Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Winners Of The MIT Arab Business Plan Competition 09-10

| June 5, 2010 – 7:51 pm | comment 18 Comments

The MIT Arab Business Plan Competition is a competition designed to encourage all entrepreneurs in the Arab world to start their own company and, ultimately, create a nest of leading firms in the Arab world.

The current version of the competition was officially launched on October 12th 2009 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The competition went through a number of rounds, including different teams covering the following sectors: Energy, Engineering, Healthcare, Internet, Software and Telecom.

The final round just took place at a ceremony in Cairo, Egypt, and the awards for this year were handed out. The winners of this edition of the MIT Arab Business Plan Competition are as follows:

First place: The Little Engineer (Lebanon) – Prize: $US 50,000
An after-school edutainment center which introduces kids and teens [age 4-16+] to pre-engineering courses such as robotics, physics, electricity, electronics, renewable energy and more.
Team: Rana El Chemaitelly, Albert Shamieh, Nadia Alamah, Marwa Harb.

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Oasis 500, A New ICT Seed Capital Fund For Jordan’s Startups

| May 4, 2010 – 2:14 pm | comment 2 Comments

KAFDKing Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD) in Jordan is planning to launch a new ICT seed capital fund in two months with the aim of solving the problem of innovative new startups in the country that need to secure some early stage funding.

The new fund will be called Oasis 500, and the goal is for it to provide an initial capital of between $50,000 and $100,000 to 500 startups.  It will be mainly focused on funding new ideas, especially in media, online, content, applications and the service industry.

At this point, it seems that it’s still undecided though whether the fund will be expanded and made accessible to startups from outside Jordan.

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Arab World Is A Step Closer To .Arab Domain Names

| January 16, 2010 – 11:19 pm | comment 5 Comments

The recent Arab Top Level Domain Names Steering Committee Meetings held in Damascus, Syria, saw the appointment of Mr. Ahmed Al Doseri, the representative of Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) as president of the Committee that comprises representatives from the Kingdom of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

This Committee is tasked by the League of Arab States with the direct supervision and follow-up on the League’s application for the domains (.arab) and the equivalent in Arabic (.عرب).

TRA’s ICT Manager Mr. Ahmed Al Doseri, who chaired the steering committee meeting, commented, “The creation and use of a “.arab” or Arabic equivalent domain will ensure greater regional identity and over time will help to bridge the digital divide by encouraging Arabic content development and ease of navigation for those people who only read and write in Arabic.”

The international body that oversees internet names, Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN), announced in November 2009 that it will accept applications for non-Latin alphabet domains. This will bring the Internet much closer to the diversified locales of the world’s varied cultures.

Mr. Aldoseri also said “Bahrain will soon enjoy an Arabic domain (.البحرين), which will further contribute to overall Internet penetration in the Kingdom, and support the creation of local digital content.”

Egypt was the first Arab country to apply to get its own Arabic domain name (.مصر), followed by the UAE for (.امارات).

The steering committee is next scheduled to meet in Egypt during the period from the 24 to 28 January 2010 to follow-up on the agreed action points of its last meeting, and report on the progress of the League of Arab State’s application for Arabic domains.

CERT-Wharton Entrepreneurial Planning & Innovation Competition (EPIC)

| December 15, 2009 – 10:02 am | comment No Comments

CERT|Wharton Entrepreneurial Planning and Innovation Competition (EPIC)For the first time in the Middle East, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT), have partnered to launch a business plan competition for young entrepreneurs.

The CERT-Wharton “Entrepreneurial Planning and Innovation Competition (EPIC)” is open to all students from accredited academic institutions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and all Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) alumni.

The top eight teams will share US $50,000 in cash prizes to jump start their businesses, with the winning team receiving US $20,000.

The CERT-Wharton EPIC business plan competition offers students a comprehensive, four-month platform to help them gain the entrepreneurial knowledge and expert feedback needed to launch their new business ideas.

CERT-Wharton EPIC helps teams develop their business plans in both a collaborative and competitive environment.

