Mar 24 2011
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ArabNet Shift Digital Summit 2011 discusses mobile, social media, digital streaming, gaming and entrepreneurship trends in the MENA
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 four-day event which takes place in Beirut on March 22-25, hosts the two annual competitions for upcoming entrepreneurs.
Start-up Demo Pitch
Following the Ideathon session where entrepreneurs pitched their ideas, 10 Arab entrepreneurs presented their startups during 5 minutes on stage and showcased their products in bid to convince the audience and judges of their company's market potential. The Startup Demo supports early-stage start-ups and helps them grow their business.
Ala Alsallal from Jordan, the founder of www.jamalon.com, presented an online bookstore, operating from Jordan, which aims to offer a high quality service at the best possible price for people in the Arab World.
Danny Haber, a UK resident, provided the audience with information on his start-up www.nuqudy.com , which is an Arabic financial news and trading portal that provides Arab investors with original and high quality regional and international content.
Hassan Baydoun from the USA, presented www.cashbury.com . The application is a location-enabled mobile payment platform combined to a reward system from the user's favourite places.
Karanveer Singh, UAE, informed ArabNet conferees on www.iShopaholic.com , a shopping guide app that includes mall directories with access to huge savings based on location.
Also from the UAE, Karim Helal presented www.monaqasat.com , an online eTendering solution/platform that enables users to work with tenders in an easy, secure, cost and time efficient way.
Mahmoud Abu-Wardeh, briefed the audience on www.zeedna.com , a web-based social publishing platform to build sites in many configurations and with an integrated online social and commercial presence.
Rafah Alkhatib, KSA, said her website www.3eesho.com is an Arab health social network built to deliver information, support, and content to increase the awareness of health issues.
Rami Farah, Syria, showcased his www.toosal.com , a travel comparison website that covers low cost airlines in the MENA region providing users with the best deals available.
Samer Abdin, UAE, presented his online portal www.istikana.com which provides premium on-demand classic Arab TV content.
Trends in Mobile Apps and Ads
According to ABI (Allied Business Intelligence) research, almost 8 billion mobile apps were downloaded in 2010. New tablet platforms and increasing willingness to pay for mobile apps are creating a shifting landscape for media companies, business and brands.
ArabNet Shift Digital summit organized a session on trends in Mobile Apps and Ads to explore the way apps are transforming digital business and the opportunities and challenges they are creating.
In a presentation on Mobile apps and ads, Rob Jonas, VP and Managing Director, for Europe and Middle East at InMobi said that mobile apps could become a USD 38 billion market by 2015 as the market dynamics are becoming more complex and fast moving and understood.
Jonas said the Middle East is fascinating and has huge potential, and that consumer acceptance is turning strong as advertisers are responding.
According to Jonas, the percentage of web penetration in the Arab world is 60% while mobile penetration is about 50%. The Arab world is a place of huge opportunities and an emerging market for androids he said. He advised mobile application developers to think globally when going mobile.
Abed Agha, Managing Director at Mobileroadie Middle East promised that more applications to are to come to the Arab World denying any concerns on privacy and security issues, which he said will be complying with policies of social networks.
Gustavo Fuchs, Mobility Director, Middle East and Africa, Microsoft, promised Middle East users that windows 7 app will be available by next year.
Con O'Donnell, CEO at Sarmady explained how Nokia was able to penetrate to the region through the content it introduced, "we developed content that is relevant to the region" he said, giving 'shankaboot' app as an example. "Apps must be built for people in the market," he added.
When asked about the next best thing in the world of mobile apps, O'Donell said it was the democratization.
"Apps are the evolution of websites," he added.
Qualcomm, Middle East, Director and Head, Ziad Matar, spoke of the future of apps and said only killer apps will survive as "mobiles will have built-in apps, and developers will definitely come up with something new."
Matar warned from security and privacy issues, he said "more than 66% of phones in the region will become smart phones and they will bring more problems."
Sagar Shetty, Founding Partner and director at Cique Media, said Arab ads are very local and very limited, and explained that Arabic iPhones and Blackberries cannot take paid apps.
