Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority To Launch Global Technology Fund

| October 22, 2009 – 11:31 am | comment No Comments

Dubai Silicon Oasis AuthorityDubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA), the region’s largest integrated technology park, is planning to launch a global technology fund middle of next year.

“Some of the investments will be from ourselves, some from local and regional investors and also international investors,” said Ray Milhem, the new chief technology officer of technology investment at DSOA.

He said, it will largely target companies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, as well as global companies. The fund’s amount has not been finalised yet.

The fund is another means to attract research and development and manufacturing companies to set up a base in Dubai Silicon Oasis. And they are already talking to a number of companies to establish manufacturing in Dubai Silicon Oasis, with a concentration on start-ups.

Even though the focus is on the Middle East and North Africa, there are some start-ups in Europe and North America that they are looking at for potential investments, in order to get them to open higher-engineering offices in Dubai Silicon Oasis.

Earlier, the authority announced a budget of Dh25 billion set aside for investment in the coming years at DSOA. The whole project has already attracted foreign investments worth Dh1.4 billion. It has set aside about Dh500 million to invest in start-ups that will be spent over the next five years.

Additionally, private investment into real estate at DSOA is Dh13 billion, while Dh10 billion is budgeted for the third phase of the project’s development.

According to Milhem, the authority is in talks with several companies and should be making some decisions and announcing some deals soon.

[Source: Gulf News]

Twofour54 Ibtikar Launches Creative Lab Media Industry Grant Fund For Young Arabs

| October 19, 2009 – 10:27 am | comment 1 Comment

twofour54twofour54 ibtikar, the media industry funding and support pillar of twofour54 Abu Dhabi, has launched twofour54 ibtikar: creative lab, a grant funding scheme aimed at engaging with young Arabs and stimulating creativity in order to build a long term sustainable media industry in the Arab world.

twofour54 ibtikar: creative lab offers grant funding and business support to talented Arab individuals from the UAE and across the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, helping great media and entertainment ideas that would benefit from seed funding, development guidance and planning to get off the ground.

It offers funds ranging from US$1,000 to US$50,000 for creative and original ideas across all media platforms including television, radio, film, publishing, online, mobile, music, gaming and animation.

twofour54 ibtikar: creative lab and young Arab funding recipients will engage in regular brainstorming sessions to develop ideas into fully fledged creative projects. A key part of this collaborative process will include budget creation and training in project execution and support throughout.

Tarek Ghattas, twofour54 ibtikar: creative lab manager, added: “We want people to come forward with their media and entertainment ideas. We are looking for passion and originality and there is no such thing as a bad idea. This is an opportunity for young Arabs to unleash their inner creativity and have a go at turning vision into reality – coming to us means never having to look back and wonder what you could have been.”

twofour54 ibtikar: creative lab expands twofour54 ibtikar’s funding portfolio, which also includes ibtikar ventures, an investment fund that focuses on start-up and early stage media and entertainment initiatives.

Third Edition Of MIT Arab Business Plan Competition Launched

| October 12, 2009 – 8:32 pm | comment No Comments

MIT Arab Business Plan CompetitionThe 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. It also brings to the Arab world all the MIT expertise in entrepreneurship and in running such competitions.

The equivalent of the MIT Arab Business Plan Competition in Boston is called the MIT 100K Entrepreneurship Competition and has created a number of leading firms and thousands of jobs.

The Launching Ceremony for the 3rd MIT Arab Business Plan Competition is taking place tonight (October 12th) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at the Four Seasons Hotel. The event will include an address from Mr. Hussein Shobokshi (President, Shobokshi Development & Trading; Managing Director, Okaz Printing and Publishing), in addition to testimonials from last year’s winning teams.

The website is open now for registration by interested candidates. They are required to fill the online application form consisting of a series of questions that summarize their business idea and the means of implementing it.

The deadline for submitting applications is Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 23:59 GMT.

The competition is open to all Arab nationals with a business idea, with the only requirement being to be part of a team, with each team comprising of minimum 3 individuals, of which at least 2 should be citizens of the Arab world. The business concept put forward by the team should also be implemented in a country within the Arab world.

Thirty teams will qualify for the second round of the competition, and invited to Beirut to attend a one-day workshop lead by Ken Morse, Managing Director of MIT Entrepreneurship Center in Cambridge, MA; and designated a mentor who can help with developing their business plan.