The competition is structured as follows:

  • Teams need to submit an executive summary of their business plan. (Deadline: December 20th, 2009)
  • These submissions are evaluated and up to 25 teams will be selected – known as the “Top 25”.
  • These “Top 25” submissions will be further evaluated and the top eight teams will be selected to participate in the finals – known as the “Great Eight” finalists.
  • The “Great Eight” finalists will prepare and submit a full business plan for evaluation.
  • The “Great Eight” finalists will present a formal pitch to a panel of judges.  Winners will then be selected.

For further information and to register, check out the official website:  CERT-Wharton “Entrepreneurial Planning and Innovation Competition (EPIC)”

Abraaj Capital Acquires Riyada Ventures To Lead New SME Push

| November 24, 2009 – 3:49 pm | comment 4 Comments
Abraaj Capital

Riyada Ventures

Abraaj Capital, the Dubai-based private equity firm has announced that it has signed a deal to fully acquire Riyada Ventures, the venture capital firm based in Jordan.

The acquisition is at the core of a new push by Abraaj into the small and medium enterprise (SME) space, which is aimed at stimulating and supporting entrepreneurial activity in this vital segment of the MENA region’s economies.

Riyada Ventures, which was set up in the Jordanian capital, Amman, in 2005, and has an office in Cairo, just won the ‘Venture Capital Firm of the Year’ award for a second straight year at the Private Equity World MENA 2009 conference in Dubai just a few days ago.

Following the acquisition, Riyada will be folded into Abraaj and renamed Riyada Enterprise Development Company (REDCO), with Khaldoon Tabaza, the Riyada chief executive, continuing at the helm.

This new subsidiary will be investing growth capital in small and medium-sized businesses, with plans for Abraaj to provide $200m of its own capital, with expectations that amount will grow much larger.

The company will provide what Arif Naqvi, the chief executive of Abraaj, called “patriotic capital” through partnerships with governments in the region to foster the expansion of small and medium-sized businesses.

REDCO will try to follow on the footsteps of Abraaj’s earlier SME successes, including the shipping and logistics firm Aramex and internet company Maktoob, which was recently acquired by Yahoo!.

For companies in which it invests, Abraaj will provide a dedicated back-office platform to offer both strategic support services and operational functionality to facilitate growth plans and provide mentorship to the young entrepreneurs in the SME space, which comprises more than 80% of economic activity across the MENA region.

The acquisition comes at an active period for Abraaj, which also announced it had raised $375 Million, increasing its capital to $1.5 Billion, aiming for property investments in the region and looking to broaden its asset management offerings.

Egyptian Mrrha Acquired By UAE Company Creative Solutions

| November 18, 2009 – 7:38 pm | comment No Comments

MrrhaMrrha, an Arab online service  that was launched from Egypt around a simple idea to allow users to upload a file and mirror it directly on up to five popular uploading sites of choice, has been acquired by Emirati company Creative Solutions.

Mrrha was launched in November 2008 by brothers Mahmoud and Ahmed El-Masoudy from Egypt, aiming to make the process of uploading files to the internet for sharing purposes and mirroring them on the most famous file uploading services a lot easier and faster.

Mrrha depends on a parallel uploading mechanism to make this possible, which means that the file will be uploaded to Mrrha and sent to the other uploading sites at the same time, making it so that the user won’t have to wait until it’s uploaded to each site.

Creative SolutionsCreative Solutions, the acquiring company, is a web development company founded by Khamis AlSharyani in 2008, based in Alain (UAE), that provides web consulting, solutions and services for its clients. The company is a subsidiary of Bin Majed group.

The details of the deal have not been made public.

UAE Based NeuString Receives Investment From Intel Capital

| November 18, 2009 – 10:18 am | comment 2 Comments

NeuStringIntel Capital, Intel Corporation’s global investment arm, earlier announced an investment in NeuString, a leading UAE-based telecommunications analyst software company, further reaffirming Intel Capital’s commitment to investing in the region.

The funding from Intel Capital is to assist NeuString in pursuing regional growth and development plans in addition to extending the company’s product offerings.

NeuString is a billing software company dedicated to delivering predictive analytics solutions and consulting services to mobile network operators to help them achieve greater financial performance.

NeuString currently has offices in the United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Russia, and Ukraine.

