On Promoting Sustainability in the UAE

One of the main reasons that I chose to join the Melltoo team was their passion for promoting SUSTAINABILITY in the UAE. We believe that we can help protect the environment by finding your preloved items new and loving homes.

At Melltoo, we are determined to change the current culture of consumption, so we can “consume less energy and avoid wasting precious resources.” (Ibrahim- Melltoo Social Media Manager)

Selling second hand is also about “getting back some of your assets worth/value/money. In basic accounting, it is generally assumed that assets will be sold after x years of depreciation. It’s almost natural.(Ahmed- Melltoo Growth Manager)

As a society, “we produce and consume too much, but by buying/selling second hand, we can keep consuming without over-producing.” (Sharene- Melltoo Co-Founder).

The sharing economy is about creating a new culture of consumption, a culture where everyone can enjoy some of the finer things in life. Not everyone can afford a smartphone, laptop or designer bag at their original retail prices, but anyone can enjoy these luxuries with the discounted prices that the sharing economy provides.

“Not only does the sharing economy allow us to live more sustainably, it also allows to share the joy and/or comfort that our household items brings with fellow members of our community.” (Soukaina- Melltoo Media Relations Coordinator)

Join the Melltoo team in promoting sustainability in the UAE by cultivating a culture of sustainable consumption, income, but more importantly a culture of sustainable love for the preloved items in our lives.

Yours inspirationally,

Melltoo team

7 Ways to Improve your Startup’s Digital Marketing

On Monday November 24th, I represented Melltoo (a mobile app/service that helps people sell new/used items and handles the payment and delivery process on their behalf in the UAE) at The Pulse Expert Night’s Fueling Digital Marketing Success event. The event offered valuable advice from four members of the UAE digital marketing community including:

  1. EMKWAN– a social media influencer, YouTuber and the UAE’s leading video blogger,
  2. Ayman Itani– CEO and founder of Think Media Labs
  3. Kess Daniels– CEO and founder of Voize Media
  4. Joe Akkawi-founder of PAZ Marketing

 1- Don’t be afraid to experiment


If you are obsessed with perfection, then entrepreneurship may not be for you. A wise ‘trep once told me that you will never feel like you have the right skill set to start a business, so you just have to start it, make your mistakes and learn how to avoid repeating them in the future. You can never know what marketing strategies or content are effective until you have experimented using different social platforms and mediums to promote your product or service.

Melltoo & Experimenation

When I began writing content for Melltoo, pursuing “perfect content” caused me three main problems.  Firstly, it reduced my productivity, because I spent more time tweaking content then I did publishing it. Secondly, I missed out on the accidental discoveries you make by publishing content and monitoring peoples’ reactions. And lastly, the pursuit of perfection distracted me from the most important goal: writing content that brings value, not perfection, to your audience. In my experience, the best marketing strategies are the sum of all your past failures. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to experiment!


2-  Understand your target audience

Running a successful startup is not always about having a brilliant idea, it’s about brilliant marketing. A key element of developing successful digital marketing strategies is understanding your target audience. When it comes to understanding your audience, there are two things that startups need to explore: the psychology of their demographic and internet analytics. Every demographic group that you engage will have different purchasing power, buying cultures and internet literacy.  So, the more time that you spend understanding your demographic, the more effective your marketing will be. Thus, making it easier to present your product as the solution to your audience’s problems. On the other hand, internet analytics software is useful because it allows you to monitor and understand the way that users behave online.

Melltoo & Target Audiences

Many of us take web analytics tools for granted, because like Joe Akkawi said “Fifteen years ago, we didn’t have the metrics to measure and understand user behavior that we do now.” Not us. The Melltoo team spends a lot of time analyzing the number of impressions, clicks, visits, and bounce rate among others things that our website and blogs generate. We regularly track our Google rank for each piece of content that we produce. We use tools, such as Google Analytics, to understand our target audience and their behavior. After analyzing our data, we translate our findings into focused marketing strategies, which we assess periodically. At Melltoo, we constantly monitor user behavior, because we believe that successful digital marketing strategies must accommodate changes in user behavior.


3- Learn how to tell your brand’s storyBooks

EMKWAN put it best when he said that “digital marketing is about building a narrative.” Nothing captivates an audience like a compelling story.”  You don’t need to hire an expensive PR team to tell your story,  you just need to understand your product. What problem does it solve? What value does it bring to your target audience? How can you make this value interesting and relatable to your audience? If you can answer these questions, you are ready to start bringing your story to life.