After they submit their full business plans, only 9 make it to the final round and invited to Cairo to give oral presentations of their business plans; with 3 winning teams to be selected and announced during the awards ceremony.

All entrepreneurs interested can go to the competition’s website and Apply Now.

# MIT Arab Business Plan Competition

Arab Technology Business Plan Competition 2009 Semi-Finalists

| October 8, 2009 – 10:57 am | comment 1 Comment

The Arab Technology Business Plan CompetitionThe Arab Technology Business Plan Competition, which is a regional Technology investment competition organized by Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF) in cooperation with Intel Corporation, has just announced the list of semi-finalists for this year’s edition of the competition.

The list of 12 semi-finalists includes, in no particular order:

  • AqarMap (Yemen): An online real estate marketplace.
  • Telephone line powered lamp (Palestine): A solution to the frequent power outages in Gaza.
  • EDOM (Jordan): A system to produce green energy.
  • m-CASH (Palestine): A mobile payments solution.
  • Human Heater (Jordan): A new innovative heating product.
  • Therapeutic Vaccines (UAE): Vaccines to help treat chronic inflammation and cancer.
  • NovelMed (Egypt): New medical device.
  • Eye Controlled Typing (Palestine): Technology to help people with physical disabilities use computers.
  • Collapse Analysis (Egypt): Software applications to analyse building structures.
  • Wiphone (Egypt): Technology to convert earth frequency into wifi frequency and vice versa.
  • Blue Soft/Blue Phone (Egypt): Solution to minimize train accidents.
  • HFF (Egypt): Technology to  extract hydrogen from water and use it to generate green energy.

The competition provides the Arab entrepreneurs with a number of needed tools and skills through training and mentoring, in order to turn their Technological innovation into business opportunities.

The top 3 winners will get cash prizes of $10k, $6k and $4k respectively; and will have the opportunity to show their business plans in front of venture capitals, angel fund and investors in the ASTF Investment in Technology Forum.

The top 2 winners will also get to represent the Arab World in the world wide finals of the Intel + UC Berkeley Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge (USA).

Search Advertising’s Double-Digit Growth In The Arab World

| September 17, 2009 – 12:30 pm | comment 1 Comment

As several regional reports and studies have shown, online advertising in the Arab world is pretty much still in its infancy, with it only representing around 1% of total advertising spends in the region. Search advertising which is a relatively newer form of online advertising has just started making inroads into the market over the past couple of years, and it’s interesting to have some insight into how things are looking with it, and what kind of growth it is seeing.

Google of course is the main player in the search advertising market worldwide and in the region, and according to Husni Khuffash, Google’s Country Business Manager, Google search advertising is witnessing a double-digit growth in the Arab World, despite the reports of a worldwide decline in the performance of search ads.

Meanwhile, David Sheridan, CEO, Neo Digital, commented that search ads currently consist well under 10 per cent (5-6%) of total online advertising budgets, which in turn constitute only around one per cent of the total ad spend.

Sheridan, however, agrees that search advertising is seeing a double-digit growth in the region, with Neo Digital seeing more than 10 per cent growth in online advertising based on pay per click.

In fact, he said search ads constituted 15 to 20 per cent of the total agency expenditure, with some clients spending about 10 per cent of their online budgets on Google search display ads, and between 15 and 20 per cent on text search, varying according to each client’s needs.

However, he also thinks that search ads aren’t probably the best way to advertise to a specific targeted audience, and that more specific advertising is still better placed on specific portals.

An important point he makes is that one of the main reasons why the search ad market is not so big here compared to other markets is because those are heavy e-commerce markets as opposed to the Arab region, where pay per click is more intended for lead generation and directing traffic to websites, not to drive direct sales.

This, I think, not only applies for search advertising but online advertising in general. As long as businesses don’t see the results of their online campaigns translated into conversions and revenue, their investments in online advertising in general will be limited. The only way for them to start seeing those conversions and that revenue rolling in though if for them to work on more elaborate online strategies and start venturing into e-commerce.

Most digital advertisers in the Arab region are still government, telecommunications and automotive; with smaller companies that search advertising should appeal to not being very active.