He reiterated his colleagues concerns over privacy and security of contacts information when downloading apps.
Attitudes towards Group Buying
Groupon is the fastest growing company in history, going from startup to a potential USD 15 billion IPO in less than 2 years. The group-buying craze it has ignited has spread across the world, and in the Middle East we more than a dozen group buying sites have emerged lately.
ArabNet organized a panel on attitudes towards Group Buying, to help understand the reasons behind the success of this model and its uptake in the region.
Cobone Founder and CEO, Paul Kenny, said that group buying is about how to formulate the deal, the description, the number and also ensuring a good relationship with the merchant so as to guarantee he fulfills the deal responsibly.
Sinan Khatib, Director of Business Development at BuyWithMe highlighted the importance guaranteeing a good experience for customers by checking out the merchants facilities. Khatib said the business was evolving and his company is in the process of a creating a better version of deal deleviry, by personalizing the deals. "This is the future of the industry," he said; however, his statement was refuted by other group buying sites owners.
Dan Stuart, Founder and CEO of GoNabit! said 38% of his website customers have a monthly income higher than USD 5300,
Stuart said his team visited merchants frequently in order to ensure best quality services for their customers. "At the end of the day we are responsible, and what matters is the customer experience because that will help us sell more vouchers," he said.
Abdallah Assal is the founder of offerna.com, a new group buying website in Egypt that was supposed to be launched on January 25, 2011. However, due to the circumstances, the opening was postponed until March and according to Abdallah, the website is doing great so far.
The founder of offerna.com highlighted the importance of tailoring the message to the people in the market, as this brings added value to the users.
He said group buying was more an offline business more than an online one, as building systems with retailers was not an easy process.
"You need to make people change their purchase behavior, and since we (the Egyptians) have set a new standard for revolution why not set a new revolution for group buying," he added.
Investment and Entrepreneurship Trends
In a Stat talk on investment and entrepreneurship trends, Mr. Tarek Sadi, Managing Director, Endeavor Lebanon, spoke of 2010 as a milestone for early stage investing in MENA.
He noticed that new dynamic incubators and 10 new institutional investors were established.
He added that the value chain was also supported by a stronger investor base with evidence indicating a multiple increase in deal volumes and more fluidity in communication.
Sadi said that "qualitative observations point to sustainable growth. VC& PE in emerging markets increased by 30% in 2010 according EMPEA and a deeper industry insight prevailed with the emergence of investment funds with industry heritage MBC ventures, sawari ventures.
He added that a super activity led to on the ground support to entrepreneurs and to a stronger relationship with them. Sadi concluded that Endeavor's experience in Emerging Markets shows that creating successful companies requires the right entrepreneur and deep tailored support insisting that the biggest barrier to entrepreneurship is not capital.
With venture capital investing picking up speed in the Arab World in the past 12 months, Mr. Fawzi Rahal moderated a panel on venture capital investing.
Emile Cubeisy, Managing Director, IV Holding, said that the company he is representing is an early-stage venture company that supports entrepreneurs who are working to build lasting value in their companies.
IV Holdings provides capital, expertise and a synergistic network of ventures to help enable and grow special entrepreneurs both within and outside the Arab world.
Mr. Walid Hanna, Managing Partner, Middle East Venture Partners said that MEVP is Middle East-focused venture capital firm that invests in the early and growth stages of innovative companies run by talented entrepreneurs in Lebanon and the greater Levant region.
He added that MEVP seeks passionate entrepreneurs with young companies and fresh ideas, innovative in their field.
Mr. Tarek Kabrit, Principal, Riyada Enterprise Development, said that RED is the small and medium enterprise (SME) investment platform of the Abraaj Group.
It is targeted to be a US$ 500 million initiative focused on investing in SMEs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including Turkey and Pakistan. It targets individual investments with a focus on providing growth capital for influential minority and, in some cases, majority stakes in SMEs.
Mr. Barig Siraj, CEO, ICT Ventures, said that ICT Ventures is a Venture capital fund focused on the Information and Communication Technology sector in the Middle East North Africa region.
