Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Google Launches Google.ps Domain Name For Palestine

| August 13, 2009 – 10:47 am | comment 6 Comments

GoogleGoogle just announced the addition of a new domain to their list of international domain names google.ps for Palestine.

The new domain will give Arabic-speaking users in the Palestinian Territories, who use Palestinian ISPs, access to Google in Arabic–and eventually, access to more locally-relevant content.

Local domain names are part of a bigger strategy for Google, they’re a first step towards making the web more accessible and relevant for users from around the world, providing local services to them wherever they happen to be.

Google.ps screenshot

Google has already previously launched a number of local domain names for other countries including Jordan, Morocco, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Libya among others and plans to continue doing so.

With the launch of google.ps, the total number of international Google domains goes up to more than 160.

Bedaya Angel Network’s First Pitching Session For Startups

| August 9, 2009 – 1:10 pm | comment No Comments

Bedaya Angel NetworkA group of 10 Angel investors gathered in Jordan to attend the first match-making event for the newly created Bedaya Angel Network, where 20 pre-selected entrepreneurs got to pitch their projects to the investors.

Entrepreneurs were given 20 minutes to present their project and explain why they were looking for investment. Presentations were followed by another 20 minutes with questions from the attending Business Angels about their project’s details and concept, business development, the market for their project and what any eventually invested money would be used for.

The Bedaya Angel Network initiative was launched only a few months ago, in May of 2009, and has attracted over 30 important figures from the Jordanian investment, business and economic development communities.

The founding institutions of the Bedaya Angel Network are: the Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship, the iPark business incubator and the Arab Science and Technology Foundation. It is supported by the European program Medibtikar.

The goal behind the creation of Bedaya is to offer national financing vehicles for innovative business startups as part of the El Hassan Science City’s mandate to foster knowledge-based enterprises with a promising potential for growth. The network will be offering investments for early stage start-ups with a focus on science and technology.

Bedaya Angel Network - Match-making Event

The process starts with the selection of entrepreneurs who are looking for funding and giving the ones that are most ready the opportunity to pitch their projects to an audience of business angels at match-making events that should be held every 2 months.

Before pitching to investors, the entrepreneurs received special full-day training and coaching by Mr. Nelson Grey, a seasonal expert on business angel investments.

The next Bedaya pitching session is planned to happen next October.

[Business Angels are private individuals willing to invest their own money into high growth potential startups; not only offering money to the companies they invest in, but also a lot of experience and their personal business networks.]

Arabic Language Domains & Internet Growth In The Arab World

| August 6, 2009 – 10:54 am | comment 9 Comments

A lot of talk has been going on these past couple of days about Arabic language domain names which should become possible within the coming year, with the major changes planned for the web addressing system, allowing the use of international scripts such as Arabic, Chinese and Hindi in domain names, as well as the liberalization of the registration process for top-level domains.

The Arab league already has plans to play a big role in the midst of all this by operating its own “.arab” domain, registered in Arabic and Latin characters.

The officials at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) think that this move will help boost internet growth in the region, as more and more Arabic speakers find it more accessible to them.

According to Baher Esmat, the Middle East relations manager of ICANN, “The next 10 million or 20 million Arab internet users will be those who do not speak English,” as “They will want to do everything in Arabic, including the addresses.”

Now even though I’m not really a supporter of the move to liberalize the registration of top-level domains, because of the big hassle and mess I fear it will create, I think the other change adding the possibility to use international scripts in domain names is a great step forward for the web addressing system.

I’m sure a lot of Arab websites will be registering web addresses in Arabic once it becomes possible next year, and it will be interesting to analyze the statistics and see how many people prefer using them.

Still, I’m not sure it’ll really have that big of an effect on internet growth in the region. I mean, is using a web address typed in Latin characters really a big barrier holding back people from getting online and surfing the web?
Of course, it’s more practical to just do everything in Arabic for many, but how many people do you think have skipped using the internet altogether just because they don’t want to type urls in Latin?

What do you think? Will Arabic domain names help boost internet growth in the region? Why?

Tamakkan! Initiative to Support Young Emirati Entrepreneurs

| July 27, 2009 – 10:20 pm | comment 2 Comments

BrandMoxieTamakkan!, an initiative aimed at supporting young Emirati entrepreneurs who need industry insight to achieve their business dreams, has been launched by BrandMoxie, a UAE based marketing firm.

BrandMoxie has set up Tamakkan! to nurture the spirit of entrepreneurship and provide an informal environment for the development of knowledge sharing and the spirit of mentorship for the benefit of young Emiratis.

Sana Bagersh, the CEO of BrandMoxie explained, “the idea is that through Tamakkan! industry professionals would be able to give back to the country, and the community, by helping to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs. We hope to create a vibrant monthly platform of discussion, in the form of a free two hour seminar, open to those young entrepreneurs who want to attend an informative session presented by a professional, or expert, on a key topic in business.”

