ArabNet discusses startups, highlights trends and launches Entrepreneur pitches

Press release
Published March 24th, 2011 - 01:34 GMT
ArabNet calls on Arab entrepreneurs to take risks and be creative
ArabNet calls on Arab entrepreneurs to take risks and be creative

ArabNet Shift Digital Summit, the largest gathering for the Arab web/mobile industry launched its Entrepreneur pitches at its first forum day.

The ArabNet Shift Digital Summit brings together Arab web executives, entrepreneurs, developers, investors, NGOs and media, to discuss the latest trends and technologies in the sector.

The Ideathon pitches aim at turning bright ideas into functional products. Selected finalists from around the region were given the chance to present their idea in two minutes in front of investors, incubators, and developers. The top three ideas (selected from hundreds of qualified entries from around the region) will receive big cash prizes and support in building prototypes of their ideas!

Abraham Kamarack, from Qatar, presented ‘visualize Bookmark,’ which helps organize the information on the web and the bookmarks in a visual way.

Alla Khalifeh, from Egypt, pitched his Presto-wireless internet access, a software that speeds up internet connection by allowing the usage of both wireless and 3G connection at the same time.

For Saudi women, specifically those interested in buying lingerie, Alexandra Tohme presented her idea of launching a page that democratizes access to lingerie for women in Saudi Arabia. The page allows women to choose their lingerie and delivers it to their doors.

Evelyn Zoubi, from Jordan pitched her eCloset, a virtual wardrobe application that allows women to pick clothes from international ships and match them with their closet by simply rolling on their touchpad.

An online video library for schools in the Middle East, specifically the UAE, was the idea Mohd Samah Al Sheikh pitched. The library includes videos explaining the curricula for a rate of USD 0.5 per day per subject.

Tariq Jaber pitched a gifting website,, which offers ideas for gifting in pleasant occasions.

TJ Quinn, an American living in Egypt, introduced his idea for a mobile app based on tourism game. The app promotes tourism by helping people discover cities.

Online on Skype, Palestinian Shadi salameh, introduced, a platform that helps suppliers (retail and wholesale) to sell their products or services online.

Sherif Maktabi pitched, a community portal that helps stimulate happiness others for a better lifestyle.

Attieh Almatrafi from Saudi Arabia also presented his informative website on loans, car rent rules and regulations. 

Fostering Entrepreneurship

As incubation programs and seed stage investments have become topics of intense interest, with the rising success of programs like Seedcamp, Ycombinator, Oasis 500, and others,  ArabNet organized a panel on Fostering entrepreneurships with panelists from the above companies discussing the elements of thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.

National Net Ventures CEO, Rashid al Balla, pointed out the challenges entrepreneurs face after finding the idea and team. He said they face the challenges of infrastructure, immaturity, marketing, catering the idea to customers abroad, and monetization and added that there are no best practices to make an accelerator succeed.

Ahmad Alfi, Internet Venture Market Leader, referred to the change in Egypt post January 25. “People in the MENA region are known for taking risks, why do we worry about starting a company.”

He highlighted the importance of nurturing culture and filing vacuums responsibly with positive energy.

Dr.Osama Fayyad, executive chairman of Oasis 500, said this was the best time to invest in the arab world, “it is very exciting, and we should do something in the internet revolution,” he said.

His company has set a goal to support 500 startups in 5 years, and highlighted the importance of training entrepreneurs, as it will help in discovering the personalities of entrepreneurs and identifying their bad flags which later help in making the right decision on whether to support their startups or not.

Fayyad also called on entrepreneurs to take into account the advice of the “people who have been there.”

Reshema Sohoni, CEO of Seedcamp, said the most valuable thing her company gives to entrepreneurs is networking and explained that choosing entrepreneurs to support start with a selection process from online applications, judged by the investors.

Gideon simeloff, Head of Ibtikar, Twofour54, said the most important thing his company gave to entrepreneurs was the funding.

The panelists agreed that successive filtering of the applicants depends not only on the idea but on the person, his personality, passion and ability to work.

One of the reasons behind the failure of entrepreneurs, Fayyad said is that there is no specific reason as it was a matter of uncertainty luck and discipline, while Balla said that discipline was the basic reason.

He also called on Arab entrepreneurs to be creative as 53% of startups in the US were started by foreigners. “They are not smarter,” he said.

Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets

On entrepreneurship in emerging markets, ArabNet launched a session with Peter Kellner, Co-founder, Endeavor Global, Founder and Managing Partner, Richmond global and Najam Kidawi, Partner, Edgee Venture Capital, Founder and Former CEO, Real Time Content.

The panelists called on emphasizing on higher education and bringing entrepreneurs to college students.

According to Kellner and Kidawi, the Arab world lacks Arabic contents and said developing applications in Arabic would be good for the region.

“There are a massive chance those startups from emerging markets will become leaders just like Silicon valley,” Kidawi said, giving ‘InMobi’ as a leading example.

Kellner, however, said change would come into the Middle East only when regulations are amended and called on all regulators to relook into transaction and labor laws.

“It can’t take me 6 months to launch a startup and a year to close it,” he said, “I can’t be penalized for failing,” he added.

European Startup Trends

Mike Butcher, Editor, TechCrunch Europe presented the European startup trends. He described the world of startups and entrepreneurships as “revolutionary;” however, the speed of innovation is hampered by distance. Thus, it is better to cluster companies in specific places, he advised.

According to Butcher, the most popular trends in Europe are the European accelerators, Groupon clones, startups focusing on culture (arts, fashion), mobile applications innovation, and launching platforms like ‘tweetdeck.’

Background Information


ArabNet is a leading events, insights and innovation programs focused on tech business and innovation in the MENA region.

We organize major conferences for the tech sector in Dubai, Riyadh, Kuwait and Beirut; publish news and analysis of the sector in our online news portal and produce original research and reports focused on the sector; and organize custom-tailored innovation programs for corporates and governments.


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