Co-Founder & CEO / Co-Founder & CTO at Anghami
MENA-based legal music streaming platform Anghami (meaning “My tunes” in Arabic) wouldn’t be what it is today if it wasn’t for the high-performing pair of entrepreneurs who, from day 1, thought it up as an alternative to music piracy in a region plagued by it for years.
Indeed, Anghami has gone a long way since its launch in 2012 out of Beirut, Lebanon. Eddy Maroun and Elie Habib quickly raised $1 million from Lebanon-based venture capital firm Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) and signed partnerships with Rotana, Sony Music, Universal, EMI, and Warner. Building on its regional roots and expertise, the platform, which sported over a million users in just three months instead of the expected 300,000, can now be credibly described as Spotify’s rival in the Middle East. It provides its more than 70 million users in MENA, Europe, and the US with legal access to a library of 57 million songs and around 200,000 podcasts.
Backed by major VC firms and strategic shareholders, including Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), MBC Group, Saudi Telecom Mobily, UAE Telecom Du, SHUAA Capital, Samena Capital (UAE), Megladon (Saudi Arabia), Endeavor (USA), and Sal&Co (USA), it has more than 160 employees in offices in Beirut, Dubai, Cairo, and Riyadh, and relocated its headquarters to Abu Dhabi in 2021 as part of the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). That same year, Anghami launched the record label Vibe Music Arabia, a joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment Middle East that supports independent Arabic artists in the GCC and the Levant.
Most importantly, in the second quarter of 2021, Anghami was the region’s first technology startup to list on the NASDAQ stock exchange by merging with Vistas Media Acquisition Company, a blank-cheque company (or SPAC) that valued it at an astounding $220 million. This move will allow the company to supercharge its growth and open a new chapter free from fundraising or shareholder pressure, focusing on research & development; deeper investments in KSA, Egypt, and the Arab diaspora; and a first move into emerging markets beyond the MENA region.
Maroun handles the business development and strategic partnerships with music labels, telcos, advertisers, and media. He holds a Master in Private Law and an MBA in International Business from Bordeaux Business School, and is a musician at heart, with a lifelong experience in live, digital, and mobile entertainment.
Habib runs operations and product development, spending most of his time working between clouds, streams, and pixels. Before Anghami, he co-founded PowerMeMobile, a mobile messaging gateway provider, and prior to that, he was the CTO of Naharnet.com, one of the first portals in the Middle East.
Both were selected as Endeavor high-impact entrepreneurs in 2013 and Lebanese Top Entrepreneurs in 2012 and 2013. Habib is the one who answered Communicate’s questionnaire.
How would you define leadership today?
Leadership is not about driving your vision forward. For me, it’s about putting my ideas on the table, provoking my team to debate, iterating, and ultimately making it their idea and empowering them to succeed in implementing it.
I also believe that a key aspect of leadership is to embrace the struggle, face every issue with optimism, and most importantly, nurture your team. The team drives the shared vision forward [while] the leader influences the outcome by investing in [them], explaining, reminding, and delegating – ultimately translating it to reality.
What’s the most important decision you have taken as a leader?
The most important breakthroughs come from moonshots, and indeed multiple things in Anghami proved that to me.
However, one stood out as extremely powerful, and it’s how empowering the right team leads to massive leaps. I made sure from inception to make it clear that ideas have to be challenged to succeed, that even my ideas as a company leader have to be challenged. By being open about this, I was able to significantly improve the team’s output because they felt empowered to challenge each other. This had a ripple effect when I spent time explaining the ‘why’ of ideas to be created instead of imposing the ‘how’ it should be done. I remain in awe of how successful we were because of the basic belief that, with the right attention, the right words, your team can keep constantly impressing you.
What’s the most important quality that every leader should possess?
Not being afraid to admit that you’re wrong and to change your mind seems to be an extremely rare quality.
It shocks me how few people are able to set aside their ego and accept there’s a better way or that maybe when the facts change, you are also supposed to change your mind.
What’s the most important risk you took?
Throughout my career, I took the decision to head my own businesses and never get employed by a company. Little did I know at the time how risky this bet was. It most likely defined who I’d become without me knowing it. I didn’t embrace the word ‘entrepreneur,’ but I later realized that this was exactly what I did. Back then, it felt empowering to have my own business, control my interests, and work on what made sense to me. However, this was a super high risk in hindsight because I made a ton of mistakes, failed a few times over, and while I did eventually succeed in building a business, I don’t particularly recommend my path as it was full of self-doubt accumulated with trial and error. I am proud of my career, but I do believe that it was a super risky choice, one that I wouldn’t recommend to my sons.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
I consider books as my most important mentors; books allowed me to live several times over and learn lessons from many individuals that are better than me. While I wasn’t directly given this advice, I believe that what Charlie Munger said – “I think a life properly lived is just learn, learn, learn all the time” – is by far the best advice I ever read, especially since, as a leader, you need to constantly keep learning to be able to mentor, support, and get your team to lift you up.
You can see the full ranking and methodology here.