During the Q&A session, the speakers considered that "we are in a lucky time in the MENA region and that many more start-up businesses are to succeed taking into account that we are adopting concepts of transparency, value and choice."
They added that "a successful idea is one that shows its relevance, potential and that is well-thought."
The panelists estimated that the average time to give a start-up entrepreneur the final approval is around four months. They added that the entrepreneurship should not be very comfortable but at the same time not stressed and that what matters is the end result."
Great teams provide help and tactical support to make the first leap and their companies are ready to provide them with business development and financial support in addition to financial stability, they added. The speakers concluded that passion and dedication are crucial elements for success.
While media owners are developing new ways to monetize their content over mobile, operators are investing in exclusive content and value added services to boost data revenues and differentiate themselves from competitors. At the same time, the rise of App stores is bypassing mobile operators and challenging traditional VAS revenue streams.
ArabNet organized a panel to explore how media companies and operators are navigating the rapidly changing mobile landscape.
Founder and General Manager of Arab Advisors Group, Jawad Abbassi discussed with panelists representing media and communication companies the status of online communication and media in the Arab world.
Abbassi said the performance of the Arab world compared to previous years was good, although "50% of Arab states have their telecommunication outlets monopolized."
According to Abbassi, by June 2010, UAE ranked first in landline penetration, KSA and Syria fell behind respectively.
He added that mobile network penetration has tremendously increased in the Arab world and has reached a 63% in Lebanon.
The percentage of Broadband users has also increased across the Arab region, Abbassi said, except for Yemen and Syria.
On online gaming, Abbassi said that 63.5% of internet users are located in KSA, out of which 12.9 % access paid games.
Following the stat talk, Sr. associate at Booz & Co, Amer Lahham moderated a panel on Mobile content and value added services.
Lahham said 74% of users today were not ready to pay for content development and expected to access free content.
The panelists, Ammar Bakkar, Head of New Media at MBC Group, Karim Daoud, CEO at Integral, Fawaz Bassem, Business solutions Director at Zain KSA and Jeremy Foster, Head of Marketing at Ericcson, agreed that users are looking for consumption in small screens and that mobile content has greatly developed.
They added that mobile applications have become a phenomenon after a huge number of apps were developed in 2010.
The panelist called on media outlets to follow up the trend and seize the opportunities, and stressed the need to further develop content and innovation so as to meet the increasing needs of the market; however, "the process requires funding and wide platforms," they pointed out.
The operators play a crucial role in facilitating content development, they all agreed, as the speed of reading is 3 times that of writing; and that young people across the Arab world prefer chatting with their friends over speaking by phone.
During the second forum day on Thursday March 24, 2011, ArabNet addressed issues in the field of social media, gaming and new trends in the MENA region.
Case Studies in Social Media Marketing
In the past few years, social-media has grown exponentially. Facebook now boasts over 600 million users and Twitter is serving more than 140M tweets per day. As social networks increasingly dominate the way we use the Internet, and redefine the way we consume and converse about media and products, companies are rushing to understand how to leverage these platforms to connect with their communities.
ArabNet organized a panel on its second forum day on social media marketing, that highlighted case studies and lessons learned by leading social media agencies.
How do you define social media marketing, moderator Alexandra Tohme, Digital Planner and Strategist at Leo Burnett asked the audience and panelists.
Patrick Atallah, CEO, 90:10 Group Middle East said that social media marketing was about marketing, selling and promoting services through social media channels and online communities platforms like Facebook, Twitter by engaging the users.
"You can't start by marketing and selling products, it must start with a conversation just like a morning chat," he said.
Marc Dfouni, CEO and Managing Partner at Eastline Marketing , defined social media marketing as a channel to read potential targets and clients. "Its main purpose is to waken emotions in potential clients in order to push them to take action," he said.
Dfouni said a key strategy would be throwing complementary content to users without spamming them.
Zafer Younis, CEO of the Online Project summarized social media marketing by the "ability to use all capabilities of social networks to reach out to potential customers and engage them."
