Archive for the ‘Startups’ Category

MBC2 Movies In Motion, Social Networking & Video Sharing

| April 19, 2008 – 7:51 am | comment No Comments

Media companies in the Arab world don’t usually have much more than a standard website/portal with which they mark their presence and just showcase their programme alongside a bit of content here and there; but in one of the Arab world’s first moves of its kind, the Saudi media giant MBC Group, which is based in Dubai Media City, has gone on and launched a major online service called ‘Movies In Motion‘ in association with the Dubai International Film Festival.

The service is available in English and Arabic and is really well built and pretty rich in features, mainly revolving around social-networking and video-sharing.

Users get to put together their network of friends; join or create groups around which communities can be built; they can list their favorite Movies, Actors and Directors; post articles, gossip, news, …etc; have access to reviews of movies playing on the MBC channels and the possibility to comment on them.

Another important part of the service is the video sharing one, where users get to upload and rate their own short movies, that could earn them prizes like the Nokia N95 and get their short movies played on MBC2; another possibility is to play around with current MBC on air promotions creating their own mashups.


Watwet, Social Networking And Mini-Blogging Platform

| April 18, 2008 – 11:30 am | comment 12 Comments

Watwet is a new Arab social networking and mini-blogging platform, quite similar to Twitter, that was launched in December 2007 by the TootCorp team, who brought us services like the photo and video sharing site Ikbis and blog aggregator Toot in the past.

The concept is very simple: Using watwet you can post short messages (watwets) updating your status, through which you can stay in touch with your friends. These watwets can be posted from the web or by sending SMS to Watwet. These updates are then shown to your friends on the Watwet website, as well as sent to them by email and SMS.
You can also send your friend direct private messages too or whispers (Washwishes) as they call them.

Watwet doesn’t stop at short text messages though, it goes even further supporting photos, that can also be uploaded through the web interface or sent by MMS.

The website is well designed, pretty straight-forward and easy to use, and work is currently underway on an AIR based desktop client. The only two points I found a bit inconvenient are that users’ timelines, their lists of updates, are only accessible to registered users even if they choose for them to be public in their privacy settings; and the public timeline (updates from all users) can only be seen if you logout.

The service is available in both English and Arabic, and is open to users from all over the world, although the SMS service is only available in Jordan for Zain subscribers now. Not sure when they’ll be expanding to other operators around the Arab world.

Something I think Watwet should do though is open up their system a bit, either through an API or through modules they develop themselves to enable users both to pull information from Watwet onto their own blogs/websites/services and push updates from other services to Watwet automatically.

For more on how to use Watwet, you can take the Watwet tour.

# Watwet

A Tour Of Arab Social Bookmarking Services

| April 14, 2008 – 9:52 pm | comment 9 Comments

As is the case all over the world with social bookmarking sites popping up everywhere, the Arab world is no different, with a bunch of such services all over the place.

Instead of reviewing each and everyone of them on their own, only to say more or less the same stuff over and over again, I thought I’d group them all into one post, giving a general idea of the present scene, who was first, who is the latest, who the leaders are, and who is innovating most.

According to my records, the first Arab social bookmarking site was Wapher, which chose to be specific and revolve around tech oriented content and articles no matter the language of the content, English or Arabic, even though the site’s interface is entirely in Arabic.

After that, I’m not sure anyone can tell which service came before the other, but the one I ran into next was Darabet, which seemed to be the most user-friendly back then, explaining what the whole website is about, how it works, the idea behind it and all. Other than that, the content is mainly in Arabic, as is the interface; it’s a general bookmarking site with a bunch of categories ranging from politics and technology, to sports, business and video.

One of the newest to break into the scene is Khabbr, who seem to be the best funded, launched mid last year with a number of ads on a number of high profile Arab websites. It too is a general site, with a number of categories, and with mostly Arabic content. They go a bit further enabling surfing by tag, pulling the most popular videos and links, and offering the possibility to view popular links from previous days as well. They’ve also just launched a facebook application that enables users to share their favorite bookmarks and news on their profile page, giving their friends and contacts access to them and the possibility to vote on them too.

