Disclaimer: Mind Rockets is an MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab alumni; First Runner-up of Social Entrepreneurship Track, 2017. This case study was originally included in MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab's latest edition of an impact report titled 'Arab Entrepreneurship Maturity Index: Insights and Forecasts' published in partnership with Roland Berger.

Jordan's disabled communities have historically faced significant barriers with respect to social inclusion. Great efforts have been made to improve the social inclusion rates of the visually impaired community via technology, especially with the advancements of text-to-speech technologies. However, the use of technology solutions for the hearing-impaired community was comparatively low. In 2008, Mahmoud Darawsheh, a young self-proclaimed "geek", developed a passion for rectifying the unfortunately low literacy rates in the hearing-impaired community. In his high school computer lab in Amman, Jordan, Mahmoud spent countless hours developing and testing a technology to automate the translation of speech and text into sign language.

It was when Mahmoud met and partnered with Mohammad Kilany in 2011 that they took the technology to market and began operating under the name of Mind Rockets. Together, the Mind Rockets team launched an app on the Google Play Store, expanded their offering to accommodate the Arabic language and created a digital 3D human avatar to communicate in Sign Language.

Widespread reach

Today, the Mind Rockets app has exceeded 250,000 downloads and has been implemented on dozens of websites, including ten governmental entities' pages in the UAE, and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The app currently offers solutions in eight languages, including English and region-specific dialects of Arabic.

Like any other language, Sign Language is a dynamic and constantly evolving language. The business's understanding of the evolutionary and dynamic nature of Sign Language is its greatest asset and the app is constantly being updated to reflect these changes to Sign Language.

Mind Rockets has also expanded its team to eight people, with two representing the hearing-impaired community – bringing a human review element into the quality checking process, ensuring the output is tested and approved before going to market.

Mind Rockets serving the Arab world and beyond

Today, Mind Rockets is profitable and self-sustaining. This gives the team the comfort and leverage to expand across geographies – and subsequently, languages – gaining a wider reach throughout the hearing-impaired community across the world.

Mind Rockets is currently present in the Arab region only, but given its strategic position as the pioneer of this unique technology, there is no limit to how far it can go. Sustaining a social enterprise is not an easy task. Investor appetite is difficult to gauge, and balancing profitability with community impact is often difficult. However, Darawsheh and Kilany believe that social entrepreneurs can be successful if they focus on their ultimate mission, hire the right people and aim for sustainable revenue growth, rather than hunting for investors' attention.

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