Portrait Youcef Boudjema, the entrepreneur behind social media site Waza
Aware of the limitations of the major social media in terms of cybersecurity, Algerian tech entrepreneur Youcef Boudjema took up the challenge of developing his own platform, called Waza. An initiative that could eventually be duplicated elsewhere on the continent.
By Nadjoua KHELIL, in Algiers
The American social media site Facebook, widely prevalent in Algeria, where it had 23 million users at the end of January 2021, is nonetheless occasionally singled out for problems related to security flaws. These weaknesses provide a breeding ground for criminal behavior on the web: in September 2020, the cybersecurity software publisher Kaspersky reported that Africa had been the target of 28 million cyberattacks between January and August 2020. It is to find a solution to this important digital issue that the entrepreneur Youcef Boudjema, 33, launched his own social network, “Waza”, a “Made in Algeria” digital platform allowing to surf safely.
“Those who do cyberbullying often hide behind false profiles. I then asked myself the question: why do the digital giants not verify the identity of users? It is from this nodal point that we developed our concept and created a secure social network”, says the young boss, who, realistically, wants to specify that Waza “does not pretend to compete with this great platform of more than 2 billion users” that is Facebook. The difference, according to him, will be primarily “on quality” since the particularity of the device set up by Youcef Boudjema is to “fight against fake profiles”. Just launched – in October 2021 – the new social media site, which combines the best features of the major networks (Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn), currently has about 10,000 users. An “encouraging” figure according to its promoter, who has also developed this project through his start-up KaizTech, a company launched in 2020, “thanks to an associate [who believed in him], Yacine Keroui, an investor who has lived and evolved in Côte d’Ivoire.
« Sharing advertising revenue with users »
Concretely, Waza guarantees that exchanges and transactions, “are done with real people, identified sellers using a simplified payment to avoid any scam”, says Youcef Boudjema, who indicates that if a criminal attempt is detected, “its perpetrator is quickly located [and] his identity revealed to the competent authorities. Moreover, the application, which is a marketing tool for businesses and advertisers, boasts to be the first social network to share its advertising profits with its users, according to the time spent on the platform, this “remuneration [passing] in particular through the creation of the profession of sub-marketer (like influencers)”, notes the tech entrepreneur.
Less than two months after the launch of Waza, Youcef Boudjema says he has noticed “a reluctance on the part of some users, [who] have difficulty adapting to the new concept. Faced with this observation, the management of the social network has opted for a diversified strategy, which meets the needs of all categories, with a platform that will be, “70% professional and 30% entertainment. In practice, two distinct universes will be developed, by early 2022, “a classic trend of exchange and sharing where users will not need to identify themselves, but without being able to access the secure marketplace”, while another solution will be “dedicated to the professional world and B2B exchanges, with identification of its members”. This secure space should, among other things, offer to “connect recruiters and job seekers”, as well as “connect innovative project holders and investors with a possible database for more visibility”, says the techpreneur. The latter discovered the digital and innovation world after a Master’s degree in International Hospitality, in Nice (France). Graduate, Youcef Boudjema has several jobs in France, including that of coach trainer with the fast food chain McDonald’s, before returning to Algeria in 2017.
« Persevere, never give up and believe in success”
The technology sector being competitive abroad, “unlike Algeria where digital technology is not very developed”, the “expat” sees in his tech project a “boon to [invest] and have visibility”. Very quickly, the startup makes the triptych “persevere, never give up and believe in success” its credo and generates initiatives. It creates in 2019 its first structure, Bleuschairs, a digital platform for booking event spaces, which it launched by capitalizing on its experience in the hotel business. But the timing was not very appropriate: the start of operations coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Youcef Boudjema was not discouraged and finally reversed the situation in his favor, before launching a new project, Piassa. A new digital platform, dedicated this time to the order of car parts, and which puts in relation motorists and sellers of parts.
Next target, West Africa
Today, it is the social media site Waza that is his first priority, and the young boss already sees himself deploying his platform abroad. In particular in sub-Saharan Africa, where his partner is “interested in the West African market”. While waiting to mature other initiatives, “a project of crypto-currency” being in progress for “foreign markets open to this kind of options”. With his experience as an entrepreneur, Youcef Boudjema nevertheless believes it is necessary to accompany more, in Algeria, the start-ups. For him, it is necessary “to adapt the regulation to the requirements of the moment to allow fund raising, in order to go through with our ambitions”.