At the turn of the century, as mobile phones were taking off, there was a fad for novelty ringtones. People were paying small sums for their new Nokia phones to play a simple version of popular tunes as a call alert. “It was a silly trend at the time,” says Eddy Maroun, co-founder of Anghami, which is today the Arab world’s biggest home-grown music streaming service. “I would compose the melodies,” he says. His co-founder, Elie Habib, meanwhile, took care of the technical and distribution side. To go from two men with some ringtones to creating one of the most successful regional technology companies took years, inspiration and the battle to overcome the limitations of launching in a region where new tech companies are the exception rather than the rule. Pirate inspiration: Eddy Maroun can pinpoint the moment the idea for Anghami came to him. While at a technology conference in 2010 he wrote in his notebook: “Piracy”. “At that point piracy was killing the economics of producing music,” he says. “Producers were at the point where they were making almost no money.” By coming up with a platform that was convenient and affordable the founders believed that consumers would be willing to pay rather than illegally download music. Anghami makes its money from people subscribing to the service, advertising to people who stream the service for free, and by doing deals with mobile phone companies who carry the app. From one word in a notebook the two founders have built a service which claims a music library of more than 20 million songs and which streams 500 million songs a month to 30 million users. “We contribute in a big way to the funding of the music industry,” Mr Maroun says. ‘We invested our savings’: “I can say that the hardest part is fundraising in the Middle East. “When we came up with the idea of Anghami there were people in America and in Europe doing the same, so international labels knew about it, but for Arabic labels that was something new.” As a show of good faith both founders quit their jobs and put up their own money. “If you invest your own money that means you have the passion and the willingness to make your project a success. Labels and investors like that. They see you as reliable.” The pay-off came quite quickly a year after having the original idea. In 2011 they signed their first million-dollar investment and quickly after a second. They were able to start hiring people and closing deals with labels to finally launch Anghami in 2012. The company says revenues are on the rise, doubling year after year and they exceeded $10m (£8m) by the end of 2016.