"It is very important to discipline your content and avoid repetitiveness by making a chart of percentages of what our content mix will be," Younes said.
On case studies, Younes spoke of a talent show in Jordan organized by a radio station that targets young people. The talent show launched a youtube competition where the most viewed video will be shortlisted for the talent show, "the concert was outsold," he said.
Atallah spoke of the famous Honda hybrid car, the company reached out to 15 bloggers in 5 different countries in Europe who engaged with their community to describe a journey in the car anywhere in Europe. "Honda's campaign was launched 100% on social media and part of its success was the human touch, not the marketing of the brand," he said.
The panelists gave some recommendations and lessons their companies learned on social media marketing.
Valid Efe, Founder and Partner at Dekatlon Buzz said his company seeks to provide content for users that are not available on other mass media outlets.
Atallah spoke of the importance of transparency in social media marketing and said organizations must start accepting negative comments and buzz.
"Social media channels are not billboards for selling products," he said. Attalah voiced the importance of targeting local community; he said community engagement must be local in order to understand the culture of the product.
"One of the great outlooks is the blogger outreach, or the greener marketing, which is very challenging," Dfouni said. "Creating social presence that is not maintained is worse than social media absence, it is a negative effect on your brands image," he added.
"There is a misconception in social media that says, if you do not have a big number of friends and followers it means you will fail," he said, "it is about your objective," he explained.
Khalil Dalil, Research Manager MENA at NM Incite, said social media marketing can be measured by the consumer feedback and websites.
According to the panelists, some of the recommendations social media marketing people must take into consideration are encouraging compliments from users, making sure your brand has a human face, never abandoning a social media approach, it is much worse than not having one .
In addition, to engaging fans in creating social media content, researching your competitors on twitter and following their users and engaging with them.
Furthermore, it is important to use Linked In to reach professionals, empower your first users and provide them with tools to share their experience, and look for the professional blogs in your target regions and try to use them to reach your market.
In the US, Netflix, Hulu, Apple and Amazon have created a thriving market, for streaming video on demand, monetized through rental, purchase and advertising. In the past year, we've seen the emergence of various streaming services in the region, and heightened interest from international media players.
Arabnet organized a panel to address the uptake of streaming video services, effective monetization strategies, and opportunities and challenges for media companies and content owners.
M. Mostafa Kamel, Managing Director of LINKOnline, Mr. Abe Naga, Online Business Manager of MBC Group, Marcus Siddons, Head of Digial Media of Sony Pictures Entertainment and Hosam El Sokkari, Head of Audience at Yahoo! Middle East discussed the high level of competition in the field of streaming video, namely with the phenomenal growth of the sector in the US.
They agreed on the importance of aggregating content on one platform in order to have a competitive edge.
According to the panelists, the relationship with content producers is also very important. The point is to deliver quality content and to do it in a legal way. Therefore, producers should start selling rights to websites. For many years, internet was considered as the enemy but panelists have been actively working on convincing producers that putting videos online can generate revenues. It has been shown that when people watch episodes online it increases TV viewership. Thus, online video and online legal channels are a way to combat piracy.
The aim of streaming video websites is to provide varied content (like movies, series, etc...) to users, preferably by using a targeted approach. For example, in summer demand is higher on movies while during Ramadan the demand concentrates on TV series. Moreover, success lies in the ability to show producers the benefits of going online by introducing extensions like exclusive footage or interaction with users.
As a consequence, as important as the content can be, format plays a very important role. The key is the synergy between content and form, knowing that they both are in constant evolution.
Content is now reproduced and redistributed especially in the US and Canada. Users are asking for subtitles because we now have a new generation that doesn't understand Arabic.
In conclusion, Hosam El Sokkari said that change is already happening. Increased use of new media is undeniable. "I don't expect this to replace old behavior, it is complementary. You don't just have the content; you have the reviews and the points of view on the content. This is a key differentiation", he added.
