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How We Started: A Made-in-Palestine Success Story

Souktel’s founders know all about the problems facing job markets and the aid sector in developing countries: We’ve experienced them ourselves. After spending a year and a half each without a job, and with no resources to help them find work, Palestinian co-founders Mohammed Kilany and Lana Hijazi knew there had to be a better way of getting basic job information. And with their backgrounds in the telecom industry, they knew that simple, cheap technology was the answer. Meanwhile, after working in the aid sector in West Africa and the Middle East, Canadian co-founder Jacob Korenblum was frustrated by the lack of good communication between aid agency offices, their staff on the ground and the people they aimed to serve.

When the three met by chance in Ramallah, Palestine, it took less than an hour to sketch out the basic concepts behind JobMatch and AidLink. Three months of Middle East market research showed that their hunch was right: Most youth in the region couldn’t get good information about the job market; most aid agencies were struggling to keep in touch with their staff and clients. And most people in countries from Iraq to Morocco use cell phones on a daily basis—while only a minority has regular web access.

In 2006, Souktel launched JobMatch: A system that connects youth with work and internships via SMS. After a Runner-Up finish in the Harvard Business School’s “Social Venture Business Plan Contest”, Souktel’s Palestinian IT team created the final versions of JobMatch and AidLink. This “Made-in-Palestine” solution was piloted for 12 months among youth, employers and aid agencies before launching in the local market.

Souktel Today

Since that time, more than 8,000 youth and 150 employers have signed up for JobMatch services in the Middle East and East Africa,and Souktel has linked hundreds of young people with work and training. Meanwhile, more than 20 leading aid agencies (from theRed Cross to the UN) are actively using AidLink. Across the board, they’re reporting quicker communication with staff and people who need help—and huge savings of time and money.


Key Achievements:


  • JobMatch services launch in Morocco, in partnership with the Near East Foundation
  • Staff win the 2010 Mobile Premier Award for Female Entrepreneurship, at the Mobile World Congress
  • Souktel and EDC Inc. launch Aidlink news and information services for communities in Darfur and Southern Sudan


  • Co-founder Lana Hijazi wins the King Abdullah Award for Youth Innovation and Achievement at the World Economic Forum for the Middle East
  • Souktel and EDC Inc. launch the first East Africa JobMatch service, with funds from US Agency for International Development
  • Souktel launches an AidLink information network in Iraq, with US non-profit Mercy Corps
  • Souktel works with World Food Program partner CHF to manage emergency food delivery in Gaza via AidLink
  • TV Network al-Jazeera and American NGO Mercy Corps use AidLink to manage Gaza information and relief campaigns.


  • World Bank funding helps Souktel launch JobMatch services at four Palestinian universities
  • Souktel’s role in promoting Palestinian economic development is profiled on Canada’s CBC TV
  • Souktel works with EDC Inc. to coordinate school renovation campaigns in the West Bank via Aidlink


  • JobMatch technology supports DAI Inc.’s Palestine Employment Generation Program. 2,000 job-seekers sign up for the SMS job-matching service
  • UN-OCHA starts using Aidlink to send security alerts to aid agencies in the West Bank and Gaza




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