Archive for the ‘Startup News’ Category

Kotob Arabia Bets On Mobile Fueling Arab e-Book Revolution

| September 13, 2009 – 2:31 pm | comment 2 Comments

KotobArabiaKotob Arabia, a Cairo-based online publisher of more than 4,000 Arabic e-books, and its founder and director Ramy Habeeb, foresee that mobile phones’ deep market penetration in the region, combined with the most popular e-book readers’ high price tags and inability to read Arabic’s right-to-left script, make the mobile phone a platform of choice for any coming e-book revolution in the Arab world.

Kotob Arabia recently signed a deal to create the first Arabic mobile book reader with Blackbetty Mobilmedia, a Viennese company that creates software that make books readable on mobile phones. The partners plan to present a prototype of the new Arabic mobile e-book reader at next month’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

Blackbetty and Kotobarabia plan to roll out a premium SMS billing system in which e-book purchases would show up on a buyer’s phone bill, starting with Vodafone in Germany, then Vodafone in Egypt and other mobile networks across the region.

Kotob Arabia became an affiliate of Sarmady, the popular Egyptian internet portal that was acquired by Vodafone Egypt last year, and so it already has a relationship with the company that should make it easier for them to roll out their mobile e-book service with them.

In May, the company made an important step of switching from a traditional e-book sales approach to a subscription service, where readers pay a subscription fee and then get access to the full book catalogue. This would give readers access to the list of books they know as well as to books by other authors who aren’t as famous. This way the reader benefits, and on the other hand all authors who have their e-books on the service get a chance to be read and start making money out of it.

This subscription model also is quite an appealing one for the mobile realm, one that can’t be realised in more developed markets because of book price regulation.

Source: The National

Talasim One Of Top Teams For Seedcamp Week 2009

| September 10, 2009 – 5:27 pm | comment 2 Comments

SeedcampThe team at Seedcamp just announced the top 21 teams who made it as finalists for Seedcamp Week 2009, an intensive week-long event held in London every September, that targets young entrepreneurs from across EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).

TalasimAmong this year’s finalists is Jordanian startup Talasim, an online social network and photo sharing service for comedy/funny content, which was founded by Zeid Koudsi and Sabri Hakim, and is one of the projects leading Arab UGC portal Jeeran invested in and incubated.

The focus of Seedcamp week is around providing an incredible experience for the selected teams, with a diverse mentor network helping the teams put together the foundations of a viable business. The aim of this week is to collapse the time it takes startups to make and develop these critical relationships from months to a week and establish an unrivaled foundation on which the business can be built.

With this selection, Talasim joins another 20 startups from around Europe, the Middle East and Africa, to compete to receive one of the 5 investments worth €50K that will be made at the end of the Seedcamp week.

The three months following Seedcamp Week and the investment, is when the winning teams with the Seedcamp team begin building the product and company together in London, and provided access to services worth 2-3 times the invested €50K, with the goal of helping grow and nurture the teams, and putting in-depth focus on developing the product and business.

During the course of the three months, the groups will have an opportunity to take advantage of the same ecosystem of experts which participated in the Seedcamp event through weekly dinners, topical lunches, conferences, and continued mentorship on various issues. They’ll also get to demo their products to other groups from Seedcamp as well as potential investors in two events along the way.

Previously, the only other startup to make it to Seedcamp from the Arab region was Content Syndicate, that participated in Seedcamp Week 2007, and was nominated as one of the top 10 startups out of 260 participating startups from 40 countries.

Talasim was also selected as one of the Arab world’s top ten investment ready startups at the 6th Investing in Technology Forum that was held in Cairo, Egypt, earlier this year.

Bayt.com Launches New Mobile Version Of Their Job Search

| September 8, 2009 – 11:54 am | comment No Comments

Bayt.comBayt.com, the Middle East’s leading job site have launched a new mobile version of their portal, which will enable job seekers to access the Bayt.com website quickly and easily on their mobile devices, while on the move.

Job seekers can simply enter m.bayt.com into the web browser of their mobile device, then instantly search all of the jobs that are currently available on the main Bayt.com site.

As part of Bayt.com mobile, job seekers will be able to apply from their device to any of the listed jobs that are of interest to them on the site, simply by using their stored CVs, and adding a cover note if required.

Bayt.com also plans to add a number of additional services to make the search for jobs even more efficient for job seekers on the move.

Job seekers will have the option to refresh their stored CV from their device, as if they were using their PC. When job seekers have found positions from their device but want to save them for applying at a later stage, they will have the option of emailing their found jobs to their Bayt.com account, or to their personal email.

Furthermore, the mobile site will be developed to allow jobs seekers to search for positions by sector and industry, as per the existing website. It will then offer the option to view how many times their CV has been viewed by employers, in addition to other CV statistics – right on their mobile device.

The service adds more value to employers by making their postings automatically available on the mobile version of the site, thereby giving their job offers more exposure.