Bagersh explained that Tamakkan! would aim to provide high calibre seminars given by practicing professionals. The focus would be on the transfer of practical skills and information. “These would include short seminars on marketing such as branding, positioning, merchandising, franchising etc, and business topics such as the fundamentals of how to set up a business.”

Tamakkan! is intended to facilitate contributions by the business sector, and welcomes the participation of companies and individuals who can lend their support by giving their time or assistance in kind.

BrandMoxie won the Tamayyuz Award in June for its commitment to young students, offering them practical experience and professional guidance. Bagersh explained, “what has encouraged us to do more is our surprise at the high calibre of work performed by university interns. These students are very good; they have built up the skills and are passionate at what they do, but they lack the ‘street smarts’ and the understanding of the broad work context. And this is only something they can pick up through experience and professional guidance.”

Bagersh believes that Tamakkan! would support fresh graduates with entrepreneurship dreams by providing them exposure to knowledge from industry practitioners.

Google Friend Connect Now Available In Arabic

| July 14, 2009 – 10:17 pm | comment 2 Comments

Google Friend ConnectGoogle Friend connect, the online service by Google that allows users on the internet to connect with their friends on different websites, and aiming to expand the notions of social networking throughout the web, has just announced that the service is now available in Arabic, in addition to another 46 languages.

According to Google, over 5 million sites are currently using Google Friend Connect to connect and build their communities, and this step aims to make it easier for site owners who prefer to use other languages than English to implement the system on their sites and take advantage of it.

The main Google Friend Connect site is now available in all the newly added languages, making the setup of sites easier for webmasters more comfortable with those languages; and through the interface webmasters can specify the language of their site, and have most Google-created gadgets they’ll be using automatically rendered in that language.

Other than Arabic, Friend Connect is now also available in Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Latvian, Lingala, Lithuanian, Malay, Malayalam, Marathi, Norwegian, Oriya, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

For more details or to start using the service, check out: google.com/friendconnect.

Developers working on OpenSocial applications and gadgets for Friend Connect can check out the documentation on localizing OpenSocial applications.

Microsoft Maren: A New Windows Arabic Transliteration Tool

| July 1, 2009 – 3:51 pm | comment 19 Comments

Microsoft MarenMicrosoft has gone on and launched a new application called ‘Maren‘, making its entrance into the Arabic transliteration space.

Microsoft Maren was developed to be a Windows extension that allows you to type Arabic in Roman characters (Romanized Arabic, Arabizi, Arabish or Franco-Arabic) and have it converted on the fly to Arabic script. Maren integrates seamlessly with Windows and works in most Windows applications and websites.

Users around the Arab world widely use romanized Arabic in instant messaging and on social networking sites, and Microsoft’s Maren is following in the footsteps of Yamli and Google’s Ta3reeb in offering these users the possibility to have whatever text they type converted into Arabic.

Up to this point Yamli has been the user favorite in the region, with a number of portals integrating their service, a Firefox toolbar extension that many people were glad to get and even an unofficial Yamli extension called Arabzi that exists for MSN Messenger. Yamli also uses its transliteration technology as a basis to enrich and provide better Arabic search online.

Microsoft MarenWhat Microsoft’s Maren offers as a plus is the possibility to integrate the transliteration technology into Windows, and use it everywhere, not just online through a browser; so basically users can use Maren while typing in a Word document or on Instant Messenger or any other Windows application.

The fact that the tool is installed on the user’s machine also means that the solution is available to the user even when he’s offline, and it could even be a bit faster than other solutions that have to send requests back to a server.

It should be really interesting to see how much user adoption Maren will get, but however that works out, this is quite a good effort from Microsoft.

Microsoft Maren was developed by the Cairo Microsoft Innovation Center (CMIC), a Microsoft group representing the company interest in applied research and development initiatives in the Middle East and Africa.

Microsoft Maren

Update: I talked to Habib Haddad, co-founder of Yamli, a bit after the publication of this story, and he commented “I guess big companies recognize a good idea when they see it, as an Arabic startup we are flattered to see this happen. As you know our focus has always been on the user so stay tuned for new releases from Yamli.”

MENA 100 Business Plan Competition: A Call For Arab Innovative Entrepreneurs

| June 27, 2009 – 3:38 pm | comment 5 Comments

MENA 100The MENA 100 Business Plan Competition, which is organized by the MENA-OECD Enterprise Financing Network, in cooperation with the Islamic Development Bank and the MENA Center for Investment, has just been launched.

The primary objective of the MENA 100 business plan competition is to encourage existing and inspire potential entrepreneurs and connect the 100 best of them in the Middle East and North Africa region with potential sources of finance to generate business transactions.

The MENA 100 Competition addresses innovative entrepreneurs, from the 18 Arab countries participating in the MENA OECD Investment Program (Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen).

What entrepreneurs can expect from the competition:

  • Connect with counterparts from around the region and worldwide to conceive new ideas, enter new markets and find new resources.
  • Exposure for the winners through the awards ceremony and the media.
  • Connection to a network of professionals providing technical support and offering financial and in-kind support to candidates.