Fireside Chat: Gaming
From Farmville to angry Birds, gaming is becoming increasingly social and mobile. Games built on these platforms are benefiting from new avenues for monetization, from paid download to in-game purchases and advertising.
ArabNet organized a panel on social and mobile game to explore how game developers are integrating social and mobile functionality into their games and business models.
Guillame Lautour, Partner at IDInvest Partners started the talk with a list of statistics on the situation of games in the MENA region.
The panelists included OneCard Rami al Araj, Timothy Batataille from Massive Media Arabia, Mahmoud Ajom, co-founder of Tarneeb, Fadi Mujahid CEO of spacetoon.com and GamePower 7.
In the gaming industry 50% of players are more than 55 years old and the ones who spend the most are the oldest. On Facebook the average age of people using games is 40 to 45, 70% of which are women, typical: married, two kids and a job.
PC or Mobile games that try to go on Facebook fail, the panelists agreed, as the way games are monetized on Facebook is different.
Localizing content does not mean necessarily language translations, it is about adapting the content culturally (the names, the cultural references etc.)
Traditional platforms are to move to smart phones and touch screen interface is to head towards a boom for the mobile industry and gaming.
Fireside chat: ArabNet 2010 Startup Demo Winners
During a fireside chat, ArabNet launched a small conversation on the winners and finalists from the Arabnet 2010 Startup Demo.
The winners seemed to be very active during the past year. The results of the works were tangible: phenomenal user growth, added features, monetization, promotion of a virtual store selling arguileh and other cultural products to appeal to the local population.
Challenges like lack of exposure or not finding investors remain; however, the user base of Tasmimi tripled during the past year and the exchanged messages quadruples.
"Things change and evolve," winners agreed and said "it appears to be clear to all of them that once a website is built, it no longer belongs to its creator, it belongs to the users."
Where to stand between passion and "going with the flow" on one hand, and focus and planning on the other hand?
"The solution lies in taking the best of both worlds. There should be drive, there should be passion, but it should be channeled in accordance with a certain planning," they said.
Tech for Good
Web and Mobile technologies are creating tremendous opportunities for NGOs and social enterprises to amplify their impact. From collecting and disseminating data, to sourcing and matching funds and people, technology is allowing social entrepreneurs to cover greater areas, reach more people and scale their operations.
The aim of these online NGOs is to allow internet users to do Good. Many initiatives have been launched like the blood channel of Nakhweh for example.
The aim of other initiatives is also to facilitate the lives of all citizens especially those living in rural area.
The Sohitcom project has multiple components: awareness, registration of babies, reminders of vaccination, the possibility of asking medical questions online. The project is now in its pilot phase in South Jordan.
The Canadian and Palestinian initiative has three main functionalities. The most important one is the SMS alert. It has been used in Gaza in 2010 for humanitarian aids and for security measures. The second functionality is collecting polls and asking questions. The third functionality is job finding and selling products online.
The interesting part is that these initiatives are allowing people to be involved in social work without actually working in the field.
Both mobile technology and social networks are important in order to help people depending on the nature of the service provided.
NGOs work even more in times of crisis that is why they should all have a particular plan for extreme situations prior to the disaster.
Mazen Khalife, Head of MENA portfolio, Kiva, highlighted the importance of mobile banking and the advantages it could bring in the Middle East.
Kamel Asmar, founder of Nakhweh, insisted that it was very important for NGOs in the region to be Youtube partners because of all the video content they use in their campaigns.
Also from the panelists Amber Houssian, Team leader at Souktel, and Edward Jaser the founder of Sohitcom, agreed on the importance of the role of governments in facilitating or hindering the work of their NGOs. A weak or inadequate legal framework can be a huge obstacle.
Regarding financing, the main issue is sustainability. NGOs rely on sponsors, governmental help and individuals. Charging for services is an option that some of them are considering in case of the lack of resources
Search and Media Trends
Media buyers and monitoring agencies are uniquely positioned between brands and publishers, and have an insider perspective on what media is being consumed and where ad budgets are being spent.
The panel ArabNet organized on search and media trends, looks at the trends to understand the opportunities for publishers and advertisers, and the challenges of increasing digital budgets.