Quirkat Launches New Music Playing Game ‘Al-Moosiqar’

| September 6, 2009 – 9:21 pm | comment 3 Comments

Al-MoosiqarQuirkat, the Middle Eastern game development studio announced today the launch of its newest online game ‘Al-Moosiqar’ (The Musician), through the company’s online Arabic/English Games Portal, Fuzztak.

‘The Musician’ offers players the chance to reconnect with one of Oriental music’s greatest instruments: The ‘Oud’ or lute as it is more commonly known in the West. The player controls the in-game Musician’s movements to play back classical Oud pieces.

Using a set of intuitive controls, the user can help the in-game Musician hit notes and strum according to the flow of notes on the screen. The Oudist’s facial expressions indicate the success of the playback and successful consecutive notes improve score through multipliers.

‘The Musician’ pretty much follows the same concept as the very successful Guitar Hero franchise, but bringing it to the web and for an Arabic instrument.

Al-MoosiqarAl-Moosiqar

Mahmoud Ali Khasawneh, Quirkat’s CEO, says: “Al-Moosiqar is yet another demonstration of our commitment to building unique gaming experiences generating from our culture and heritage. The Oud is the most important Arab instrument and is nicknamed the Prince of the Instruments. We consider it part of our mission at Quirkat to bring such proud Arab achievements to the gaming world. We hope Al-Moosiqar will provide regional gamers with a unique game experience.”

According to Ms Candide Kirk, Quirkat’s CTO, ”Al Moosiqar builds a community layer on top of the existing Fuzztak gamer user base and allows registered users on Fuzztak to upload and annotate their own original musical pieces to the game world for other users to play back — thus the game transforms into a Music Portal of old time favorites and Oud classics, as well as original content from within the user base.”

Quirkat is a Dubai-based company with development studios in Amman, Jordan.

UAE Based Startup Sphere Networks To Be Acquired By Major Taiwanese Manufacturer

| September 3, 2009 – 9:22 am | comment 6 Comments

Sphere NetworksSphere Networks is currently in acquisition talks with a major Taiwanese manufacturer to sell off the majority of the company, including the intellectual property rights to its network management software technology, supporting research and development team.

Sphere Networks is a developer of enterprise-level network management solutions, that allow organizations to monitor and control thousands of nodes at any one time.

The name of the acquiring company hasn’t been disclosed, but Mohamed Hamedi, CEO and founder of Sphere Networks said that the potential buyer is “the largest OEM hardware manufacturer for networking equipment” in Taiwan. It produces switches, routers, access points and similar products mainly for other vendors, but now wants to start shifting to producing its own-brand products.

After the official announcement Sphere Networks will be fully folded into the acquiring company, including its IP, technology and supporting technical team of 20 employees. It is expected that staff working in sales and human resources will be cut as a result of the process though.

The company was launched in 2005 by Mohamed Hamedi, a Libyan national who moved from the US to Dubai to start the company and personally bankrolled it, until Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority invested in the startup in 2006, and then another investment by Intel Capital followed in 2008. The values of both of those investments were not disclosed.

As part of an earn out agreement, Hamedi should continue to work with Sphere Networks for up to 18 months following the deal.

[Source: ITP]

Jeeran Launches French Version Targeting Maghreb

| August 26, 2009 – 3:36 pm | comment 7 Comments

Jeeran

Jeeran, one of the Arab world’s leading user-generated content portals, have just launched a new French version of their portal.

This move aims to make Jeeran’s services more accessible for users in the Arab Maghreb region, where the French language is widely used offline and online, in an attempt to widen their reach and grow their target market.

This is most probably a first step from Jeeran to build more traffic and heighten their visibility in the region, with hopes to find ways to start generating some revenue from online advertising in the region.

Jeeran

A number of online businesses from the Middle East face the frustration of not being able to monetize all the traffic they’re getting from around the Arab world, especially from the North African countries, and they end up with their focus mainly being the more lucrative Gulf market. Several of these companies are trying to draw up strategies to enter the Maghreb market where they see a lot of opportunity and growth potential.

You can check out the new French version of Jeeran here: Jeeran en Français.

Jabbar Internet Group: The New Group & Its Companies

| August 25, 2009 – 6:39 pm | comment No Comments

JabbarIn the previous post about Yahoo! acquiring Maktoob, there was a brief paragraph about what will happen to the rest of the Maktoob Group. Here, we’ll get into more details about what’s next for the group and its companies.

A new group entity has been setup under the name ‘Jabbar Internet Group’, to group the remaining sister companies of Maktoob Group that weren’t part of the Yahoo! deal, which are: Souq.com, CashU, Tahadi, Ikoo and Araby. This group is owned by the current investors, including Tiger Capital (a hedge fund out of the United States), the founders and other investors.

Samih Toukan, one of the two original co-founders of Maktoob, will be heading the group as CEO and Chairman. He said that the group will be receiving a fresh capital injection of $20 million and will continue to expand aggressively.