Melltoo & Building a Narrative

According to EMKWAN, “telling a story is sharing an experience” and that is exactly what Melltoo did with its first promotional video. In our video, the cartoon character asked rhetorical questions that highlighted the frustrations of buying and selling a car in the UAE. These questions served three functions. Firstly, they made our video relatable to our audience, they allowed us to showcase our app features and lastly, they helped establish Melltoo’s brand narrative: a social marketplace for buying and selling new and used items. At Melltoo, we are constantly refining our brand narrative, because we believe that the cornerstone of a good story is engaging storytelling.


4-Use social platforms that are suitable for your business

It can’t be denied that social media is an effective tool, but you don’t have to be on every platform to be popular. Joe Akkawi raised an important point when he said that “ you have to know why you are using a social media platform” as a startup. Being on Facebook and Twitter might seem necessary to startups, but it really depends on your business, manpower and resources. As Ayman Itani said “If you are a business that offers a product to other businesses, then you won’t necessarily benefit from your typical social media platforms.”  You don’t have to be everywhere, but choosing the right social platforms will make promoting your product much easier.

Melltoo & Social Media

The Melltoo team is always looking for new ways to engage with potential users. Recently, we discovered that Emirati women love to buy and sell things on Instagram. So, I am currently working on a campaign to promote brand awareness in Arabic. By posting Arabic content on our Instagram account, I hope to introduce these budding Emirati entrepreneurs to a new marketplace for their growing businesses. As a startup up, we know that we can’t be everywhere. Consequently, we continuously try to optimize our social media activities, so we can get the best ROI on our efforts.


6- Establish relationships with members of the pressShop

Once you have successfully established your brand’s narrative, you should immediately start creating a buzz about your product in the media. That being said, you can’t start creating that buzz until you forge relationships with members of the local media. When it comes to establishing relationships with journalists, there is no one size fits all approach. Nowadays, many editors and journalists receive hundreds and hundreds of email pitches a day, so don’t expect them to put any effort into reading your email if you didn’t put any effort into writing it. But more importantly, you should always be genuine when interacting with a journalist, because they can pick out an insincere pitcher when they see one.

Melltoo & The Media

As Melltoo’s Media Relations Coordinator, I spend a lot of time courting journalists. Before pitching someone, I find out their name, beat and what they’ve written in the past. When I write a pitch there are five elements that I include: a catchy subject line, an appropriate beginning salutation, brief self introduction; succinct idea pitch and a suitable ending salutation. I try to make my pitches short and sweet and I avoid using sensational phrases like “first of it’s kind,” because they are very off-putting to seasoned journalists. Over time,  I’ve learned that showing a journalist that you respect their time and accomplishments is essential if you hope to establish fruitful media relationships for your startup.


7- Brand recognition is a journey not a destination

Brand awareness is the product of effective content marketing and constant SEO. Consistently publishing quality content with targeted keywords is a great way to organically build a solid user base. Don’t be disappointed if your content isn’t being shared, liked or retweeted as quickly as you expected. It takes time to build a following, especially when you are using inbound marketing strategies.  Another way that Kess Daniels advised startups to increase their SEO is “to start optimizing content for future projects weeks, even months, in advance” so that your content is ready to be searched for when you publish it.  When it comes to content, you shouldn’t sacrifice quality for quantity. As EMKWAN said “when you focus on volume, or constantly churning out content, you risk a degradation in the quality of the content.” The effective production and marketing of content is the key to a startup’s digital marketing success.

 Melltoo & SEO

At Melltoo, we believe in growth, which is based on organic user acquisition. Consequently, we are always talking about SEO and creating quality searchable content. When it comes to content,  we include relevant and targeted search terms from Google in our articles titles, bodies and URLs to optimize SEO. Another way we try to improve SEO is through backlinks. In addition to increasing traffic to our website, our backlinking campaign has also helped us to build strong ties within the startup and blogger community.  We believe firmly that search marketing, aka SEO, forms the core of digital marketing today, even as people in the region are still focused on TV ads and billboards.