The investment in NeuString follows five previous Intel Capital investments in the Middle East this year: two Jordan-based digital content companies − Jeeran and ShooFeeTV; and three UAE-based technology companies – Conservus International FZ-LLC, Pulse Technologies FZ-LLC, and Vertex Animation Studio FZ-LLC.

As has become customary in this part of the world, for some unclear reason, the amount of this investment was yet again not disclosed.

Under the Intel Capital program, Intel plans to continue supporting local entrepreneurship in the Middle East through its investments in education, digital accessibility and specialized technical competencies. The purpose being to help promote technology skills, knowledge transfer and job creation in the region.

Yahoo! Maktoob Acquisition Deal Completed

| November 12, 2009 – 3:57 pm | comment 2 Comments
Yahoo!
Maktoob

The Yahoo! – Maktoob acquisition deal that was announced last August, has officially closed today at noon (UAE time).

It had already been announced upon signing the definitive agreement back in August that the deal was expected to be sealed in the fourth quarter of the year.

So starting noon today, Maktoob.com and all its sub-divisions (including Maktoob Research, Bentelhalal and others) are officially part of Yahoo!, marking the completion of the first major deal of its kind in the region.

The first steps for the company are to work on introducing flagship products like Yahoo! Mail and Instant Messenger in Arabic, as well as the Yahoo! Maktoob Arabic homepage; then to keep moving on to provide other Yahoo! services in Arabic, and help enrich Arabic content online. Other local services for the region will also be considered and developed.

[Full Disclosure: I have personally been working with Maktoob.com ever since the beginning of 2009.]

AdMob To Be Acquired By Google For $750 Million In Stock

| November 10, 2009 – 12:04 pm | comment 2 Comments

AdMobJust a few hours earlier, it was announced that a definitive agreement was signed for mobile advertising network AdMob to be acquired by Google for $750 Million in stock.

AdMob was founded in January 2006 by Lebanese entrepreneur Omar Hamoui, as a mobile advertising marketplace, offering solutions for discovery, branding and monetization on the mobile web. It was able to attract investments from Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners, DFJ Growth Fund and Northgate Capital.

The company grew to take a lead in display advertising on smartphone platforms, such as Apple’s iPhone OS and Google’s Android, working with thousands of advertisers to serve mobile ads on their publisher network of over 15,000 websites and mobile applications. AdMob received 10.2 billion total ad requests in September of this year, and has served more than 125 billion mobile ads since its inception.

With this deal Google aims to strengthen their push into mobile advertising, complementing the solutions they already have, and roll out more effective tools for creating, serving and analyzing emerging mobile ad formats.

The deal should also bring mobile advertising to the forefront and get more people interested in the space.

Google has created a specific site to talk about the AdMob deal and its benefits here: Google’s acquisition of AdMob.

This deal marks Google’s second acquisition of a company founded by an Arab entrepreneur, the first being their September 2007 acquisition of mobile social network Zingku, that was founded by Jordanian entrepreneur Sami Shalabi in May 2006.

Berytech Launches 2009 Incubation Awards Of Up To $100K

| November 1, 2009 – 10:09 am | comment No Comments

Berytech Incubation Awards 2009Berytech, the Lebanon based tech startup incubator, has launched a set of new incubation awards of up to $100,000 US Dollars  for the most innovative technology projects.

A committee of experts will be selecting the projects based on the following merits: technological and scientific quality, creativity, economic sustainability and growth potential, job creation potential, target market and export potential, as well as the motivation and implication of the candidate(s) and the quality of the team behind the startup.

The obtained award should allow entrepreneurs to take their idea from project to company phase, while benefiting from the following services of Berytech: Business hosting (including office space, furniture, desktop facilities, …etc.); Computer equipment, Internet connection, web hosting; Coaching throughout the project development phase; Participation in communication, marketing and other networking events; Expert consultancy; Entrepreneurial training; and access to funding sources such as Kafalat or the Berytech Seed Capital Fund.

Applications are open until November 30th, 2009; entrepreneurs just need to download and fill in the following application form, and submit it in time.

The winning projects and teams will be announced in December 2009, with their integration in the incubator to start happening as early as January 2010.

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