Microsoft And LINKdotNET Launch New MSN Maghreb Portal

| Apr 24, 2008 | comment 5 Comments

Microsoft has launched a new French-language portal for its MSN service, called MSN Maghreb, geared towards the Arab Maghreb region which will provide the latest news and entertainment for users in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.

The project is a joint venture with LINKdotNET, a subsidiary of Orascom, with which they already launched MSN Arabia in the past, and who currently operate that portal and will operate this new one too.

MSN Arabia, which was launched back in October 2001, attracts around two million page views a day and 2.7 million Hotmail subscribers; and with MSN Maghreb, Microsoft and LINKdotNET are hoping to tap into the rest of the Arab population from the mainly Francophone North African Maghreb region, and of course by doing that, consequently get into local advertisers’ pockets.

The announcement was made by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Orascom board member Khaled Bichara at a press conference in Skhirat, Morocco, earlier today.

The new portal is accessible at www.maghreb.msn.com

restate.ae, Dubai Real Estate Portal

| Apr 24, 2008 | comment 4 Comments

restate.ae is a web real estate portal dedicated to freehold and leasehold properties in Dubai, with the goal to act as a hub and bring people with different real estate needs together, whether they’re looking to live in Dubai, invest in real estate or sell properties.

The portal has a very nice, simple and usable design, integrating a wealth of features put together to provide users with in-depth real estate solutions, customized and advanced search to find what exactly suits their needs, access to other users’ opinions, neighborhood ratings, videos of properties and projects, the possibility to join discussions with other users, as well as the latest real estate news in the UAE.

restate.ae also offers agencies the possibility to list all their properties on the website, and through an administration interface manage their profiles, their properties, and assign agents to them.

All properties agencies list on the portal are then automatically republished to Google Real Estate.

It’s obvious that with the huge real estate boom taking place in Dubai, restate.ae has a really important and useful job to do, making life easier for everyone approaching this market.

restate.ae was launched in 2007 by Web 2.0 consultancy company SpinBits, and all its services are currently free, both for users and agencies.

# restate.ae

Qaym, User Generated Restaurant Reviews

| Apr 23, 2008 | comment 2 Comments

Qaym is a Saudi based service, built around user reviews and social rating of restaurants and eateries from around the world, that just came out of private beta and launched publicly.

Users fully generate the content for the service through their contributions; Every restaurant gets a page, which shows the current user rating for it, tags that describe what the restaurant offers, a list of the countries and cities that restaurants has branches in, as well as reviews and photos submitted by users.

The way the content is organized, you not only get access to reviews of certain restaurants you want to check out before going to, but you can also access a directory-like listing of all restaurants, or of eateries in a certain country or city.

The idea behind it is quite simple and straight-forward, as is the interface and design, which makes it all the better and easier to use. The interface is in Arabic only for the time being.

Saudi Jihad al-Ammar is behind this project, he began working on it last year, and beta tested privately for a bit over 9 months before launching last week.

Loic Le Meur’s Ten Rules For Startup Success

| Apr 22, 2008 | comment 2 Comments

Loic Le Meur, for those who don’t already know him, is an accomplished French serial entrepreneur, most famous for the work he did with weblog hosting company uBlog which was later merged with Six Apart; he organizes the annual Le Web conference in France, and has now moved to Silicon Valley where he founded Seesmic.

A recent article in the Financial Times profiles him and publishes his set of ten rules for startup success, that come from his hands on experience and are very straight to the point and useful. The rules are reprinted below:

  1. Don’t wait for a revolutionary idea. It will never happen. Just focus on a simple, exciting, empty space and execute as fast as possible
  2. Share your idea. The more you share, the more you get advice and the more you learn. Meet and talk to your competitors.
  3. Build a community. Use blogging and social software to make sure people hear about you.
  4. Listen to your community. Answer questions and build your product with their feedback.
  5. Gather a great team. Select those with very different skills from you. Look for people who are better than you.
  6. Be the first to recognise a problem. Everyone makes mistakes. Address the issue in public, learn about and correct it.
  7. Don’t spend time on market research. Launch test versions as early as possible. Keep improving the product in the open.
  8. Don’t obsess over spreadsheet business plans. They are not going to turn out as you predict, in any case.
  9. Don’t plan a big marketing effort. It’s much more important and powerful that your community loves the product.
  10. Don’t focus on getting rich. Focus on your users. Money is a consequence of success, not a goal.

# Source: Financial Times

Darrb, Community Powered Shipping And Delivery

| Apr 22, 2008 | comment 4 Comments

Darrb is a new and interesting service launched from Dubai, UAE, that aims to solve people’s shipping needs, at better prices and faster than the conventional methods of shipping.

The idea behind Darrb, which means “way” in Arabic, is to build an online community around an auction based marketplace, that connects people willing to send items from one location to another, with people willing to deliver these items and earn an income as a return.
When users auction their deliveries, deliverers (Darrbers) compete with each other by offering the lowest price and fastest delivery time in order to win the bid. This will ensure that users get the best rates and fastest delivery service.

