explains Attili.
In 2011, Kharabeesh released two animated shorts depicting then Egyptian, President Hosni Mubarak, addressing the Egyptian people following the ousting of Tunisian President Ben Ali. The first video, titled “Mubarak is high” had more than 1,983,000 views on YouTube, as of July 1, 2013.
However, Kharabeesh’s luck took a much more interesting turn when, in 2010, it partnered with YouTube. Currently the network has 19 channels on YouTube, with more than 100 videos published.
The CEO was not shy to rub it in regarding mainstream media; players that used to reject his content now ask Kharabeesh to broadcast their content on its YouTube channels.
Attilit’s morale of his success story is that you do not need money to create a brand, rather a good idea that offers value to people. Kharabeesh used simple cameras and tolls to create its content; a lot of its videos were co-produced by other partners for less costs. “For you to do the next big hit, you either need to research and study, or experiment and innovate,” he says. “We focused our attention more on talent instead of tools and machines.”
Attili concludes the interview by saying that Kharabeesh hopes to partner with different talent in the region and to export stories to other countries as well.