According to stats from Alexa, confirming my feeling, the previous three services are the leaders in the Arab social bookmarking arena; with very close traffic numbers.

Along with these front runners, come a bunch of other services like: Efleg, Ef7at and Hffar; who more or less do the same thing and provide the same functionalities. Among these three, Efleg is the best designed and the one that seems to be backed by a company: Saudi Remal IT.

Most of these services seem to be technically built using open-source Digg clone: Pligg.

Akhtaboot, Online Career Network

| April 11, 2008 – 3:01 pm | comment 4 Comments

Many Arab startups have given online job search/recruiting a go over the past years, with different levels of success. The latest addition to these job sites is Akhtaboot, which sells itself as a career network, and not just another simple job site.

Launched in public beta last year, Akhtaboot (Arabic for Octopus) describe themselves as an “online career network that is committed to providing a user-friendly way of linking the right person to the right career opportunity.”
They were initially set up to serve the Jordanian market, but now plan to serve as a career network for the whole Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

So basically, Akhtaboot takes a more networked approach to career building, giving job seekers the possibility to build their online CVs and profiles, including even a video; look for and apply to available jobs on the website; take the Myers-Briggs� MBTI personality test; as well as build their professional network of business contacts. On the other hand, employers can post their job openings and target specific communities to get more relevant applicants.

Akhtaboot also offers a number of training courses, in Jordan only for the time being, through what it calls a ‘Career Center’; the training courses cover several topics, including HR, Project Management, Marketing and Internal Audit courses.

The design is pretty nice, and the interface is quite straight-forward, although the many different steps you have to go through to setup your account details leaves you feeling it could be a bit better organized to become even more usable.

Overall, a really good effort, with a number of interesting features, worth checking out.

# Akhtaboot

Questler, Online Learning And Knowledge Sharing Network

| April 10, 2008 – 9:34 am | comment 3 Comments

QuestlerQuestler is a new online service that was launched into public beta a few months ago and which has an interesting social networking approach to acquiring and sharing knowledge online.

The idea of the website stems from the belief that everyone is a learner, seeking to know more about certain topics of interest to them, and that a free-space interactive approach between different individuals is the best way to learn, share knowledge and collaboratively create ideas.

So in other words, the goal is to try to tap into the collective knowledge of the crowd to acquire and share knowledge.

Questler users can put together a learning network by inviting and constructing a list of their contacts, as well as finding other individuals who share their same interests on the site.

Together they can use the service to start conversations about those topics and engage in knowledge sharing through posting their quests and discoveries on different subjects.

The interface is really simple and clear; well designed; well organized and straight to the point. I really like their simple logo and visual identity too.
It’s in English only for the time being; no work on if they’ll be adding Arabic soon.

It’s a really interesting approach and service, worth checking out for your quest for knowledge online.

Halal Exchange, Marketplace For Global Halal Trade

| April 6, 2008 – 9:30 pm | comment No Comments

Halal Exchange, a unique e-commerce platform aimed at facilitating global Halal trade, will make UAE the preferred hub of the $2.1 trillion-a-year global Halal market (according to Malaysian government estimates in 2007).

With UAE ideally positioned through its infrastructure and telecommunication network and its growing significance as one of the largest re-export centers in the world, Halal Exchange will facilitate the growth of Halal trade, both within the Middle East as well as globally.

Powered by vLinx, a web-based solution, which addresses the challenges of global sourcing, the Halal Exchange makes the costly and complex import-export process as simple as doing business across the street. The Exchange will provide a seamless business platform for the larger retailers and distributors as well as the small and medium-sized companies, which are currently responsible for nearly 80 per cent of the global Halal transactions.

Headquartered in the UAE, Halal Exchange is a joint venture between vLinx Inc. and RAK Investment Authority. The service is free of charge� and accessible to registered clients anywhere in the world.

