Mar 29 2010

Arab Net 2010 has achieved its goal

On Friday March 26, 2010, the first international conference for the Arab web industry ended with the triumphant closing notes of founder Omar Christidis. Over 600 attendees, 25,000 virtual attendees and 40 top-notch speakers from across the MENA, Europe, and Silicon Valley all came together to make this event a resounding success.

Under the Patronage of His Excellency Mr. Saad Hariri, President of the Council of Ministers of Lebanon, and in collaboration with the Central Bank of Lebanon, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Lebanon, and the Arab ICT Organization (IJMA3), ArabNet brought together global and regional leaders to discuss cutting-edge trends and emerging opportunities in web content, services and applications.

A dedicated team of geeks, coders and designers, led by Communications and Technology Director Samer Karam, developed the live micro-site www.live.arabnet.me where live tweeting, live illustrations and live voting were featured. Syrian Entrepreneurs and ArabNet Media Partners Beshr Kayyali and Mohammad Saleh Kayali from hyperlinkpodcast.com, helped in setting up the live micro-site, while Maya Zankoul, the renowned Lebanese illustrator and official ArabNet Blogger illustrated the conference. With the help of official ArabNet bloggers, ambassadors, and the thousands of tweeters and enthusiasts from the world who tweeted, messaged, and voiced their support in more ways than one, #ArabNetME, just a few hours after the opening ceremony, was trending globally on Twitter! Over 2,500 unique virtual attendees visited the live platform during those very intense 48 hours and the conference reached its peak with 200 simultaneous ustream viewers. With the 10,000 tweets that were broadcast live through the platform, the keyword #ArabNetMe reached 4th place in global trends on the micro-blogging platform twitter. This proves that there is a real need for Twitter to include the Middle East in their regional trending locations choice!

10 Ideathon and Startup finalists pitched their ideas to an audience of entrepreneurs, professionals, executives, investors, experts and students from the across the globe. Those young entrepreneurs, hailing from 6 countries in the MENA region, showcased their bright ideas and promising startups. All competing finalists were approached by multiple investors, demonstrating that there is a real market for development and real pool of opportunities to invest in.

Attendees were able to vote for their favorite Startup or Idea using SMS, and those with the most votes won the People's Choice Award. The top three Ideathon and Demo winners were announced during the gala dinner on Thursday night.

The Top 3 finalists for the Startup Demo, mentored by Sana Tawileh, are:

  • 1st place : tasmeeme.com : Noor El Fadl and Tamam Mango
  • 2nd place : rifflex.com - Abdallah Absi
  • 3rd place : foo-me.com - Elie Nasr and Ghady Rayess

The top 3 finalists for the Ideathon, mentored by Amber Lauretta, are:

  • 1st place: Mobile Business Cards - Lamaa Abdulkader and Mohammad Taha
  • 2rd place : Shabab Jobs - Fadi Sawaqedy
  • 3nd place: Baraka TV- Mahmoud Abu-Warde

Everyone gathered had one single interest in mind: how to match talent with opportunity in order to use the powerful tool that is the internet for socio-economic development, self-expression and youth empowerment. Everyone gathered believed that the development of a thriving internet industry is critical as Arab countries strive to build knowledge-based economies. Indeed, the MENA is on the verge of tremendous expansion in the web sector, heralded by the rapidly increasing internet penetration, the large proportion of youths in the population, the prevalence of mobile devices and the spread of 3G networks.

Keep an eye on #ArabNetME in the upcoming months and see you in 2011!

Memorable Quotes and Tweets

« Arabnet.me started of an idea, my idea to build a community effort within a team to make all entrepreneurs united in the Arab world, with a main focus on the new online market. [...] Arabnet.me's creation has been a long process. We had to build a real network involving more and more entrepreneurs at each step. »

Omar Christidis, founder of Arabnet.me and Vice president of IBAG.

«There are many difficulties facing many young Arabs, but they can put forward new ideas and turn them into companies worth millions of dollars. What matters is building long term companies which will bring success in the future since money and profit are not a priority. I invite all participants and young people to take the step into building companies and seeking education assuring to them that money will come in the end. The educational system needs a mixture of both private and public sector so that youngsters can take the benefit of the best and in the end he asked: "Why invest everywhere except in our youngsters?" »

Fadi Ghandour, Founder and Chairman of Aramex

« Even though each Arabic country has a special and different system, foreign investors look at the Arab world as one Market, because the Arabic market is a leader in the growth of consumers' network, and we are capable of building projects worth millions of dollars in the Arab world. A healthy environment for entrepreneurs requires financial liquidity, more companies in addition to more flexibility from investors. »

Samih Toukan, CEO of Jabbar Group, Founder and former CEO, Maktoob.com

« Welcome to the Jordanian public who marks its presence with the large numbers of attendees. It is time for all of us to "produce Arabic content". Google and Yahoo must and will invest in companies which have Arabic productions especially written ones. Ideas are important for innovation and development. Those who have ideas should look for mentoring to pursue their projects and accomplish their business plan. Institutions should complete each other, not terminate each other. »

Maher Kaddoura, Managing Director, Huron Consulting Group

« Middle East is for Google a great place to be now. Our mission in Arabnet.me is to encourage youth to innovate and to get online to trials their new ideas. Lebanon is one of the most innovative countries in the region. [...] Now the Arab world has to focus on pushing Arabic content online. We expect from the region to increase Arabic online platforms dedicated to customers, through more commercial ways. MENA region needs to address online customers through advices platforms and online communities' exchanges. » [...] I think that conference was a success and I will be waiting for ArabNet 2011! »

Abdelkarim Mardini, Google Product Manager for the MENA

« Social Media is the change. It is clearly the future. Social Media works differently from Social Networks; which are more like platforms which allows sharing and exchange between communities. »

Patrick Atallah, Head of France and Italy, 90:10 Group.