On Being User First

When we say we are USER FIRST, it’s not only about providing “instant, effective customer service” (Ahmed- Melltoo Growth Manager), it’s also about building our product around what our users want.

It’s about “having a relationship with you, our users, to know you and your pain points.” (Ibrahim- Melltoo Social Media Manager)

It’s about “putting your wants and needs at the center of all of our products and development” (Soukaina- Melltoo Media Relations Coordinator).

We strive to build a product that brings value to you, that solves a pressing need in your lives. The need to declutter your house with ease and convenience. To do that, we need your help, we need YOU to TELL US what you want and WHAT YOU NEED.

We don’t pretend to know better than you, our users. We don’t tell you what we think you want, we want YOU to TELL US what you actually want.

As a team, we will never be fully satisfied with Melltoo and as much as Aftab (our tech lead) is making a face as I type this, there will never be a final version of Melltoo and we will never stop working to make Melltoo better.

Being user first is also about incorporating you in our journey. Building a startup is not simply a job, it’s more than an occupation, it’s our passion. We love Melltoo and we love what we do and we want you to be a part of it. We want to share our journey with you and we hope to do that in this blog.

Join our community and become a member of a marketplace that puts it’s user’s first!

With utmost conviction,

Sharene & Morrad (Melltoo Co-Founders)


The instagram shopping experience

By Sharene Lee On December 22, 2014

Have you heard of Instagram shopping? If you were born before 1985, chances are you’ve probably never heard of it. Instagram shopping is a phenomenon that’s taking the world of under 30s by storm. And this is particularly so in the developing world, a huge hit in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. But isn’t Instagram a photo-sharing app? (Yes.) Did they pivot to become an mCommerce app? (No.) Instagram is a social network based on photo-sharing. They don’t offer an mCommerce platform. So what exactly is Instagram shopping?

The instagram shopping experience



Answer: The Web 3.0 Experience
Mobile-first, mobile-only

First off, Instagram shopping is mobile-first and mobile-only. If you don’t know the difference between mCommerce and eCommerce, then you should read this. Instead of going shopping, shopping goes with you. A mobile-first, mobile-only platform means that users are always online. Unlike the computer, you don’t really log-out of anything on a smartphone. This means that users of a mobile-only platform are always connected; this is what makes mobile social interaction so engaging. It’s always on. Visually-pleasing Users today EXPECT a visually-pleasing experience. Instagram shopping is a visually-pleasing experience. As opposed to traditional eCommerce photographs that showcase products functionally (think amazon.com, souq.com, gap.com etc), Instagram product photos are whimsical, exotic, glamourous (think magazine photo shoot). Instagram product photos (not all, but the good ones) are content themselves, not a means to an end. On the other hand, traditional eCommerce product photos are a means to get buyers to click “add to shopping cart”. Instagram shopping is true “online window shopping”, because browsing Instagram product photos is enjoyable in and of itself.

Insta-Sales: Using Instagram for Personal Shopping
Vidéo by ABC News


Entrepreneurs and major fashion brands are turning to the photo-sharing social tool to promote items for sale.

The Melltoo app experience…


Melltoo is a social network for buyers and sellers that revolutionizes the way classifieds has been done. Forget directory listings like Craigslist or Dubizzle and experience classifieds socially. Buy and sell in a community of trust, where you can see a buyer’s profile, listings, and reviews. Keep your information private and communicate with buyers and sellers via built-in chat. Search for items by keyword and #hashtag or browse by category. Declutter your old things and make some cash on the go. Melltoo is mobile classifieds done right. Available for iPhones and Androids

The New Shopping Trend: Mobile Shopping

mobile-first - mobile shopping experience - Melltoo Marketplace
Worldwide, 30% of ecommerce site traffic came from mobile in 2013. Souq.com, the Amazon, of the MENA region recently revealed that 40% of its sales (and growing) come from mobile. They predict that mobile will be the main way to shop by 2015. All over the world, all eyes are turning to mobile, with Facebook declaring itself a mobile-first company along with their acquisition of Whatsapp (a mobile-only messaging platform) for a whopping $19B. If you’re still not convinced that mobile is the way to go, then you should stop reading.

