Undeniably, the biggest news in Jordan this past week was the Yahoo! and Maktoob deal. Scanning the local papers or media for that matter might not be the best barometer for the importance of this business deal, but then again, local media has never been the best barometer for most things. Have no fear though, blogs, twitter and facebook seemed to be covering it just fine in another impressive display of how social social-media can really get. Actually, one of the funniest tweets came by way of Samih Toukan, co-founder of Maktoob, who said: “We did an interview with Jordan TV put us as the last news item after talking about Fasoolia, Koosa, Lahmeh and other usless stuff”
But why is this big news in the first place?
Is it because a Jordanian-born company was acquired by one of the biggest Internet giants in the world? Perhaps. Although that wouldn’t be the whole story. If it was, then people who are neither tech-enthusiasts or business news aficionados would fail miserably at finding value in this tale.
And that’s what’s important at the end of the day: finding value.
Two guys decide to create an email service that offered Arab users the chance to communicate in Arabic at a time when no one saw value in such a service. But those who had the foresight did see the value and made an investment. The service grows into a portal. The portal creates more Arabic-based services. It grows in to a network. Hundreds of people are now helping to fuel that network, which is home to millions of users across the Arab world. Enter Yahoo.
The value isn’t the monetary value of the business deal, nor the services that Maktoob created that have been used by millions of people. The value lies in the story. It’s in the telling. It’s a story about human ingenuity at its rawest moment. It’s a story whose most valuable asset is its ability to inspire.
Today, more than ever, our heroes and icons are not Arab. Our inspirational stories are not Arab. They are made up of names like Bill Gates, Micheal Jordan and Barack Obama. If anything, the main source of our own stories today comes in the form of stories from yesterday; our constant mourning of a legacy established in the shadows of the Islamic Golden Age.
What the Maktoob story offers for Jordan is its ability to inspire. It’s capacity to fill the youngest members of this society with hope and aspiration, both of which are the primary elements to fuel growth, ambition, creativity and success. One story begets another. It is a domino effect. It is how this world turns.
Maktoob is not alone. It is not the first and it will definitely not be the last. But if Jordan’s greatest asset (yes, a country with no resources, we know) – is indeed its people, then what those people create and how they created it, is essential. The process story is important. The telling of the tale is the whole ball game. Governments cannot create inspiration; only people can. People inspire other people. Their stories connect with them at the most primary human level. It triggers something. It forges new destinies and new paths for others to tread.
In Arabic, Maktoob might mean “written”, but as most of you know, it also means “what is written”, or, in other words, “destiny”. If anything, this story might just be the small pebble in the pond that ripples through our small country and its enormous community of young and uninspired people – searching for something to connect with.
But it will all come down to how that story is told.
How it’s written will be just as important as what is written.