Payments are arranged outside the system between the sender and the deliverer for each delivery, but a rating and reputation system is integrated into the system to enable senders to rate the quality, price and speed of service of the deliverers once the shipping is done, and help other senders compare and choose which people to work with in the future.

Darrb is a free service for all parties for the time being; People can add delivery orders for free and Darrbers can offer their delivery services without any cost. They do plan to start charging membership fees for Darrbers in the future though, but still have no plans to start taking commissions from users.

Continue reading »

The Art Of The Start (Guy Kawasaki)

| Apr 21, 2008 | comment Leave a comment

The Art Of The StartMany books have been published, walking new entrepreneurs through their first steps of setting up and running their business, but not all of them come from someone like Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist at Apple Computer, current Venture Capitalist and successful entrepreneur who has been involved with several startups over the years.

In his book “The Art Of The Start“, as its name suggests, Guy talks about the art of starting a business and how each and every task at hand should be handled; from identifying your customer base and writing a business plan to raising capital and bootstrapping to recruiting, establishing partnerships and building brand identity.

‘The Art of the Start’ shares all the essential steps to launch great products, services, and companies, as well as the ways you can unleash the entrepreneurial thinking and creativity that can keep you ahead of the pack.

Kawasaki provides readers with GIST, Great Ideas for Starting Things, that include his field-tested insider techniques for bootstrapping, branding, networking, recruiting, pitching, rainmaking, and buzz building.

The book is a very handy resource for anyone starting a business, giving them a checklist of points they have to focus on and consider to get their startup off the ground, up and running.

At different points, it does feel like the book is targeting technology startups seeking venture capital a bit more than others, but for entrepreneurs in the Arab world who don’t have as much access to venture capital for the time being, the focus should be more on the lessons and less on the specific details in these parts of the book.

#Amazon : The Art Of The Start (Guy Kawasaki)

Markkit, Web 2.0 Text Highlighter

| Apr 21, 2008 | comment 8 Comments

Markkit is a very simple and straight-forward online service, yet a really useful and interesting one; It is, simply put, a web 2.0 text highlighter; it provides you with a bookmarklet that you can use whenever you need to highlight text in a web page: you simply click on the markkit bookmarklet, select the text you want to highlight, and voila it’s done. You don’t even need to create an account or anything.

An option is also provided for site owners to easily integrate a markkit button on their web pages to give their visitors the possibility to highlight text right away.

Users can then access a mark log to see all the latest highlighted texts by everyone, organized by day, or they can search through the archives of marked texts. The possibility to see highlighted texts by everyone actually gives it a bit of a social highlighting touch.
It’s still not possible to view only your highlights, as the functionality to create a user account that you can save your highlights to is still not available.

Markkit, which was launched by Tunisian Slim Amamou, is still in its early stages of development, and only works with Firefox for the time being.

I think it’s really interesting that we’re seeing these new really simple and unitary web tools popping up from the Arab world, addressing one problem and solving it in a really neat and effective way. It’s a sign Arab startups are maturing and realizing that they don’t have to be everything for the user, and that if they do one thing well enough then that is a success.

# Markkit

Filaty, Arab File And Photo Sharing Service

| Apr 19, 2008 | comment 8 Comments

Filaty (which means ‘My files’ in Arabic) is an online service that gives users the possibility to upload files and photos quickly for online storage and sharing. The service, which was launched by Egyptian Muhammad Abdul-Shakour Arab (Division Designs), and developed with Syrian Ali Jabr (Reverya Web Solutions), is still in public beta.

The service is completely free for everyone, in fact you don’t even need to create an account, you can start uploading right away. It allows unlimited uploads, files of up to 100MB each, photos of up to 15MB each, and to make things even easier, up to 15 concurrent photo uploads.

The main target of this service are bloggers and forum dwellers who need a quick place to upload the photos and files they want to post and share with others, but of course it is not limited to them only.

The interface is only in Arabic for the time being; it is very easy and straight-forward, with a simplistic and clean design.

Continue reading »

MBC2 Movies In Motion, Social Networking & Video Sharing

| Apr 19, 2008 | comment Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading »

Arabized WordPress 2.5 Released

| Apr 18, 2008 | comment Leave a comment

The Arabized version of WordPress 2.5 was finally released a few days ago on the official site for Arabic WordPress.

This release brings all the new changes and features of WordPress 2.5 to the Arab blogger community, from the completely overhauled admin area and dashboard, to the new media gallery, automatic plugin download & update, multi-file upload, tag management, and the better visual editor, to the more technical additions and enhancements under the hood.

Upgrading from earlier versions should be quite straightforward using the upgrade script. Still, it is recommended to backup before beginning the upgrade.

This version can be downloaded from the official Arabic WordPress site.

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