Yamli update 2 (June 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm):
It has happened! As predicted, the M&E market picked up, and last month Yahoo! partnered with Yamli to implement Yamli’s transliteration technology across all of Yahoo!’s Arabic services. The press release notes:
“As a first phase Yahoo! Maktoob has launched “3arrebni” as a standalone destination page and will be integrating in the following months Yamli’s technologies with Yahoo! Messenger, Yahoo! Mail in Arabic, Yahoo! Search, forums, news, comments… ”
I’ll try to provide more info about the deal in a separate post.
Yamli update 1 (March 21, 2011 at 10:55 am):
It’s been a little over three years since I wrote this post (November 2007) predicting that Yamli will be acquired in about two years of its launch. Unfortunately, the 2008 financial meltdown hit everyone by surprise, and most VC and M&A activities since then have been recovering at a careful pace.
However, many signs of recovery are abound in the M&A world. In 2010, Google made six acquisitions, many in the mobile app arena. Meanwhile, Yamli has been steadily growing its profile. Nearly all the items on my wish list for Yamli (noted in the blog post) have been developed. Consequently, Yamli reported last week that approximately 2.5 million Arabic words are typed daily using its service.
Given the pace of recovery, and assuming Yamli continues to do all the right things, I believe Yamli will be looking at options by summer 2012.
A new software by Boston-based Lebanese tech entrepreneurs Habib Haddad and Imad Jureidini has the makings of the next big Google or Yahoo acquisition. Language Analytics LLC, an internet startup, unveiled Yamli.com, a web-based tool that empowers users to easily use and access the Arabic web. (Yamli means ‘to dictate’ in Arabic)
As an Arabic speaking person who struggles with written communication and web navigation in Arabic, this software is a Godsend! While I operate in a purely English environment using English tools, I often need to communicate with Arabic-speaking businesses or research certain aspects of the Middle East market. With Yamli, I can simply type in English the phonetic iteration of the Arabic word that I want to write and the softwae will convert it automatically to the correct Arabic text! Hatha barnamej 3ajeeb wallahi! (This is an incredible program!)
To give you an idea of the opportunity here, consider the potential size of the market, its need for this product, and the number of current suppliers. According to German search company Seekport (who are also targeting the same market need), there are currently around 24 million active Arabic internet users, less than 10 per cent of the total Arabic population. Arabic internet users are expected to grow to 43 million users by 2008. Despite the size of this user group, there is no search engine geared specifically for Arabic language users.
An excerpt from the press release notes:
“The Arab world has one of the highest internet usage growth rates. Yet, access to and development of Arabic content has been difficult, mainly because of the complexity of typing Arabic. Although Arabic keyboards are available, the vast majority of Arabic-speaking Internet users are accustomed to an English keyboard. Users often resort to spelling Arabic words out phonetically using English characters, a process known as transliteration. Yamli allows users to convert these English characters into Arabic words.”
The release explains that Yamli’s initial release encompasses two tools: Yamli Search and Yamli Editor. Yamli Search allows users to search the web using Arabic keywords with Google. Users can search for general web content, videos, news, images and blogs. Yamli Editor allows users to write Arabic text that can then be copied into any electronic medium.
Co-founder Imad Jureidini says: “The Arabic web will truly take off when people can do two things easily: find and write Arabic content. While there are many applications for our technology, we sought to address these two fundamental needs immediately.”
And he couldn’t be more right. As I noted to Mr. Haddad, I see this service going cross-platform next. The software is so versatile that it works for internet and non-internet applications. Aside from providing a desktop version of the software, here are some possibilities that will see patent-pending Yamli become the service of choice for anything to do with English-Arabic transliteration:
1. Yamli widgets and plugins, for use in
- blogs (wordpress, etc.)
- Content Management Systems/Software (Joomla, etc.)
- Browser plugins, to quickly convert text without having to open another window for Yamli. (firefox plugin, etc.)
- Instant Messaging (Yahoo IM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, etc.)
2. Yamli mobile, for your cell phones or smart phones
- for mobile internet search and navigation
- for mobile email
- for text messaging
These are some ideas right off the top of my head. Monetizing them is a whole other issue, but it’s not very hard once you have a proven software that works.
Yamli, like the Arabic video sharing website Ikbis, is on track to being the next YouTube-ish success story. With Google’s entry into the Middle East earlier this year, and other search and software giants taking notice of the opportunities in multi-lingual accessibility, I bet someone will be ready to pay good coin to gobble up and integrate any established platforms that support their efforts to dominate the lucrative Arabic internet market.
If Ikbis and Yamli play their cards right, I think we’ll see another significant purchase by a software/search giant in the coming 2 years. Between advertising revenues, licensing revenues, and possible kick backs from service and device charges (ala the Nokia-Ikbis scheme), please do let us know when you float your stock, Habib. I won’t miss out on this one!