Expectations are that the search ad sector will maintain a steady growth, just like online advertising as a whole, despite the almost untapped e-commerce market in the Arab World. But, in my opinion, it will only take off hugely when the internet starts being perceived as a really important sales channel by companies.

[Via: Business 24-7]

Google Launches Egabat New Arabic Questions & Answers Service

| September 8, 2009 – 9:00 pm | comment 15 Comments

Google EgabatGoogle is officially announcing the launch of a new service for the Arab world, under the name Google Egabat (meaning Google Answers in Arabic), in an event now taking place in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Dubai, UAE.

As the name suggests the product is a questions and answers service, a community-driven knowledge market site that allows users to both submit questions to be answered and answer questions asked by other users.

But unlike the now defunct Google Answers, which shut down in December 2006, where asker-accepted answers used to cost $2 to $200, Google Egabat deploys a reputation and incentive system, giving members the chance to earn points along the way, as a means to encourage participation.

While using the service, rating answers, and other tasks on the service users get to accumulate points in their account that they can use to ask questions of their own, assigning a number of those points to be transferred to the person who gives the best answer.

In parallel users also accumulate reputation points that are assigned to them depending on the good questions or answers they post on the service, according to the votes by the other users. Each user’s expertise level is based on the number of reputation points they were able to accumulate, going through nine different levels, ranging from newbie to scientist.

Google Egabat

Upon signing up to the service users get 20 free points in their account that they can spend on asking questions and 10 points in reputation points. Each action from just visiting the site to answering to rating brings its own rewards in terms of points. The details for the points system can be found here (in Arabic).

Questions are broken down and organized by categories, sub-categories, and tags, to make them easier for people to find and access answers to.

Similar services by Google are also currently available in two other markets: Russia (since June 2007) and China (with Tianya, a Chinese community website, as Tianya Answers).

The service can be accessed through http://egabat.google.com or http://ejabat.google.com; covering both possible ways to write the word.

Euro-Mediterranean School 2009 Open For Entrepreneurs’ Applications

| September 3, 2009 – 6:06 pm | comment No Comments

The Euro-Mediterranean School (EMS), which is an initiative that aims to offer young entrepreneurs from the Euromed countries an opportunity to follow a learning program in the field of business management and entrepreneurship, has opened up applications for the fourth “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” course taking place this year.

EMS was founded by the Milan Chamber of Commerce, the Lombardy Region, and the Fondazione per la Sussidiarietà (‘Foundation for Subsidiarity’). These sponsoring bodies offer full scholarships to all participants covering travel costs, room and board, tuition fee and teaching materials for the entire duration of the course.

EMS 2009 aims to offer young entrepreneurs and managers from the countries bordering on the Mediterranean Sea an opportunity to obtain the entrepreneurial and managerial skills necessary to start and/or develop a business capable of operating in multiple markets within the Mediterranean Basin.

The EMS 2009 is divided into two principal phases, both taught in English:

Phase A: Distance Learning, which consists of an online course entitled ”Business Strategy, International Growth and the business plan” which is compatible with everyone’s work responsibilities.

Phase B: Business education and Networking, where the top 20 students shall be invited to spend 4 weeks in Milan, Italy to continue their course and have an internship.

The 4th edition of the Euro-Mediterranean School – EMS 2009 is planned to run from October 2009 to February 2010. The deadline for application submissions is September 15th 2009.

For a broader presentation, you can check out this pdf file: EMS 2009

[Via: Identity Chef]

Google Launches Four New Arabic Editions Of Google News

| September 2, 2009 – 1:05 pm | comment 2 Comments

Google News EgyptGoogle just announced the launch of four new Arabic editions of Google News for Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Users in these countries can now access Google News editions specific to their country and get the latest headlines in topics such as Politics, Business, Sports, Entertainment and more.

This is part of Google’s ongoing push to provide local services and more relevant information and news for users, starting with these four countries that represent more than 24 million Arabic-speaking internet users.

Google News

Like all Google News editions, these computer-generated Arabic editions aggregate headlines from thousands of news outlets around the world, group similar stories together and link directly to the original sources that publish these stories. This enables users to search for topics they’re interested in, and read a wide variety of perspectives from different sources.

It seems there are plans by Google to continue rolling out more local editions for the rest of the Arab countries in the near future.

