March 5, 2023

Stock image startup addresses lack of diversity in Middle Eastern imagery

Raya Fatayer founded The Middle Frame, a stock image platform that provides diverse images from the Arab world through AI tools. Despite facing challenges as a female founder, Raya is determined to expand the platform with the help of her Co-founder, SPARK and Flow Accelerator, promoting an authentic representation of the Middle East and North Africa.

The advertising industry in Palestine has been growing steadily in recent years despite the challenges posed by political and economic instability. This industry is a vibrant and growing sector that plays a significant role in shaping public opinion and driving economic growth. Palestinian advertisers operate in a unique social context that obligates them to navigate complex political and cultural sensitivities, as well as language barriers, in order to create effective campaigns.

“I studied Media, Radio and TV at university. Whenever I wanted to work on a project, I would search for Arabic media online. However, I often couldn’t find what I was looking for. This forced me to either change the project or produce my own media, which was a time-consuming process,” says 29-year-old Raya Fatayer, Co-founder and CEO of The Middle Frame. 

The Middle Frame is an Arab stock image platform that provides businesses with a diverse library of images from the Middle East and North Africa for content creation. The startup was founded in 2021 as a technological solution for existing market challenges. 

Addressing a lack of authentic imagery

Raya quit her job as a sports photographer to pursue her passion for showcasing the beauty and diversity of the Middle East and North Africa through visuals. She realised that there was a lack of authentic and diverse representation of the region in stock images, and she saw an opportunity to address this gap in the market. Raya believed that by providing businesses with a library of high-quality images that accurately represented the culture and people of the region, she could help them create more engaging and meaningful content. 

With the help of her co-founder and a team of talented creatives, Raya has built The Middle Frame into a digital platform that not only hopes to change the way businesses approach content creation, but also challenges stereotypes and promotes a more nuanced understanding of the Middle East and North Africa.

Using AI tools

Raya is leading the charge at The Middle Frame, leveraging AI tools that not only provide a diverse library of images, but also enhance and manipulate images. Artificial Intelligence is helping the business detect elements in images and to write descriptions which ultimately eases the uploading process for photographers. In the future, Raya hopes to use AI tools in order to generate images relevant to the Arab world. Although the website has only been operating since November of 2022, The Middle Frame is now a team of 6 and already has 7 clients, one of which is a partnership with vAIsuala technology company pioneering algorithms and solutions to build ethical generative AI. 

Being the ‘female’ founder

Raya faces challenges as a female start-up founder and CEO; from lack of access to investment opportunities, to gender stereotypes. During meetings, she sometimes feels underestimated solely because she is a woman. “As the CEO, I’ve often been ignored during calls with men who only direct their questions to my partner, despite my knowledge of the topic. It’s a frustrating problem we face in our startup and it’s not limited to Palestine.” However, Raya is determined to push through these challenges with the support of her family, friends and professional mentors. She also credits SPARK and Flow Accelerator for helping her become market-ready as well as providing her with access to a valuable network, which provides new opportunities for The Middle Frame. As part of the From Innovation to Creation programme funded by the European Union, in cooperation with Flow Accelerator and SPARK, Raya recently participated in an event in Jordan to pitch The Middle Frame.

“It was a great opportunity for me to pitch my idea to people who were truly interested. After a break from pitching, it felt great to be back in the field and I was thrilled to gain two photographers who signed up and uploaded their images. It was a win-win for SPARK and The Middle Frame.” 

The Palestinian startup has already expanded to the Egyptian market, and Raya’s next goal is to expand to the Gulf too. With the support of SPARK and Flow Accelerator, Raya is resolute to break down the barriers that have traditionally hindered female founders and to keep pushing forward, using her platform to promote a more authentic representation of the Middle East and North Africa.