Archive for the ‘Startups’ Category

Artwitter.com; An Arabic Interface For Twitter

| October 11, 2008 – 11:30 pm | comment 6 Comments

artwitter.comEven though there is an Arabic micro-blogging service called Watwet that is very similar to Twitter in functionality, a lot of Arab users have chosen to use Twitter instead, maybe because it has mostly become the international poster child for micro-blogging, or because most of their friends already use it and it’s just easier to follow the crowd. Anyway, many of these users choose to tweet in Arabic, but as the Twitter interface is in English, thus left-to-right, Arabic script which is right-to-left gets quite annoying to read through the English interface.

So Mohamed Al Rehaili, with the help of a number of other Arab bloggers and friends, launched an Arabic interface for Twitter that can be accessed at: Artwitter.com

Artwitter.com uses the functions provided by the Twitter API, to bring its main friend timeline, replies and posting functionalities through a simple right-to-left Arabic interface, without storing any user data on its server.

artwitter.com screenshot

The site is still in early beta, and it’s still not possible to view a certain user’s timeline or search for tweets, but I’m guessing these functionalities will be implemented soon enough, especially if the service finds success between Arab Twitter users.

Artwitter.com

Berberus, The Semantic Maghreb Blog Aggregator

| October 2, 2008 – 4:28 pm | comment 2 Comments

BerberusBerberus is a new blog aggregator that was recently launched to cover blogs from the Maghreb region. The name is an obvious reference to the region and its roots. The site also says it references the existence of a form of berberism (free man) in every blogger who aspires to express themselves freely.

Over the past years, a number of blog aggregators have sprung up in the Maghreb region, mainly covering each country on its own, and there even was a blog called Maghreblog which grouped authors from all Maghreb states who blogged and re-blogged stories from the region, but none of the previous efforts have grouped as many Maghreb blogs in one place.

Berberus currently indexes 1255 blogs from the five Arab Maghreb states (Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania), and aggregates posts and comments from all these blogs. It also provides an analysis of the activity going through these blogs, giving information about the posts and comments activity throughout the region, which the most active blogs and most commented blogs are, and even which posts are the ones getting the most commenting action.

Berberus screenshot

An advanced search engine is provided to search for blogs, posts or comments on certain topics, or by certain people, throughout the region or in a specific country, and in a certain period of time.

Another plus for Berberus is the semantic side of it all, as the tags in the aggregated posts are extracted, and their content analyzed to provide users an easy way to find posts that talk about topics of interest to them; by surfing through the latest tags and checking out the hottest and most talked about issues and topics.

A podcast directory is also included, indexing podcasts from around the region, and offering a central interface to watch or listen to them.

The interface tries to pack all the mentioned functionalities in a way that keeps it pretty easy to use and uncluttered, and it’s rather successful at it. The site is in English only for the time being.

Berberus

Untiny, A Tool To Expand Shortened URLs

| September 25, 2008 – 11:20 am | comment 9 Comments

UntinyA bunch of URL shortening services have been popping up everywhere recently, made popular by the advent of micro-blogging, each offering users the base functionality to take long urls and shorten them, with some adding some small yet interesting functionalities on the side.

Untiny is a new service that does the exact opposite, giving you the possibility to take a shortened URL and expand it to retrieve the original web address behind it.

There are a number of reasons why this comes in handy, as it solves the problem of obfuscation created by shortened URLs where the person provided the link doesn’t have any way to tell where it really points, and in some countries it solves the problem of any of those URL shortening services being blocked.

The user interface is as simple as you can imagine such a service should be, you’re presented with a simple textbox where you can paste the shortened URL, click on the retrieve button, and get the original URL.

Untiny

A quicker shortcut is also provided by directly passing the shortened URL to their service in the address bar using the following syntax: http://untiny.com?url=SHORTENED URL
Untiny also provides the possibility to add the tool in the search engine textbox in Firefox to enable users to directly paste the shortened URL in and get on their way. 

An API has also been created for the service to enable developers and other services to tap into the Untiny service to expand shortened URLs.

