Ahmed Lafi, Co-Founder of Magic Lens
Graduating from a university in the Gaza Strip usually leads to a choice of two specific specialities: an engineer or a doctor. Over 800 students a year graduate from the four engineering schools in Gaza, in a market that needs about 50 engineers. For young graduates Ahmed, Mohammed, and Yousef, it was radically different. Having years of experience in graphic design and media production, motivated only by their fierce passion and a sense of hope that they will push through, a group of 3 friends decided to take a risk – and start their own media production company in Gaza.
Becoming an entrepreneur is very risky, and although 98% of the population turn to entrepreneurship to escape from the 70% unemployment rate, media production is not people’s top choice when it comes to setting up a profitable business. While pioneering in a field can be hard, it is especially difficult amid a political conflict. Establishing a venture of your own also requires a substantial starting capital, which the three media-savvy youngsters did not have. The group persevered despite these circumstances and united themselves into a team called ‘Magic Lens’, before applying for a business plan competition from SPARK (in collaboration with local startup organizations).
While ‘Magic Lens’ was busy starting out, SPARK had already unravelled its first entrepreneurship programmes in the OPT, the first location in the Middle East. The projects were geared at young graduates that had no space to wield their own dreams into reality and build their own projects from scratch. In the West Bank, SPARK and several universities started major promotion and dissemination of entrepreneurial opportunities. In the Gaza Strip, a business plan competition began with a prize of 2,000 dollars, the one in which ‘Magic Lens’ decided to participate.
According to their calculations, the startup needed ten times more than the competition prize offered. This did not stop them from pitching and winning the money. As Ahmed shares: ‘Growing up in one of the hardest regions of the world, you learn how to wisely deal with the smallest opportunities you can get’. With the initial 2 thousand, they have prioritised investing into the most important part: a good camera and some other equipment. Once they got some revenues, all of it went into hiring more experts and purchasing more professional equipment, as the company grew bigger and stronger.
Steady growth brought … employees from all over the Middle East and convinced the founders that entrepreneurship is the best career path.
‘Today or tomorrow I’d never imagine myself anything other than an entrepreneur,’
Ahmed says confidently. Considering that ‘Magic Lens’ skyrocketed towards the status of a popular media production agency in the Middle East in a matter of a few years, his confidence is contagious. When asked, what is special about the company, Ahmed and Khalid share that ‘Magic Lens’ is a synonym of quality, fast yet responsible delivery, and creativity that spans desires of many different clients.
Perhaps an even more unique feature is the example ‘Magic Lens’ sets to the younger generations of graduates with dreams in contentious environments. In the words of Ahmed, ‘With technology and internet connection, there are no limits to building something, bringing revenue to people and their families. Our region is lacking in education and it is our responsibility to provide training opportunities, learning capabilities, career paths, job opportunities, and career incitements to young people. Things then become better and better, and the smallest issues start to disappear – to give way for a better community’.