Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

Third Edition Of MIT Arab Business Plan Competition Launched

| October 12, 2009 – 8:32 pm | comment No 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. It also brings to the Arab world all the MIT expertise in entrepreneurship and in running such competitions.

The equivalent of the MIT Arab Business Plan Competition in Boston is called the MIT 100K Entrepreneurship Competition and has created a number of leading firms and thousands of jobs.

The Launching Ceremony for the 3rd MIT Arab Business Plan Competition is taking place tonight (October 12th) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at the Four Seasons Hotel. The event will include an address from Mr. Hussein Shobokshi (President, Shobokshi Development & Trading; Managing Director, Okaz Printing and Publishing), in addition to testimonials from last year’s winning teams.

The website is open now for registration by interested candidates. They are required to fill the online application form consisting of a series of questions that summarize their business idea and the means of implementing it.

The deadline for submitting applications is Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 23:59 GMT.

The competition is open to all Arab nationals with a business idea, with the only requirement being to be part of a team, with each team comprising of minimum 3 individuals, of which at least 2 should be citizens of the Arab world. The business concept put forward by the team should also be implemented in a country within the Arab world.

Thirty teams will qualify for the second round of the competition, and invited to Beirut to attend a one-day workshop lead by Ken Morse, Managing Director of MIT Entrepreneurship Center in Cambridge, MA; and designated a mentor who can help with developing their business plan.

After they submit their full business plans, only 9 make it to the final round and invited to Cairo to give oral presentations of their business plans; with 3 winning teams to be selected and announced during the awards ceremony.

All entrepreneurs interested can go to the competition’s website and Apply Now.

# MIT Arab Business Plan Competition

Talasim One Of Six Winners At Seedcamp Week 2009

| September 26, 2009 – 2:54 am | comment No Comments

SeedcampSeedcamp has announced the six winners of this year’s edition of Seedcamp Week, after an intense week of mentoring in London by a diverse mentor, investor and entrepreneur network.

TalasimAmong the six winners 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.

Each of the six winning teams will be receiving a €50k investment from Seedcamp and active support over the next three months to help develop their products and companies. In return Seedcamp should be taking a stake worth between 5-10% of each company.

These next three months will be spent in London, with the winning teams working with the Seedcamp team on building the product and company together, and with the teams 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 these three months, the groups will also have an opportunity to take advantage of the same group of experts that participated in the Seedcamp week 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.

The other 5 winners are: Boxed Ice (UK), Brainient (Romania), Codility (Poland), Erply (Estonia) and Patients Know Best (UK).

Google Launches Egabat New Arabic Questions & Answers Service

| September 8, 2009 – 9:00 pm | comment 16 Comments

Google EgabatGoogle is officially announcing the launch of a new service for the Arab world, under the name Google Egabat (meaning Google Answers in Arabic), in an event now taking place in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Dubai, UAE.

As the name suggests the product is a questions and answers service, a community-driven knowledge market site that allows users to both submit questions to be answered and answer questions asked by other users.

But unlike the now defunct Google Answers, which shut down in December 2006, where asker-accepted answers used to cost $2 to $200, Google Egabat deploys a reputation and incentive system, giving members the chance to earn points along the way, as a means to encourage participation.

While using the service, rating answers, and other tasks on the service users get to accumulate points in their account that they can use to ask questions of their own, assigning a number of those points to be transferred to the person who gives the best answer.

In parallel users also accumulate reputation points that are assigned to them depending on the good questions or answers they post on the service, according to the votes by the other users. Each user’s expertise level is based on the number of reputation points they were able to accumulate, going through nine different levels, ranging from newbie to scientist.

Google Egabat

Upon signing up to the service users get 20 free points in their account that they can spend on asking questions and 10 points in reputation points. Each action from just visiting the site to answering to rating brings its own rewards in terms of points. The details for the points system can be found here (in Arabic).

Questions are broken down and organized by categories, sub-categories, and tags, to make them easier for people to find and access answers to.

Similar services by Google are also currently available in two other markets: Russia (since June 2007) and China (with Tianya, a Chinese community website, as Tianya Answers).

The service can be accessed through or; covering both possible ways to write the word.

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]

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:, 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: Headed by Ronaldo Mouchawar; Established in 2005, 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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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 14 Comments

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, 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 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:, 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 division ever since the beginning of 2009, and therefore haven't been able to report on this story any earlier.]

Active Facebook Users In Middle East & North Africa

| August 19, 2009 – 4:24 pm | comment 8 Comments

FacebookA newly released study by O’Reilly Research, focusing on the numbers of active Facebook users around the world by country and region (August 2009), shows the following numbers coming out of the Middle East & North Africa:

  • 8.3% of active Facebook users come from the Middle East & North Africa, representing a 7.9% penetration.
  • The number of users under 25 years of age represent 60% of active Facebook users in the region.
  • Fastest growth in user adoption in the region is in the 55+ age group.
  • Male users outnumber Female users, with 59% of the user base being male, and 35% Female. (The difference consists in the users who declined to state their gender.)
  • Among the Arab countries, the top 10 countries in active Facebook user numbers are:
    • Egypt (1,820,000)
    • Saudi Arabia (920,000)
    • Morocco (860,000)
    • UAE (840,000)
    • Tunisia (690,000)
    • Lebanon (680,000)
    • Jordan (490,000)
    • Kuwait (220,000)
    • Qatar (160,000)
    • Palestine (150,000)

facebook active MENA users

The numbers were determined based on user IP addresses for location, as well as user supplied demographics (age, gender, etc.)

For more details and numbers, you can check out the O’Reilly presentation: Active Facebook Users By Country & Region: August 2009.

Seedcamp Week 2009 – Applications Now Open

| July 23, 2009 – 12:28 pm | comment No Comments

SeedcampSeedcamp Week is an intensive week-long event held in London every September and is targeted at young entrepreneurs from across EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).

Applications are submitted online and based on these, a judging committee will select up to 20 teams to participate in the event.

The focus of this week is around providing an incredible experience for the 20 selected teams. There is a diverse mentor network of serial entrepreneurs, corporates, product designers, venture capitalists, recruiters, marketing specialists, lawyers and accountants that help the selected 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.

At the end of the week the funding decision will be made to invest up to €50K each in 5 teams for a small equity stake (5%-10%). (Sometimes, more than 5 teams are selected.)

The funding amount is purposely kept low enough that teams do not have to give away a large portion of their companies. The idea is to take enough money to develop a great product and build towards a higher valuation. As such preferred stock, board rights, or other rights often required by institutional investors are not asked for.

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.

The provided funding covers the teams’ move to London for at least three months, in which they are also provided access to services worth 2-3 times the invested €50K. The goal of this 3-month period is to help grow and nurture the teams by providing the same level of intensity and 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 from scaling the business to raising further funding to M&A. Additionally, during the three months, assistance will be provided with all the paperworkto set up a company properly.

Six weeks into the project, a Demo Day is held where teams can show their products to the other groups from Seedcamp and a select group of investors. And eleven weeks into the project, an Investor Day is held where startups can present to potential investors.

For those interesting in knowing more about Seedcamp, check out the Seedcamp website; and those who want to apply can use this Seedcamp application form.

From the Arab region, Content Syndicate participated in Seedcamp Week 2007 and was nominated as one of the top 10 startups out of 260 participating startups from 40 countries.

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:

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]

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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