Archive for the ‘Jordan’ Category

MailPacks Email Marketing Service Launches Private Beta

| September 5, 2009 – 9:00 pm | comment No Comments

MailPacksMailPacks, a new online service that enables companies and organizations to manage and send their email marketing campaigns, has just gone live with its private beta.

MailPacks promises low prices for sending email campaigns and a free tracking and follow-up system to measure the effectiveness of sent campaigns and set up follow up messages.

Using the service, email marketers can create and manage unlimited lists of email addresses, for example having lists for multiple tasks and/or lists for different sites.
When sending they can also choose to send to selected segments and target specific subscribers according to their countries, age, and/or sex.

They also have full control over the design side, as they can fully customize all landing pages with their text and design, and use an integrated HTML editor to create and design their HTML email messages as well as their custom pages. (MailPacks provides unlimited image hosting space.)
A set of pre-designed and tested templates are also made available.

Once done with the design of the message, the spam score for it can be checked, so that the message can be optimized in order to get higher deliverability.

After the email campaign is sent, marketers can keep track of the campaign’s results (opens, clicks, bounces …etc.), and set up unlimited follow up messages at the intervals of their choice.

To be sent an invitation code for MailPacks, you need to send a message to the MailPacks twitter account (@MailPacks) with a small request.

MailPacks was founded by Mamod Mehyar from Jordan, who is also behind Feedoor, that was previously reviewed here.

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.

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.]

Wheels Express, Another Take At E-Commerce In Jordan

| August 23, 2009 – 7:45 pm | comment 5 Comments

Wheels ExpressWheels Express is a newly launched Jordanian e-commerce portal, taking another hit at cracking the e-commerce nut in the Arab world.

The company’s activity lies somewhere between an online shopping portal and an offline delivery service; providing a catalog of products covering DVDs, books, magazines, t-shirts, tickets, snacks, pre-paid mobile cards and more; and delivering orders directly to your doorstep in Amman (within the 12 daily delivery hours).

Users get to sign up and put in their orders, which for most types of products should be delivered within an hour, if within the 12 hours of service, with payment in cash upon delivery.

Wheels Express

Wheels Express does not keep a stock of its own. What it does is list products provided by third party stores, and then acting as the middle-man; handling the order, delivery and payment process.

Wheels Express was founded by a Ibrahim Manna’, Ibrahim Al-Mani and Mohamed Al-Mani.

The web solution was developed by the new Jordanian web company Ideation Box.

TweetShell, A Web Based Shell Interface For Twitter

| August 15, 2009 – 10:23 am | comment 2 Comments

TweetShellTweetShell is a fun, in a geeky kind of way, new Twitter web application that provides a command line interface for users who are more comfortable working in the shell environment.

The site’s idea is to provide a way to use everyday shell commands to interact with twitter. So for starters, users might want to run a man command to discover the available commands and how they work within the twitter context.

TweetShell is still in early alpha and doesn’t cover all Twitter functionalities yet, but it very nicely covers the most basic ones, enabling the viewing of user timelines (using directory commands like cd and ls), tweeting (using wall), logging in to your Twitter account (using the ssh command) and more.

TweetShell

The site’s tag line is quite a fun one as well: “You know, in linux they say everything is a file. In TweetShell everything is a tweet!!”

Tweetshell is a creation of Monther AbuShaikh from Jordan, who is also CTO at Ikbis, the popular video and photo sharing service.

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.]

BberryApp.com Releases Free “Forward, Reply & Edit” BlackBerry Application

| August 6, 2009 – 1:23 pm | comment 7 Comments

BberryApp.com is a new Jordanian startup, that specializes in Blackberry application development, both as a service for clients with specific needs, as well as with products for the general market.

They just released their first public application for Blackberry Smartphones called “Forward, Reply and Edit” on August 2nd 2009. This application integrates with your BlackBerry messages and allows you to do exactly what its name suggests: open an email message, choose ‘Forward & Edit’ or ‘Reply & Edit’ from the menu and be able to change any of the content in the email before sending it.

“Forward, Reply and Edit” has seen very good success in the few days since it’s been out with over 3,500 downloads so far.

Forward, Reply & Edit

You can download the application for free here: Forward, Reply & Edit. To activate the software, all you need to do is send an email to a friend letting them know about the application too.

According to people who have tested the application, the only downside of this application is that you cannot use it with emails that have attachments, as it strips off the attachments when editing. But that is also the case of other paid solutions that do similar tasks.

BberryApp.com was founded by Adey Salamin, Razi Al Qasem and Tariq Shadid from Jordan.

[Application screenshot courtesy of BerryReview]

Tweepi, A Set Of Tools To Help Manage Your Twitter Account

| August 5, 2009 – 10:55 am | comment 2 Comments

TweepiTweepi is another project that has popped up from the Arab world to cater to the ever-growing group of Twitter users around the world, presenting a set of simple tools to help users manage their following and followers lists.

The site has started off with four different tools:

Geeky Follow: This tool helps you find users who share the same interests as you and whom you might be interested in following. The way it works is that it asks for the handle of a Twitter user that you like, and it goes and gets a list of people who follow that user too, with their details, so you can see who of them you’d like to follow too.

Geeky Flush: This is for the more sensitive Twitter users who don’t like it when they follow someone and they don’t follow them back. So this tool simply enables you to unfollow people who aren’t following you back.

Geeky Reciprocate: This is the flip side to the previous tool, allowing users to find users who are following them but that they’re not following back, so that they can start following them quickly.

Geeky Cleanup: This tool enables you to go through the list of users you are following to identify users you might want to unfollow, like spammers, inactive users or the likes.

Tweepi screenshot

The tools come with Preset Target filters that help you filter the list of users to better identify the users you want to follow or unfollow, depending on the tool. They also show you a number of different indicators for each user like how many tweets they’ve sent within the last week, how many RTs they’ve gotten, how many replies and RTs they’ve sent themselves, …etc. It’s possible to customize and choose which of these indicators are shown as columns in the result set.

The site uses oAuth to link with your Twitter account and be able to perform the different actions it needs to do following your choices on the system.

Tweepi was built by ThoughtPick from Jordan, and is still in its beta version.

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.

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