There is a word that comes to mind whenever I think back to my first few months at Keeward and that word is constellation. In the span of five or six months I must have heard it on at least a couple dozen occasions and I never quite felt at ease with it.
What did star patterns have to do with making websites?
A couple of years down the line and a number of projects later I finally understood why we had always had our heads turned towards the stars. Constellations are a group of stars forming a pattern and over at Keeward we have made it a point to build a few.
Keeward’s first project in Lebanon was to create an online book distribution company from scratch. Five years later we have not only built a platform that sells 2500 books a day, we have managed to create an ecosystem around culture and cultural products. Here is how it went:
In 2006, we started work on the book distribution company. This included developing proprietary e-commerce websites as well as partnerships with marketplaces such as Amazon. AntoineOnline was the first emergence of this platform, followed in 2008 by BooksAny. We were still taking our first steps in the regional market, but even then it was clear to us that we had a preference for ‘cultural’ projects.
In 2008 we acquired Tamyras, a budding francophone publishing house, in a strategic move to integrate their expertize and resources to our company. Dissatisfied with being mostly technically oriented we had long been looking for a way to branch out and explore rich communication on the web; pooling our two main projects’ resources meant better quality for both, it meant that we could produce rich content to promote literature and books online while the publishing house would have access to a team of web 2.0 minded engineers, artistic directors and consultants, something it could not have afforded on its own.
That is how we discovered the power of ecosystems. Since then we have consciously elaborated on that strategy, refusing projects that could not benefit our constellation and taking on those that would, and we have been lucky to work in a number of fields:
- 35mm From Beirut: An online location guide for the Lebanese cinema industry.
- Metropolis Cinema: The website for the only Art cinema in Lebanon (in the final stages of development)
- Beirut World Book Capital: Official website for Beirut World Book Capital 2009 under full management by Keeward
- Alinea: Monthly Literary newsletter for Antoineonline.com
- Beirut Music and Arts Festival: 2011 edition of the festival website. An interactive feature included a wall where people could share their pictures of the event.
- www.hadjithomasjoreige.com: Official website for the artists (in the final stages of development)
What we have discovered in the process is that in a company that works on turnkey projects, wreaking the benefits only when a project is fruitful and autonomous, the best way to achieve success is by building ecosystems where resources, audiences, networks, and vision can be combined and amplified.
As we continue developing our constellation of cultural projects and initiatives we are looking for new horizons and universes to explore. Who knows where our lucky star will take us.