« 25% of the MENA region users use Facebook in Arabic. »

Ghassan Haddad, Director of Internationalization for Facebook

« It is the right time to invest in e-business in the Arab world. There are a lot of opportunities. The revenue of online advertising is increasing now. Our culture is changing. A company can now grow much quicker with an online advertising business model. When Bayt.com was launched, it was not the time for using this kind of online marketing, now e-marketing is the key of success for entrepreneurs. Foreign investors are looking forward to cooperate and deal with companies who are present in reality and not just present in theory. College students should think of individual projects and not just seek to be hired in global companies. »

Rabea Ataya CEO, Bayt.com

« We can be global; we can do our own only success story like in the West or in Asia. We will do it differently, in our own way»

Rani Saad, co-founder and managing director of the Middle East Venture Partners

«Arabnet.me is for Microsoft the opportunity to meet regional innovators. [...] This gathering conference is the first important one of its kind in the region, which brings together ICTs Arab world entrepreneurs. [...] We have just started the work here in Lebanon. The e-business explosion is coming but we are still waiting for broadband improvement and dedicated infrastructures. »

Leila Serhan, Country Manager at Microsoft

« We don't need to "arabize" foreign content, we need to create in the region our own Arabic content; a content that fits our culture, the information we want to have and an unbiased one. [...] Advertising on mobile applications is a much targeted one because you can know everything about the people. Therefore advertisement is done in an efficient way. You can't have all those information and characteristics when you do offline campaigns, thus they can't be as much targeted. That's what makes mobile applications powerful and impactful." »

Abdul Malek Al Jaber, CEO of Zain

« Developers can't think anymore of one platform only. They have to think globally. There are platforms that are more efficient for business; ones more efficient for socializing... therefore all have to be taken into account. »

Gian Luca Cioletti, Head of Business Development, EMEA, Forum Nokia

« The region is at the time now of exploding. We need to do a better job in order to increase the growth of the Arabic content over the Internet. 1% is not acceptable. Content is a very fundamental issue and should be accessible to all. It is so important, that it is one of the main reasons for Yahoo! to have acquired Maktoob . With the acquisition of Maktoob , Yahoo! looks at its assets and seeks how to use them in Arabic. We are also working on building local services that are relevant to the region. »

Andy Abbar, Sr. Director of Product and Product Marketing Management, at Yahoo! Middle East

« Advertising is very important, because it allows us to support our structure that produce content, we must not forget that content generated by users is very important and essential, and not only it do bring information but also it contributes to the growth of the Arabic content on the Internet »

Mohammad Aloqeely, Director General of IT at Saudi Food and Drugs Authority

« We need to have more structured content in Arabic and content that can be better optimized on search engine. [...] Advertising is one of the main revenue, but advertisers are not mature enough to see the boom of Internet and the great opportunities that offer portals. »

Wael Ghonim, Head of Marketing MENA, at Google

«Ministry is trying to meet the demands of primary and secondary education teachers, after they officially went on strike Tuesday. [...] The ministry is doing everything in its power to follow up on the demands. [...] Changing the status of instructors at the Lebanese University from part timers to full timers has been a long-standing issue; it is time to find an enduring solution to the problem. [...] One thing I noticed @ #ArabNetMe: Lebanese and Jordanian tech geeks are very ambitious! [...] I need more than 140 characters to express my great appreciation to those behind #ArabNetME event. Go @ArabNetME team!»

Education Minister Hassan Mneimneh

«Bill Gates told me recently, that artificial intelligence is the future and that it is his expectation for the new millenium. »

Talal Abu Ghazaleh, Chairman of the UN Global Alliance for ICT and Development

«Besides obstacles, Lebanon is today moving forward. The government talks about simple priorities such as giving broadband services, reducing barriers to access the Internet, in order to improve Internet services. Lebanon has to be the center of e-services in the region. »

Minister of Information, Tarek Mitri.

« The Internet is a means for furthering consumption far from monopoly, a means that can create fresh working opportunities and turn them into realities. [...] [I] call for the development of an Arab internet industry into full blossom of invention and innovation. [There is a] need for an elaborate infrastructure capable of transforming accumulated knowledge into concrete socio-economic output. [There is a] correlation between the digital revolution and audio-visual dissemination, data-storage and improvisation of new info-technologies. Among priorities listed would be: turning Lebanon into an electronic hub based on the huge linguistic potentials available to us, and through putting to use all available wireless potentials to render internet-related services more operational. »

Minister of Telecom, Sharbel Nahhas


© Press Release 2010

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