Watwet, Social Networking And Mini-Blogging Platform

| Apr 18, 2008 | 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

iBlog… iMedia, Arab Consumer Generated Media Conference

| Apr 17, 2008 | comment Leave a comment

casualPR, a leading PR agency that focuses on blogs and online media, just announced they’re organizing the first conference on consumer generated media in the Middle East in Amman Jordan on Sunday June 1st 2008.

This first edition of what they plan to make an Annual Consumer Generated Media Conference will be held under the theme “iBlog… iMedia”, aiming to highlight the role that blogs and social media is playing in changing the face of media.

The exact details on the program and who will be speaking at the event haven’t been announced yet, but according to the agenda, the conference will tackle the issues of new dialogue and the challenges it faces, social media: its realities, its relationship with the corporate world and its situation in the Arab world; incorporating a media and marketing perspective, with a focus on potentials and risks that brands and traditional media are facing with this growing medium.

“iBlog… iMedia aims to bring media and marketing professionals closer to Blogs, and to highlight the role that bloggers are playing in changing the face of the media” said Samer Marzouq, CEO of erabia, the mother company of casualPR.

The event is free for bloggers to attend, and requires a $100 registration fee for non-bloggers, which I think is a cool touch, even though I’m sure many people will start blogs just to get in free.
People interested in attending can already register online now.

# More: iBlog… iMedia, casualPR

UAE Leads MENA Region In E-readiness Ranking

| Apr 17, 2008 | comment 2 Comments

The newly released global e-readiness rankings published by the Economist Intelligence Unit, UAE leads the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in e-readiness this year, even though it dropped a couple of spaces from the year before.

The UAE came in at rank 35 in a list of 70 countries compared to 33 last year, the UAE scores 6.09 out of a possible 10, compared to a score of 6.22 in 2007. This puts it ahead of countries such as Turkey (rank 43), Saudi Arabia (46), Jordan (53), Egypt (57), Algeria (67) and Iran (70).
The United States has toppled Denmark to be at the top of the 2008 rankings.

E-readiness is a measure of the quality of a country’s information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and the ability of its consumers, businesses and governments to use ICT to their benefit.

“When a country uses ICT to conduct more of its activities, its economy can become even more transparent and efficient. The e-readiness rankings also allow governments to gauge the success of their ICT strategies against those of other countries, and provide companies wishing to invest overseas with an overview of the world’s most promising investment locations from the perspective of e-readiness,” the EIU said in a briefing paper released recently.

# Source: Zawya

Welcome To StartUpArabia

| Apr 16, 2008 | comment 27 Comments

First of all, I’d like to welcome everyone to StartUpArabia, which I’m officially launching today. There might still be some little details to work out here and there, but overall, I think it’s ready for me to share with you all.

I’ve been very busy working on this project recently, that I’m very passionate about, which I personally view as an important community project, and which I hope many people will want to get involved with.

StartUpArabia is a weblog dedicated to new Arab technology startups and services, profiling and reviewing them, providing interesting market news and information, and sharing tips and advice for the entrepreneurs behind them.

In addition to covering these new startups, existing services and companies that are making interesting new changes and big steps in the Arab world will be mentioned and discussed.

The idea and goal behind this project for me is to give a push to Arab entrepreneurs and the startups they’ve started by shedding the light on them and introducing them to a wider audience, and providing them with information that could come in very handy for them.

Another goal is to help promote a whole Arab startup culture that brings entrepreneurs, to-be-entrepreneurs and people who are interested in startups from the Arab region together, creating a better buzz, opening more doors, and really making the Arab world a new hub for creative ideas and projects.

Something my friend Isam Bayazidi said when he took the blog for a beta spin, and which I think portrays one of the main reasons behind me launching this project in the first place is that, and I’m paraphrasing here: It’s easier to hear and know about a newly launched one-man startup in San Francisco than an Arab startup that has been working hard for the two past years.

That is so true, we have many talented people who come up with very cool ideas and projects, some of them work on them and launch them from their own bedrooms or garages, some of them have a company behind them to support them a bit more, and they all do some really great work, but many people don’t even hear about them in the first place, they don’t get the chance nor the support to keep their projects going, and they end up by shutting them down. StartUpArabia aims to change all that.

I know the project sounds very ambitious, but believe me that’s only the beginning of what I have in mind and where I want to take this, and it’s all very possible. Up to now, I’ve had some very positive and encouraging feedback from the people I shared the project with.