Among the developments currently underway for Untiny are a Firefox add-on, Greasemonkey script, Mac widget and Windows widget.

Untiny was launched in public beta on September 12th from Saudi Arabia by Saleh Al-Zaid.

Untiny

Tools4Com OIS, A Simple Online Invoicing System

| September 23, 2008 – 12:05 pm | comment 3 Comments

Tools4ComBy now it’s basically no secret to anyone that the future of software is through the browser and ever more specialized web applications, and this is confirmed by the different new web applications that are popping up everywhere to fulfill individuals’ and companies’ needs, competing in spaces that were previously reserved for desktop applications.

Tunis based Tools4Com‘s new online invoicing system Tools4Com OIS is yet another example of such web applications; reproducing all the essential features of an invoicing desktop application, and creating a viable alternative for smaller companies and independent workers who prefer the use of online applications, that give them the flexibility of accessing their data and functionalities from anywhere.

Tools4Com OIS enables users to manage their invoices, quotations, pro forma invoices, delivery notes, clients and products online, along with other related functionalities like exporting all the different documents in HTML or PDF, viewing detailed reports, auto calculation of the sales tax, setting up reminders at chosen frequencies, and more.

Users can also enable online payment of their invoices through the system using PayPal or AlertPay, witth more client payment options on the way.

Tools4Com OIS

Tools4Com OIS provides a number of plans, ranging from the free basic version which covers most of the main functionalities limiting the number of documents that can be created, to the paid plans that range from 20 to 150 Euros per month depending on how many documents the user needs to create and manage.

Tools4Com OIS is available in French only for the time being; a German version is currently under way, and an English version should follow closely. An Arabic version is also planned for the future.

Tools4Com was launched from Tunisia by Mohamed Aymen Ben Abdallah, opened for public use in August 2008, and has been rolling out new features and enhancements frequently ever since.
With the launch behind their back, the founder seems to have some pretty big plans for his new startup that he’s already setting in motion, and in a little talk we had recently, he told me that he’s considering pursuing investment possibilities to accelerate the implementation of his plans.

Tools4Com

Hyde Park, Group Blog With Social Networking Features

| September 21, 2008 – 3:56 pm | comment 1 Comment

Hyde ParkHyde Park is a new interesting Arabic project, currently under development, and which has been wrapped in a veil of secrecy up to now. We at StartUpArabia have been able to get our hands on some information about the project that we’d like to share with you.

Hyde Park is a group blog with integrated social networking features, enabling bloggers to publish freely and as easily as possible.

The main goals behind Hyde Park are to simplify the process of blogging as much as possible and to create more and more connections and interaction between bloggers by bringing them together on one collective blog where they can write about a range of common topics.

With Hyde Park there won’t be any complicated or obligatory steps to blog; a blogger can just enter his name and a password to create an account and start blogging right away, using a simple and clear visual interface. Every blogger has a personal dashboard to publish their blog posts from, get in touch with other blogges, follow comments, …etc.

All blog posts can be voted on (both positively and negatively), with the possibility of showing the blog’s content in the same way used on social bookmarking services.
Content on the blog will be categorized using tags and channels, and can be displayed according to this categorization, date of publishing, or number of votes. Comments on posts can also be followed on an independent page. 

Hyde Park screenshot

As for the social networking side of things; every blogger will get their own personal page to share their personal details and list their blog psots; this page can be totally personalized and redesigned according to the blogger’s taste. Other users can comment on the blogger’s page, much like they can do on a person’s wall on Facebook and other social networks. Bloggers can also build up their list of friends on the site.

A public beta version of the service will be released on October 1st, as a number of standard features continue to be added and completed, before the official launch of the site.
The service will be available in Arabic only at the beginning, with the possibility of more languages in the future.

Hyde Park is a project that was launched by well known blogger Mohammed Said Hjiouij from Morocco.