There are already many on the cutting edge who have taken to Instagram to set up their m-stores. And you know what? They are doing great. But Instagram is a photo-sharing app, not an m-commerce platform. And I can hear others now proudly boasting about their mobile responsive website. Sorry, but responsive just doesn’t cut it. Consumers prefer native apps, enough said. And an icon on their phone reminds them to go shopping, while a web browser on a phone takes the user everywhere but to your responsive website. Mobile is the best shopper experience.

How is the mobile shopping experience different?

If you have trouble viewing this slide share please click here

An example of Shopper experience by SAPEnterpriseMobile

 79% of smartphone owners reach for their mobile to research products, compare prices, and get recommendations. Capture consumer mindshare, and combat showrooming, with SAP Shopper Experience. It’s a personalized and engaging app that makes shopping fun and rewarding before, during

Shop on Melltoo app today

Couple launches app that can make friends while you shop

Dhanusha Gokulan / 21 July 2014

Founded by husband-wife duo Morrad Irsane and Sharene Lee, Melltoo Marketplace is a mobile app startup launched in the UAE and functions like a social media page.

There is a new way to get rid of the valuable, but unnecessary clutter in your household — Melltoo Marketplace.

For example, take the photograph of an old office chair and upload it on Melltoo Marketplace along with a product description. The next thing you know is that your neighbour five buildings away wants to buy it.

Founded by husband-wife duo Morrad Irsane and Sharene Lee, Melltoo Marketplace is a mobile app startup launched in the UAE and functions like a social media page.


If You’re a Startup, Don’t Act Like a Business

This article was originally published on Wamda by Sharene Lee, co-founder of Melltoo.

It seems everybody has a startup these days. I’m the co-founder of www.Melltoo.com, a social network that connects buyers and sellers in the second hand marketplace. It is a startup. Prior to founding Melltoo, I also co-founded and successfully exited two other businesses, a popular café in downtown Los Angeles, and an import-export company trading candies between Southeast Asia and Europe. Even though my co-founder and I built up those businesses from scratch, and exited them quickly and profitably, those businesses were not startups.

Contrary to popular opinion, technology does NOT a startup make. As a startup co-founder, it is important to understand what makes startups different from other businesses. Misunderstanding often leads to flawed business strategy that can be costly in the long-run.


More customers means more cooks.

An orientation toward growth and scalability

The major difference between startups and traditional businesses is an orientation toward growth. The reason why most startups are tech-oriented is because technology makes things scalable, which allows for growth. A scalable business can increase revenues without having to increase investment. An e-commerce site doesn’t require more staff to go from processing 10 to a 1,000 orders a day, unlike a restaurant which would have to hire an additional server and cook for every additional 100 orders. An orientation toward scalability and growth underpins all startups, everything else follows from there.

Business objectives: profitability vs. growth

The primary objective of a traditional business is to get to profitability as quickly as possible. At the outset, businesses work on growth, but as growth peaks, businesses turn to cutting expenses and increasing productivity to enlarge the bottom line. With startups, the primary objective is growth, often at the expense of profitability. Uber and Amazon are perfect examples, losing money in order to capture market share and crush competition.

Business metrics: COGS v CAC

In my restaurant and import-export businesses, I was watching my cost of goods sold (COGS) and expenses closely. They were the key metrics of profitability and hence were used to guide decision-making. Coffee supplier raising prices? Switch suppliers. Sugar taxes for a particular region too high, find a different way in. Today, with Melltoo, I’m watching my customer acquisition cost (CAC) and burn rate (amount of money being spent to keep the startup running). My focus is growth, so I need to maximize my resources and reduce my burn rate by finding the user acquisition channel with the lowest CAC and highest ROI (return on investment). While common business sense tells me I shouldn’t spend more on CAC than the LTV (lifetime value) per user, it is okay in the short run if it brings growth.

Capital financing: banks vs. venture capital

I hear endless complaints from startups about funding in the region. They complain about the difficulty in securing investment and general lack of money available for startups here. I definitely sympathize as we are currently raising our first round of external funding. Then, I recall my previous business endeavors. Not so long ago, rather than seeking funding from investors, we were seeking loans from banks. Loans require collateral and payback and a mountain of paperwork. By comparison, busy investors are much more fun to deal with than cranky bankers. While equity costs more in the long run than interest, owning 100% of nothing is still nothing, while owing 10% interest on anything is definitely a bad thing.

Dorothy (Abby Miller), Megan (Jessica Par?), Gigi (uncredited) and Allison (Alexa Alemanni)

In a tradtional business everyone knows their place.