As for the companies of Jabbar Internet Group, they are as follows:

Souq.comSouq.com: Headed by Ronaldo Mouchawar; Established in 2005, Souq.com has grown to become the largest e-commerce site in the Arab world covering Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, with plans to expand to new markets.
Site: www.souq.com

cashUCashU: Headed by Martin Waldenstrom; Launched in July 2002, cashU is a prepaid Internet payment service, through which users can purchase products and services online through cashU’s merchant base. The company has seen a spurt of growth over the past couple of years as a result of the spread of online gaming.
Site: www.cashu.com

TahadiTahadi: Headed by Steve Tsao; Established end of 2008, Tahadi was established as a publisher of Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG’s) targeting the Middle East and North Africa region. Their first game is Arabic Ragnarok Online (ARO).
Site: www.tahadi.com

ikooIkoo: Headed by Isam Bayazidi; After Maktoob Group’s acquisition last month of leading MENA advertising network E-Marketing MENA (a company founded by ex-Maktoobian Khaled Jabasini in 2005), it has merged it’s Kalimat Text Advertising product into the company, and re-branded the lot as Ikoo.
Site: www.ikoo.com

ArabyAraby: This is the group’s search engine offering, providing advanced Arabic-language search capabilities, and a lot of the technology actually used to power search in different channels on Maktoob.
Site: www.araby.com

Jabbar Internet Group and its companies should continue to cooperate closely with Yahoo! Maktoob through commercial partnership agreements.

D1G Announces Closing Of Its First Round Of Financing

| August 3, 2009 – 8:11 am | comment No Comments

D1GD1G just announced its closing of a first round of financing; that will go towards funding the site, its expansion and its infrastructure on the Internet.

According to the press release issued by the company, this first round has attracted a number of regional businessmen and international experts in the internet industry to join the site’s management.

Commenting on this round, Abdul-Majid Qasem, D1G Executive Director, said that the first round of investment was able to attract the necessary funding for the next phase, and that the amount raised would help the company improve its products and services to achieve the board of directors’ vision and aspirations.

He also noted that the next round of strategic investment negotiations with some of the leading capital and private equity firms in the region is currently ongoing.

D1G was founded in May 2006, and according to the numbers released by the company have been able to build a community of more than 3 million people per month over the past years, generating more than 20 million impressions and over 15 million online monthly videos. They also claim to have grown 100% in number of users during the first half of 2009 alone.

D1G’s growth has been both organic and through acquisitions, and it seems they’ll be sticking to the same approach for growth in the future.

Just a couple of months ago, D1G announced that Usama Fayyad, Ex- Chief Data Officer and Executive Vice President at Yahoo!, had been appointed Executive Chairman of D1G to help develop the company and take it into its next stage of growth. He was already on their board of directors since September 2008.

D1G also announced that prominent Jordanian business man and investor Karim Kawar will become an Active Advisor on the company’s board of directors. Karim Kawar, who had previously served as Jordan’s Ambassador to the US, is currently advising a number of regional capital and technology companies.

ShooFeeTV Goes On And Launches Its TV Channel

| July 30, 2009 – 10:33 am | comment No Comments

ShooFeeTVShooFeeTV has gone on as planned and launched its own television channel, which will air an around-the-clock scrolling guide of programs from more than 150 of the most popular satellite channels on the ArabSat and NileSat platforms.

Clips and trailers for upcoming shows and movies will also be aired on the channel, through segments like its ShooFee Aflam, ShooFee 7elo and ShooFee Riyada.

The channel will also broadcast original content developed by ShooFeeTV, where hosts discuss entertainment news.

ShooFeeTV also has plans to integrate some of the features from their portal into the TV channel, such as discussion boards and comment threads for individual shows.

The TV channel has been a project ShooFeeTV has been pursuing and preparing for from the beginning as another platform to provide their service and information to viewers, as well as drive more people to their portal.

The new ShooFeeTV channel is being broadcast via the Arabsat Badr-4 satellite.

Watwet Opens Up Their Platform Through Public API

| July 22, 2009 – 12:38 pm | comment No Comments

WatwetWatwet, the Arab social networking and micro-blogging platform, has gone on and taken another big step forward by releasing a public API covering the different methods and functionalities of the service.

Methods covered include ones to get user and friend timelines, search, follow and unfollow users, retrieve lists of followers and friends, and of course send updates, among others.

This means that developers can now easily integrate the different Watwet functionalities into other web, mobile and desktop applications.

The full documentation for the Watwet API is available at developer.watwet.com.

Watwet

This comes not long after them providing users the possibility to link their Watwet and Twitter accounts, in a way that anything posted to Watwet gets automatically posted to Twitter and vice versa.

On another note, Watwet also went ahead and changed its interface moving to a simple “following/follower” model, instead of the previous “friendship” model that was based on reciprocal agreement from two people to become friends.

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