Head of Engineering at Google, Ahmad Hamzawi, presented statistics on internet usage in the MENA region.
Google searches reached 100 million (4 billion is the global number).
Youtube video playback reached 100 million (2.5 billion is the global number).
Youtube videos uploaded per minute is 1 hr (35 hrs per minute globally).
What are users doing online?
The most visited website in the MENA is Facebook. Number 2 is Maktoob, Wikipedia follows.
In Egypt, most searched for word was (games, written in Arabic) then Facebook then (pictures, written in Arabic)
In KSA, Youtube (spelled in Arabic) was the most searched for and guess what it was in Lebanon ?
The word Lebanon !
The average age of users in MENA region is 25, a young society of users.
The percentage of search queries coming from mobile devices is 13% and mobile queries have made a 200% growth last year, led by Saudi Arabia.
IOS grew by over 1500% in 2010 and 50% of all mobile traffic from Symbian devices, and Opera mini Is number 2 browser outside GCC.
Youtube launched personalized pages in 7 MENA countries and KSA is at the top 3 mobile playbacks in the world (#1 if compared to its population)
There are 18.4 million Facebook users in the MENA.
On Arabic content, there are 350 million Arabic speakers in the world which opens up huge opportunities in Arabic content.
54% of queries in the MENA are in Arabic, 70 % in Egypt and 80% in KSA.
Spreading New Technologies.
Online is increasingly becoming the driving medium of multi-channel advertising campaigns. This panel examines case studies of campaigns that leverage the web and mobile to create engaging interactive experiences with the brand.
Mrs Randa Bdeir, Head of Electronic Banking and Business Development at Bank Audi, talked about her role in the promotion of the use of credit cards in the Middle East, namely in Lebanon and in Syria.
"Salespeople were very reluctant at first and preferred cash money. The upcoming technology is to deliver secured cards with one time passwords in order to protect the users' rights," she said.
She added that in Lebanon, in 2010, around 250 million dollars were spent online while in Egypt the amount was around 220 million. In Lebanon, 90% of purchases occur on foreign websites. 22% are spent on services. In Jordan, 40% are spent on utilities. In Morocco, 60% are spent on travel and entertainment.
In the context of the promotion of Digital Republic, Mr. Karim Khalifa, Co-Founder and Managing Director at A Digital Republic, narrated two different campaigns like flying the passengers of a bus to their destination in order to show them, first hand, the importance and advantages of speed and efficiency.
Ms Preethi Mariappan, Head of Digital, TBWA Raad, however, doesn't see the need for a large scale campaign and prefers to rely on bloggers. The point is not to have a "big bang" approach. The bank invited two bloggers from the UAE to upload reviews of 90 restaurants in the UAE. A page on Facebook was also conceived. The bank offered deals and discounts in certain restaurants.
According to Fadi Yaish, Executive Creative Director, FortunePromoseven in Dubai, believes in interaction between the public and the device promoted. Asking the users to participate in the campaign has shown great results and an increase of 111% in sales.
Mr. Karim Khalifa, Co-Founder and Managing Director at A Digital Republic, highlights the importance of knowing your audience in advertizing in order to select the adequate technology. It is very easy to get crowded with technologies. The trick is to choose the technology that will speak most to the audience.
Mr.Yousef Tuqan, CEO, FlipMedia, talked about a peculiar advertizing campaign, his wedding proposal! He did it on a website, with animation and got the "yes" and commitment he was waiting for.
Panelists agreed that in advertizing, creative ideas are paramount, but the choice of partners and technologies is as important.
Mr. Yousef Tuqan firmly believes in blogging as long as there's a sincere relationship between the companies and the bloggers. The key is to combine digital advertizing and digital PR.
- Ends -
For more information, please call:
Mr. Ali Noueihed - Media Liaison
Miss Farah Nacouzi - Media Liaison
Miss Sally Melhem - Media Liaison
Mr Bassam el Hage - Media Liaison
© Press Release 2011
© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.
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