Nokia’s Ramadan Applications Available On Ovi Store

| August 27, 2009 – 10:54 am | comment No Comments

NokiaA couple of weeks ago, and in the lead up to the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan this year, Nokia launched a set of new and updated free Ramadan applications that can be downloaded through its Ovi Store on compatible mobile devices.

This comes after the success Nokia’s Ramadan applications saw last year, with well over 2.4 million downloads. So it was only natural for them to invest more in this and add some new applications as well as upgrades to the existing ones.

The applications this year also support a wider range of devices, to include both touch and non-touch Nokia devices.

Users can launch Ovi Store from the Download! folder on the main menu on their Nokia device or access nokia.com/Ramadan on the PC.

Nokia Ramadan Applications

This year’s Ramadan applications ate the following:

  • The Holy Quran: allows users to read, search, bookmark and listen to Quran recitation
  • Prayer Times: provides prayer timings and Qibla direction for 1000 cities in 200 countries, along with the ability to add, remove, update and edit any location using the GPS
  • Hadeeth: gives an easy and convenient way to read the Honorable Hadeeth from Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Riyad us-Saliheen, Holy Hadeeths and Arba’in An Nawawi
  • Zakah Calculator: helps Muslims calculate Zakah on different kinds of income
  • Hajj and Umrah: offers a mobile guide with multimedia content and the most famous places that people can visit during Hajj and Umrah
  • Mozzaker: allows mobile users to listen, search and translate a large collection of of daily Azkar and selected supplications. People can also download more Azkar and share via SMS and MMS with friends and family
  • Cards: helps users create their own Mobile Greeting Cards for different occasions and send them to family and friends via SMS or MMS

The Ramadan applications were developed by ASGATech, a Forum Nokia Premium Partner in the Middle East, with all content reviewed and approved by the Azhar.

The user interface for the applications is in English, Arabic, French and Urdu.

Yahoo! Maktoob: It’s Official, Yahoo! Acquiring Largest Arab Community Maktoob

| August 25, 2009 – 10:18 am | comment 13 Comments
Yahoo!
Maktoob

After months of rumors and speculation by many in the Arab internet industry, today the news is confirmed and made public officially: Yahoo! is acquiring Maktoob.com, making its big step into the Arab world by acquiring the biggest online Arab community.

A press conference was held at the Fairmont Hotel in Dubai to announce the deal with top executives from Maktoob and the Yahoo! Emerging Markets team.

The deal only involves the Maktoob.com portal and its sub-divisions (including Maktoob Research, Bentelhalal and others), that will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yahoo!.

The other sister companies within the Maktoob Group which are: Souq.com, CashU, Tahadi, Araby and the newly acquired E-marketing MENA (which will be rebranded to Ikoo) are not part of the deal, and they will go on with business as usual under the group’s umbrella.
Following this deal, the group will be rebranding to Jabbar Internet Group (JIG), injected with a $20 million investment, and chaired by Samih Toukan.

The first steps after the deal closing in Q4, will be to work on introducing the Yahoo! Maktoob Arabic homepage, as well as Mail and Instant Messenger in Arabic; then to keep moving on to providing other Yahoo! services in Arabic, and enriching Arabic content online. Other local services for the region will also be considered and developed.

The financial details of the deal have not been made public, although many numbers have been floating around the internet over the past weeks and months, none of which have been confirmed by either companies.

This is the first time in the history of the internet in the Arab world that such a deal has taken place, and promises to take the internet industry in the region to a whole new level; hopefully in terms of quality, content, competition, awareness and investment opportunities.

When looking at other global players, Google chose to open small presences of its own, mainly in the UAE and Egypt, to work on some product concept development, marketing and sales in the region. Microsoft already have a wide existence in the Arab world, but mainly around their big software titles, only recently starting to look online in the Arab world.

Hopefully this deal, as well as Google and Microsoft’s moves in the region, will open the door for more international players to start seriously considering entering the online market in the Arab world, but even more importantly will show local investors the potential that exists in investing in sound internet startup ideas, and that with the region as an important emerging market, there are more exit strategies than they initially thought.

For more information on this, you can check out the story and the press release on Maktoob Business.

[Full Disclosure: I have been a Director of a Maktoob.com division ever since the beginning of 2009, and therefore haven't been able to report on this story any earlier.]

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