At first glance, Mashvisor is just one of thousands of
websites specialising in US real estate.
has a unique feature, undetectable to customers: its designers created it in
the West Bank and it is run from the Israel-occupied Palestinian territory.
great thing about a start-up is you can work on it anywhere in the world. You
can be in Palestine, you can be in Cambodia, Vietnam, China. It doesn’t
matter,” explains Peter Abu al-Zolof, who founded Mashvisor more than a
year ago with a friend.
week, Mashvisor became the first Palestinian company to get the support of the
influential American 500 Startups venture capital fund.
one of a number of Palestinian start-ups in the occupied Palestinian
territories, long overshadowed by Israel’s so-called “Start-up
online platform automates and analyses US real estate data nationwide to find
investors the best property deals.
Silicon Valley, the staff dress casually, drink coffee from state-of-the-art
machines in garish colours, and pad through the office wearing US-made
headphones around their necks.
working in the West Bank brings unique challenges.
October 2015, a wave of violence broke out across Israel and the Palestinian
al-Zolof’s friend and founding partner Mohamed Jebrini, who lives in Hebron,
found himself stranded in the city as roads were closed, 45 kilometres (30
miles) from their Ramallah offices.
was stuck in Hebron and I was stuck in Ramallah and we were still working on
our company,” explains Abu al-Zolof.
American-Palestinian says the online nature of what they do means they can
avoid many of the frustrations for other companies in the West Bank, where the
Israeli army checkpoints often present very physical challenges to commerce.
are no walls, there are no challenges, there is nothing that can stop this kind
of thing,” he says.
a virtual market, so there are no checkpoints where they tell you: ‘You can’t
sell this. You can’t take this out of the country.'”
company benefited from the support of the Ramallah-based Leaders, an
organisation that helps nurture start-ups.
Atshan, Leader’s director general, told AFP that in the start-up scene there
was “no unemployment — unlike almost all other industries and economic
sectors in Palestine which have high unemployment”.
with good skills can earn a very high income.”
unemployment rate in the occupied Palestinian territories is 27 per cent,
according to figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.