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Startup of the Week: Saudi networking platform Playbook nurtures female ambitions
RIYADH: As female executives and entrepreneurs come to the fore in the wake of Saudi Arabia’s recent social reforms, there is a need for ambitious women to network and develop their skills and talents.
Playbook, a female-centered social media platform launched in August 2021, answers that demand.
Founder Wafa Al-Obaidat is an award-winning serial entrepreneur and social media figure. “We pivoted to develop a tech-based platform to pave the way for growth and inclusion,” Al-Obaidat told Arab News.
Playbook, currently with 12,000 members, describes itself as “an edutainment platform that redefines career progression for women.” Led by phenomenal women leaders across different industries and walks of life, the platform says it “leverages the power of storytelling and shared experiences to prepare women to grow through masterclasses in both English and Arabic.”
With the global EdTech market growing 30 percent year-on-year, Al-Obaidat noted that, “disruptors entering the market with innovative solutions present a promising future to up-skill the global talent pool and serve emerging professions.”
The network is designed for startup founders, executives, students, and those in career transition “to enable them to design the career they desire for themselves.”
Playbook allows users to create customized profiles, highlighting their skills and professional goals. They can take multiple classes based on their interests, network with other members, find solutions to problems via crowdsourcing and track their progress through games.
Playbook’s online community — the largest female social network in the Gulf region, according to Al-Obaidat — is called “The Campus,” providing access to social connections, mentors, discussions, live events, and employment opportunities.
In Playbook’s own words, “members can learn how to lead like a CEO, negotiate like a minister, make decisions like a board member and problem-solve like a scientist.”
Playbook’s revenue model is based on subscriptions for both individuals and organizations, with growth fueled by $700,000 (SR2.63 million) of combined pre-seed funding in January of this year from Sanabil 500 Global, Faith Capital, WomenSpark and Strategic Angel Investors.
With a staff of 12 in Riyadh and Bahrain, the company intends to deploy the invested funds toward recruitment of new talent, team structuring, content creation, platform development, and marketing initiatives.
These investors are optimistic about the prospects of Playbook and its mission to empower women across the Gulf region.
“We’re proud to support female-founded startups such as Playbook that we believe have the potential to scale regionally and globally,” said Amal Dokhan, partner at 500 Global MENA, a Mountain View, California-based angel fund, upon the announcement of their investment.
She said Playbook “entered the market at the right time to present a solution to the public and private sector, as policymakers increasingly institute sustainable development goals, SDGs, and as more job opportunities open up for women.”
Deemah Al-Yahya, founder of WomenSpark, a Saudi-based early-stage angel investor, added: “We have always maintained a strong commitment to founders who share our vision for the region and beyond. Playbook helps us further our mission to invest in accelerating the career growth cycle of the female talent pool and build more prosperous economies.”
Al-Obaidat stressed that Playbook’s activities align with the proactive policies adopted by Gulf states in recent years to strengthen economic growth and quality of life through gender balance mandates and the adoption of the United Nations’ SDGs.
“Our experience indicated to us that there was a need for authentic, representative, value-driven content,” noted Al-Obaidat, who also founded the Bahrain-based communications agency Obai & Hill.
Host of the “Woman Power” podcast, with 100,000 listeners, she sees this as an exciting time for the Gulf with millions of women entering the workforce and many job opportunities and leadership verticals opening up, indicating “that the region is now ready to fast-track development of women through well-defined policy-setting, career opportunities and training needs analysis.”
Al-Obaidat said Playbook intends to “enable more women to tap into their unlocked potential, create a more robust network of female founders and encourage students to understand jobs of the future, while building a community of mentors and mentees who can navigate the challenges they face.”
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