People: team vs. employees

In traditional businesses, job positions are pre-defined roles that people fill. In startups, people create roles that they occupy. In traditional businesses, roles are designed so that they can withstand turnover. Someone quits, someone else is hired. In startups, when someone leaves, that role is largely destroyed to be recreated by someone else. In other words, startups are flexible organizations that change according to the people involved. This is particularly the case in early stages and continues on until the startup grows to a size where corporate structure becomes necessary.

Another fundamental difference: in traditional businesses, employees negotiate for the highest salary possible; in startups, team members are willing to sacrifice salary for equity, because they care as much about the startup as the founders do.

Product: move fast and break things (agile vs. waterfall)

When it comes to product, the differences between traditional businesses and startups is best understood in the comparison between the waterfall and agile model of software development. In the waterfall model (traditional businesses), each phase of development is completed, tested, and perfected before moving on to the next phase. The end-product is usually as good as it gets. In the agile approach, development goes forwards and backwards between phases. Planning phases are quick, but often get revisited mid-development when things don’t work. Features from different phases get developed in tandem and sometimes get thrown out altogether despite the plan. There is no such thing as an end-product, just a “latest” release. The first release tends to be less than perfect, then quickly followed up by subsequent releases that fix bugs and introduce new features.

Zuckerberg said it best: “Move fast and break things”. Because startups are growth-focused, they need to move fast, and in doing so, they break things and change directions. Product follows the “release fast, release often” model in order to stay flexible and truly respond to changing market needs and user feedback.

The speed at which business is changing today is why startups have become the dominant model of entrepreneurship. However, not all businesses are startups, not all businesses are created to grow fast and scale big. If you are running a startup, be sure not to run it like a traditional business or that’s what you’ll end up with.

The Showroom Souk Ô Puces – Powered by Melltoo

On Saturday 22nd November we will be hosting the first “Souk Ô Puces” Showroom, organized by members of LNA (Les Nouveaux Aventuriers) Facebook group. This event is powered by Melltoo and supported by Les Nouveaux Aventuriers – Dubai (French Connection) with the collaboration of the “French Ladies Dubai”.

It will be the opportunity for everyone to get rid of stuff they don’t use anymore. Give your things a second life by selling them. Sustainability, reusing, and sharing are our values!

So join us from 8am to 3pm for the best deals.

The location will be announced shortly.

How to participate as a vendor*:

1- Confirm your attendance on the event page
2- Leave a comment “want to participate as a vendor!”
3- Post a part of your listing on the Melltoo app (http://www.melltoo.com/) using the hashtag #SoukOPuces in your item description or title. We want to maximize sales by giving people an opportunity to see in advance what will be on sale at the showroom.

Here’s an article about how to Hashtag (#SoukOPuces) on Melltoo:


*Vendors have to add their items on the Melltoo mobile app a week before the event. Melltoo Market place is a social network for buyers and sellers that will be a window into the Showroom “Souk Ô Puces” .

Learn more about the Showroom Souk Ô Puces:



Bootstrapping Startups In Dubai

Dubai is the fastest growing and most dynamic city in MENA today- it’s rife with opportunities for startups to build successful businesses, but it’s an expensive place to live and an even more expensive place to execute your enterprise model. Unlike Silicon Valley, startups here don’t have the option of working out of a garage or a dorm room. Like other businesses in Dubai, startups need to rent office space before being able to open a bank account, get a business license and in turn get a work visa to operate legally in the country. As the co-founders of Melltoo, a social network for buyers and sellers in the UAE, we’ve been there and done that and we’ve survived to share our tips on how to start up in Dubai for cheap…


The Struggle of Arab Women to Join the Workforce – and How Some Found Their Way In

By Soukaina Rachidi | October 1, 2014

In June 2012, Bayt.com and YouGov surveyed more than 2,000 women in the MENA region about challenges in the workplace. The three most common challenges that women faced were a lack of promotion opportunities, stressful and demanding work environments and inflexible work hours. As a young woman who has recently started working, I can identify with the aforementioned struggles. Before entering the job market, women must consider how working will impact their personal choices, time management skills and family life. While the corporate world tends to ignore the difficulties that women face, Dubai’s new start up scene is giving women more opportunities to balance their families, passions and careers…