# Site: Halal Exchange
# Source: Mena Report

LEBConnection, Access To Lebanese People And Projects

| April 5, 2008 – 8:41 pm | comment No Comments

Newly launched LEBConnection is a business oriented social networking service that caters directly to the specific everyday needs of the Lebanese people around the world: finding jobs, promoting people and projects in the Lebanese community and finding housing.

The project started a year and a half ago while co-founder Patrick Sayegh was staying in Paris and various parts of France, and was exposed to the difficulties many Lebanese faced in getting jobs in French companies even if they were qualified for them.

So the idea was to create a platform that enabled Lebanese people all around the world to tap into their extended network of contacts to identify connections who can help them take advantage of certain business opportunities they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

LEBConnection provides an intuitive interface that enables users to easily build their network of connections through importing contacts from other accounts as well as easily sending invitations to their friends and acquaintances. Information on the site can be accessed in many ways, and the search engines have broad or narrow searches to look for people or jobs according to specific criteria.

On one hand, businesses and people can post ads on the website, to their network of connections as well as to the whole community, about their open job opportunities, projects and deals; and on the other hand, users can search for these opportunities as well as contacts they have in certain companies and places who can help them in getting jobs, deals or resources.

An internal email system LEB mail is built into the system to enable the sharing of information between contacts.

The service is a free one, and the interface is in English and French for the time being with the possibility of adding Spanish as its next language.

# LEBConnection

Pressera, Online Newspaper & Magazine Hosting

| April 4, 2008 – 7:48 pm | comment No Comments

PresseraPressera are a Lebanese online publishing service that offers an easy and interesting solution for Arab newspapers and magazines to take their publications online.

There isn’t much detail on their website about the setup phase, but they promise it is an easy process, and that the service is 100% automated, enabling newspapers and magazines to publish online daily, and have their publications viewable through a fully customized viewer panel.

Newspapers and magazines from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar and Syria are currently using the service.

The publications are available for free to all readers through custom subdomains of the Pressera website; they can also download them in pdf format.

It seems like quite an easy and interesting solution for offline publications that want to extend their readership and offer their content online, although it’s a shame that the content isn’t in an indexable and searchable format.

Mezed, Product Auctions Differently

| April 1, 2008 – 10:34 pm | comment 1 Comment

MezedMezed is a Tunisian auction site that recently surfaced into the arena of online startups in Tunisia.

A number of Tunisian websites have already attempted to try and push through the idea of online auctions in Tunisia, get it popular, and attempt to make some money out of it. Examples off the top of my head are sites like: MoncefBay and EchriBay.
A lot of these services hang on for a while before fading away into Tunisian internet history. It just seems that the auction model just hasn’t taken off and worked up to now, for one reason or another.

Websites that approach the whole buying/selling thing through small classified ads seem to be doing a little better maybe, but nothing big enough to come close to real e-commerce yet.

Back to Mezed, they take on a new and different approach to the whole auctions system, taking out the sellers and auctioning off partner products themselves. Their system revolves solely around buyers competing to get the auctioned product at a cheap price.


Seamler, Personalized Arabic Startpage

| April 1, 2008 – 10:00 pm | comment No Comments

SeamlerSeamler is one of the first Arab services that followed the steps of Netvibes, launching a personalized startpage for the Arab world.

The interface is entirely in Arabic, and is very much like Netvibe’s earlier versions, with the same level of usability and interface basics.

Users can customize their startpage, or actually create several pages, using blocks of content, from a list of selected sites and blogs spanning several different themes; they can also add blocks that pull their content from RSS feeds of the user’s choice.

In addition to the content blocks, there are a few widgets users can throw onto their pages like clock, calculator, weather info, sticky notes, flickr and gmail widgets.

Seamler initially launched back in September 2006, and haven’t really done much to evolve the service, add new widgets or even other content sources ever since, and other Arab websites and portals have caught up adding the same startpage idea with richer features and more options.

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