Please do take the time to take a little tour of the blog, I’ve already put up a dozen or so interesting posts for you to read. If you have any ideas, thoughts, suggestions or anything at all, please do not hesitate to share them with me, they are more than welcome and will be greatly appreciated.

If you have any startups you’d like me to write about, please do share, so that we can spread the love even more and get more people covered and promoted.

Also if you come across any links or articles that could be interesting for others or if you want a certain topic to be covered, it’d be great if you could send them my way.

And finally, do not hesitate to link to StartUpArabia from your own blogs, it’ll be very much appreciated ;)

A Tour Of Arab Social Bookmarking Services

| Apr 14, 2008 | 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.

Arab Online Ad Spending To Grow To $142 Million By 2011

| Apr 13, 2008 | comment Leave a comment

According to a recent study by Madar Research, online ad spending in the Arab region is expected to grow to $142 million by the end of 2011.

Madar looked at the Arab regions of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Levant countries bordering the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, leaving out the Arab countries in North Africa.

The company said that marketers in the GCC countries spent less than 5% of their overall ad budgets on online media in 2006 and that online ad spending there represented less than 1% of the global total.

Companies in the region generally say they can still reach their target audiences without campaigning online.

Aviation travel and hospitality accounted for almost a quarter of online ad spending in the GCC-Levant countries in 2006, at $4.68 million. Banking and finance companies in the region spent $3.28 million on online ads in 2006.

The growth rate averaged of more than 50 per cent took place over the past six years. However, by end of 2006, online ad spending in GCC-Levant raised 54.6 per cent from the previous year that cost $18.71 million. Marketers saw this development as a promising sign that will push online ad spending to break the 1 percent share in the overall advertising market in the upcoming years.

# Sources: eMarketer, mediaME

How To Evaluate A New Product Idea

| Apr 12, 2008 | comment Leave a comment

Evan Williams, the founder of Blogger, Odeo and Twitter, wrote some time ago about trying to find a more structured way to evaluate product ideas and determine whether they will be successful or not.

It’s a very interesting post, that is really worth reading. Here I’ll be listing the main points, and the main questions you have to ask yourself when evaluating your product, and will leave you to read the details on his blog.

The main points and questions you have to consider in your product / service evaluation are:

Tractability: How difficult will it be to launch a worthwhile version 1.0?

Obviousness: Is it clear why people should use it?

Deepness: How much value can you ultimately deliver?

Wideness: How many people may ultimately use it?

Discoverability: How will people learn about your product?

Monetizability: How hard will it be to extract the money?

Personally Compelling: Do you really want it to exist in the world?

Read the full post in detail here: Will it fly? How to Evaluate a New Product Idea

Akhtaboot, Online Career Network

| Apr 11, 2008 | 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

| Apr 10, 2008 | 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.

Common Sense Business (Steve Gottry)

| Apr 9, 2008 | comment Leave a comment

Common Sense Business (Steve Gottry)As a small business that’s still making its first steps in the world, every startup needs as much advice and assistance as possible on how to move forward, what to expect, how to grow the business and what problems to avoid.

Steve Gottry’s book “Common Sense Business : Starting, Operating, and Growing Your Small Business–In Any Economy” is one of those books that does just what its title says, guiding any budding entrepreneur through the different stages of his startup’s life.

The book is a pretty light and very interesting read; in it the author pulls from his business experience and the ups and downs he’s been through to share the knowledge he accumulated and the different lessons he learned with the reader.

Gottry guides the reader through the six stages of the small-business “life cycle,” from dreaming and planning through the practical stages of implementation and growth. He advises on how to capitalize on your own personal strengths in relation to employees, customers, and vendors. He also shows how to structure your day, remain sane, and keep your business alive without drowning in it and becoming a workaholic.

In clear, direct writing style with quite an inspirational tone, Gottry’s advice is well organized and sincere; From implementation to growth, to preservation and evolution, to downsizing, he includes specific how-to’s, which explain the different aspects of running a business day in, day out.

It’s a really good read and practical guide based on real personal experience, which makes it very useful for any person planning to launch a business or already running one.

It would’ve been an even better book, in my opinion, if it got into a bit more detail on the initial phases of business concept creation and the launch details, but it still is worth the read.

# Amazon: Common Sense Business (Steve Gottry).

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