Applications will be accepted until August 31st. It is possible to apply online in French and English through the website: www.mena100.org

The 100 finalists will have the opportunity to present their projects at an event in Manama (Bahrain).
There will be one winner per country and a selection of three regional winners.

The top performers will be awarded with cash and in-kind services, representing professional services donated by sponsors of the competition, as well as MENA business angels (BA) – venture capital funds (VC) for all participants.
Winners will also be invited to participate in the MENA-OECD Business Day.

[Via: Mohd Khawaja]

Int@j Introduces 20 Jordanian ICT Companies to Intel Capital

| June 16, 2009 – 8:36 am | comment 3 Comments
int@j

Intel

Int@j, the Information Technology Association of Jordan, recently conducted an event with Intel Capital, the venture capital investment arm of Intel Corporation, including more than 20 companies from the ICT community in Jordan.

The event focused on introducing the Jordanian ICT sector to Intel Capital and sharing various business aspects and relations among the various ICT sector companies and Intel.

Since its establishment as an ICT industry-support association in 2000, Int@j has been exerting a lot of efforts aiming at advancing the Jordanian ICT sector. Int@j has been looking for various partnerships with different institutions on the local, regional and international levels aiming at creating better ICT industry in Jordan, increasing the awareness of ICT services and products and stressing on the benefits of integrating ICT in other sectors.

The meeting included one-to-one presentations by member companies of int@j where they presented their plans, products, services and solutions to Intel Capital focusing on local capabilities, companies’ talented resources and value added services blended together towards positioning Jordan as the regional ICT leader and point of access.

Intel Capital has been quite active in the region lately, as part of its ongoing push to support local entrepreneurship in the Middle East and fund companies in the internet and technology sectors through its $50 million Intel Capital Middle East and Turkey Fund, which is aimed at assisting the companies in pursuing regional growth and development plans in addition to extending their product offerings.

Feroz Sanaulla, Intel Capital’s Director of Middle East, Turkey, and Africa said “’Intel Capital has a history of pioneering successful technology investments in developing markets to foster growth and innovation. We believe Jordanian ICT companies are well positioned in the region and we are keen on helping them drive technology adoption locally and identify new business opportunities globally.”

Silatech And Cisco To Build Invitational Technology Platform

| June 14, 2009 – 9:50 am | comment No Comments

SilatechSilatech recently announced that it will be working with Cisco, which is one of its founding members and its global strategic technology provider, on the development of an ‘Invitational Technology Platform’, which will deliver Silatech services and solutions to the youth across the Middle East and North Africa.

Silatech is an initiative, that was launched by Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned of Qatar, engaging the private, public and civil society sectors to promote large-scale job creation, entrepreneurship, and access to capital for young people.

Both Silatech and Cisco will contribute to the development of the Invitational Technology Platform, and Silatech will also be inviting a selection of local, regional and international technology organizations to participate according to their expertise. Local and regional universities and young developers from the Middle East and North Africa will also be involved in this regional effort.

Silatech’s Invitational Technology Platform will offer young people, entrepreneurs and enterprises throughout the MENA region access to:

  • Business development services and skills training for entrepreneurs leading existing small and medium size enterprises (SMEs);
  • Financial services to entrepreneurs and SMEs;
  • Skills development services to young people in various industries;
  • Access to markets and supply chains for SMEs;
  • Job placement and services across the MENA region.
Cisco’s newly opened office at the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) will be used as a base for the development effort. 

Other efforts by Silatech and Cisco to create jobs and enhance youth skills in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector through industry programs include the Cisco Networking Academy.

Winners Of The MIT Arab Business Plan Competition 08-09

| June 12, 2009 – 12:07 am | comment 13 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.

The current version of the competition officially started on November 10th 2008, by opening up registrations. A few hours ago, the final round took place in Dubai, where the 10 finalists did oral presentations of their business plans to the jury panel, and the awards were handed out.

The winners of this edition of the MIT Arab Business Plan Competition are as follows:

First place: A tie between Syphir (Husain Al-Mohssen, Courtland Allen, Ghassan Fayad, Faisal Alibrahim [Saudi Arabia]) and HAYATI Healthcare LLC (Michael Matly, Tariq El-Titi, David Matly [United Arab Emirates])

Second place: Rice Straw Fertilizer Company (Ibrahim Khater Youssef, Ahmed El Dorghamy, Mohamed Abdel Raouf [Egypt])

Third place: Blog Souq (Ahmad Takatkah, Adey Salamin, Ammar Ibrahim [Jordan])

According to the terms of the competition, the winner of the competition should receive prize money of USD 50,000; which in the case of a tie will most probably be split in two. The members of the winning teams will also be given the opportunity to attend the MIT Global Startup Workshop (GSW).

The first and second runner-ups will receive a check of USD 10,000 and USD 5000 respectively.

Besides the financial reward, the winning teams will be provided with coaching/mentoring from the members and network of the MIT Enterprise Forum who will also help the winners get their businesses up and explore further funding opportunities by introducing them to business development centers, financing institutions, and similar organizations.

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