Hyde Park

ShooFeeTV Free Arab TV Guide Service Officially Launched

| September 9, 2008 – 2:30 pm | comment 4 Comments

ShooFeeTVShooFeeTV, a free online Arabic television guide, has officially been launched as a useful resource for TV fans, allowing them access to the program grids for the 120 most popular channels, carried by NileSat and ArabSat.

ShooFeeTV has been under development for some time now, recently going public with a beta while they ironed out the final details before this release. But they’ve already been syndicating content to Maktoob’s TV Guide section well before the launch.

The site holds a wealth of information revolving around Arab TV channels, their programming, details about the different shows, movies and actors (both Arab and foreign); and this information is provided in a number of different ways, to make it as easy as possible for the user to find what they’re looking for quickly.
Short news features about popular programs and actors are provided by the ShooFeeTV team too. 

Photos and videos from the world of television are also made available that users can view and share with their friends. ShooFeeTV users can add comments, vote in weekly entertainment polls and participate in discussion forums and television-related blogs available on the site.

From the beginning, the site recognizes which country a user is located in, and automatically sets the programming grid to their local time, eliminating any painful time conversions.
To further personalize their use of the website, users can log on on and create their own listings grid featuring their favorite channels, using the ‘My ShooFeeTV’ feature.

ShooFeeTV screenshot

The website features selected programs highlighted by the site’s independent editorial team, as well as the most popular programs, as ranked by users of the service.

ShooFeeTV also provides a podcast, which in three minutes each time takes viewers one week ahead, highlighting upcoming movies, sports events and television shows. The podcast will also be available on iTunes.

ShooFeeTV doesn’t stop at the online side of things; taking things a step further to distribute their content through a number of other channels. For example, they plan to distribute a special version of the podcast to radio stations who wish to provide TV programming to their listeners; mobile services giving users access to TV listings on their mobile phones should be coming soon; deals are being pursued to syndicate their content to other portals, newspapers and magazines; and a satellite TV channel featuring Arab TV listings is part of the plan.

ShooFeeTV was launched from Jordan; it was founded by entrepreneur Amjad Tadros. 
Accelerator Technology Holdings (ATH), through their IV Holdings arm, announced their investment in the startup earlier this year.

ShooFeeTV

Whizle, Simple Tool To Create & Share Guides, Tutorials & Plans

| September 8, 2008 – 1:22 pm | comment No Comments

WhizleWhizle is a new Dubai-based service, which has been in stealth mode for a while now, ironing out the little details here and there. It is a simple tool that aims to make creating guides and plans and then sharing them easy and straight-forward.

Making a guide or tutorial with Whizle is really simple: In creating a whizle, after inputting the title and purpose of the whizle, you go through a number of steps, these steps are made up of actions that you get to detail and resources that can be either uploaded files or some dynamic content from the web, like a video from YouTube or a photo from Flickr for example. 

The service provides two interfaces to create whizles and setup their details; one an interactive app called the whizlebuilder, and one a simple interface. Both come with WYSIWYG editors to help format inputted text.

Whizle screenshot

A little bookmarking tool called ‘Whizmark‘ is made available too, that can be added to your browser’s toolbar, to make it easier to directly post resources to Whizles you are working on.

Work is currently underway on a viewer that will allow users to easily embed their Whizles into their websites or blogs in order to share them with their readers.

The service is available in English only for the time being, and should come in very handy for anyone looking to create a simpleand easy guide, tutorial or plan.

Whizle

Dia Diwan, Your Gateway To Middle East Chic

| September 1, 2008 – 5:53 pm | comment 2 Comments

Dia DiwanDia Diwan is an online portal that offers the latest news on lifestyle and entertainment in the region; bringing the world of modern, chic, and cool to an audience of Middle Eastern women; also providing the possibility to shop online for fashion items and luxury goods is available through the portal as well.

Dia Diwan tries to position itself as a high-end multimedia experience, where interactive magazine-like content is coupled with shopping opportunities and blogs.

The portal aims to showcase all the interesting things going on in the region, whether it’s a new restaurant, a boutique, an artist or a designer; also trying to make sure that every cool product with a link to the Middle East can be bought online.

