In a world where Marvel creations like The Avengers and X-Men rule the world of comics art, it can be difficult for alternative comics to have their voices heard. It is even more difficult in regions such as the Arab world, where comics are underestimated as a form of expression.
Trying to make it less difficult is Koshk Comics, an Egyptian startup that has created a platform for Arab comics artists to share their creations with the world.
The Koshk Comics website allows comics artists in the Arab world to connect with each other, collaborate on projects and most importantly, self-publish their work. Through the Koshk Comics app, which serves as a digital comics store (or a kiosk in this case), users can have access to those works and buy them.
Koshk Comics creates a community for Arab comics artists, while at the same time compensating them for their work and allowing them to share it with both regional and international audiences.
"There is a lot of novelty, creativity and entertainment in the Arab comics' artistic style. We discovered the real potential in comics art in the Arab region," founder and CEO of Koshk Comics Amr Hussein told StepFeed.
"We are working with artists from Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco and of course Egypt, their topics are so involved in the Arab community. They write and illustrate amazing stories that deeply touch our communities, we want to give these stories a better chance to reach the community."
The simple but innovative idea behind Koshk was one of the finalists in Beirut's Arabnet Ideathon Competition, it was then picked up by the AUC Venture Lab, the leading university-based startup accelerator in MENA.
But Hussein says the biggest achievement for Koshk so far is being selected as one of 51 exceptional startups from around the world by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), to compete as a semifinalist in the 2016 GIST Tech-I Competition.
Tech-I, a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative, is an annual global competition for empowering science and technology entrepreneurs.
Koshk now has the chance to be among the 51 startups from around the world who will pitch at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Silicon Valley in June, where the winners will be selected. The finalist selection process is based on public voting, each of the 2016 semifinalists has a video on the GIST website in which they pitch their vision to voters.
Through the 2016 voting process, which is open until May 1, voters not only get to support their innovator of choice, but they also nominate their country to win the GIST Regional Startup Boot Camp training resources for its entrepreneurs in 2017. This means that a vote for Koshk is also a vote for Egypt as a possible winner.
Hussein, whose ultimate goal for Koshk is to become a "worldwide hub for indie comics," said that participation in international programs like GIST's is very important for innovators in Egypt.
"We need to create businesses that operate in Egypt and generate revenues from other markets, the importance of such [a] model can't be overstated," said Hussein.
Even though Egypt has witnessed the biggest startup awakening in the region in the past few years, he thinks there are still obstacles that hinder the ability of Egyptian startups to implement a model that generates revenues from both regional and international markets.
According to Hussein, the heart of the problem lies in the fact that the Egyptian startup ecosystem has more than enough support from accelerators and incubators to help innovators structure the shape and direction of their startups, but not enough support to help them scale up their businesses.
"My point of view is that if we build more small-scale startups that generate real revenues and create employment opportunities, that will help the country on a longer term much more efficiently than big-scale projects. Something like that would probably pave a parallel road for the Egyptian economy's advancement."