Archive for June, 2010

Localization: imitation or art ?

This is cross posted from Habib Haddad’s blog

When the Chinese internet giant QQ released Fanfou a few years ago many criticized it as an obvious clone to twitter. The same again happened with the launch of Watwet the Jordanian startup. After all, at first glance the sites do look a lot like twitter. Maktoob, the company behind the Arab internet success story was always described as the Yahoo of the Middle East because of the very similar services it provided. It didn’t come much of a surprise when Yahoo actually acquired the company in 2009.

But is localizing an existing product or business idea imitation or art, and does that limit innovation or actually requires it?

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The Arab entrepreneurship opportunity

(This is cross posted from Habib Haddad’s blog)

The Middle East and North Africa region is home to 350 Million Arabic native speakers, 65% of which are under the age of 30. While internet penetration is still low at 20% it’s growing at the fastest rate in the world, mobile penetration however is at 80% with about 220M users. The education and health are booming due to the fast population growth. This growth coupled with the wealth of some countries especially in the Gulf is creating significant opportunities that are yet to be explored.

However a large portion of the massive GCC sovereign wealth funds was historically invested in markets like USA, Europe and Asia, but the recent downturn has put pressure to finally look and foster opportunities in the MENA region itself. Governments all over the Arab world are also keen on accelerating entrepreneurship and have been shifting the mindset of their funds towards more early stage deals, hoping to create that ecosystem. The challenge here is that it’s not just a shift of mindset but also a shift in required skills; Investing in startups and SMEs in the MENA emerging market is far from similar to investing in a developed ecosystem where the returns and exits are more or less established.

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TechWadi is coming to Beirut on June 23, get your YallaStartup discounted tickets today!

TechWadi, the leading networking association for Arab and Arab American technology professionals is coming to Beirut and will be hosting an event at AUB Olayan School of Business on Wednesday June 23.

Join us for an energizing discussion on accelerating entrepreneurship and venture capital in Lebanon and across the MENA region. The Forum will bring together distinguished investors, executives, entrepreneurs and policymakers, united in their vision to create a vibrant world-class entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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