Dia Diwan

All the portals sections were designed with a Middle Eastern audience in mind:

Dia Daily: Reporters will bring daily news from the Middle East’s major cities: whether it’s a new designer in Jeddah, a spa in Amman, a restaurant in Beirut or an art gallery in Kuwait.

Dia Style: In-house stylists will make sure each week is different, with the best selection of international and regional fashion.

Global Souk: Bringing the best boutiques and designers online, showcasing one each month, and presenting a selection of their products online for sale, delivering anywhere in the Middle East.

Blogs: Experts from around the region will be blogging at least twice a month on topics of interest to readers; humorous serial bloggers Ms. Mishmaoul and Mr. X will write about being single in the Middle East today, and the Diw Diwan team will be sharing what they’ve been up to and what ideas they have up their sleeves.

Dia Diwan was launched in the spring of 2007 and is based in Beirut, Lebanon. The website is available in English only for the time being.

# Dia Diwan

Talfazat: Online Streaming Of Live And On-Demand Arabic TV Content

| August 25, 2008 – 7:54 pm | comment 5 Comments

TalfazatJumpTV and NeuLion, two leading providers of live and on-demand international and sports programming over the Internet, whose merger is pending apporval, just announced the launch of a new online service under the name of “Talfazat“, that delivers a large selection of live and on-demand Arabic television content.

Talfazat.com offers Arabs worldwide an opportunity to tune into their favorite live television channels or on-demand programs with a simple Internet connection. It features more than 35 of the most popular channels and thousands of hours of video-on-demand from leading Arabic content providers including Dubai TV, LBC, Aljazeera News, Aljazeera English, Rotana, Future TV, New TV, 2M and many others.

Talfazat.com is a subscription-based service that provides streaming of content to computers and laptops affording users one central place to access leading Arabic-language entertainment. The website displays a customized user experience, easy navigation, superior video quality and a comprehensive selection of popular content from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Talfazat

This online video network has been launched in conjunction with Ramadan, a holy month in the Islamic calendar. Talfazat offers over 800 hours of the most popular Ramadan shows and series.

Talfazat has exclusive IPTV rights to stream television programming to viewers globally and many of the channels are not offered anywhere else. In the coming months, Talfazat plans to launch a set-top-box that will allow viewers to watch live and on-demand content on the television in addition to the computer. Talfazat will be a multi-platform Arabic service.

Talfazat Packages range from US$15 to US$25 per month, depending on the plan, with offers for longer subscription periods. A Ramadan Promotion sees them offering one month free when a three month plan is purchased.

# Talfazat

Mafgod, A Service To Find Your Lost Or Stolen Items

| August 19, 2008 – 4:56 pm | comment No Comments

MafgodMafgod, is a really simple service from Saudi Arabia, with the aim of helping people find their lost or stolen items.

For the time being, the service is only available for users in Saudi Arabia, and only for lost or stolen mobile phones. Expansion to other types of goods and other countries should be part of future plans.

The way it works right now for mobile phones is really simple; users can sign up freely to the service, and input details about their mobile phones and include their phone’s serial number; creating an online database of mobile phones and their owners.

Owners can specify when and where they lost their mobile phone, as well as if they’ll be giving away a cash prize to whoever finds it and returns it to them.

When a mobile phone is lost and someone finds it, or when it is stolen and someone is offered to buy it, the person can go online to the website and search for that phone using its serial number to find the original owner and contact them to arrange returning it to them.

Owners can choose whether they want their identities to be public or not, and if they want to meet the person returning the phone or prefer that it be done through Mafgod; and the same goes for the person who finds the phone.

Mafgod screenshot

The interface is available in Arabic only for the time being, and is as simple and straightforward as the concept of the website itself. A mobile version is also available on mobile.mafgod.com

Mafgod was founded in Saudi Arabia by Mohamed Al Rehaili and officially launched in September 2006.
A patent covering the service’s owner property protection database concept was registered with the King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology.

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