On Arabnet’s Forum Days
Solidere to build a Technology Park in Beirut Central District
Sehnaoui to turn Lebanon into a digital paradise
Interview with Telecom Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui
Lebanese Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui said during a talk at Arabnet’s Forum Day that Lebanon will enjoy a very fast connection within 3 years. Sehnaoui who told Arabnet founder Omar Christidis that prices of telecom in Lebanon have decreased by 80%, assured that the heavy user profile status will be implemented very soon.
Sehnaoui promised to install fiber optics which will enhance speed by 100 times. “We are working to achieve a digital paradise”, he said, “and we will get there.”
“The Lebanese population is small in number, but they have the creativity and potential,” he added.
“If I stay in office until 2013, I will meet all my promises,” he concluded.
A technology park will be established in Beirut Central District, announced Solidere General Manager Mounir Douaidy during Arabnet Summit on Thursday. Douaidy highlighted Solidere’s technical approach and strategy which aims at enforcing investments and attracting small and medium size companies towards Beirut.
“Solidere is not only a real estate company but is also a living space that offers lots of activities and services,” he said. “We are city builders and we provide many things other than buildings and construction.” On Beirut he said: “Beirut is an interactive city. We transformed Beirut, a former war zone into the best city in the Middle East”.
He revealed that the company is considering creating a technology park in Beirut Central District. “We want to create a park of movable containers and not buildings”, he explained. “Several spaces that have not been invested yet could be used for the execution of this project,” he said. “We want to give small and medium sized companies the chance to come and share their ideas in this field”, he said.
According to Douaidy, Solidere established a broadband fiber to home network five years ago.
Investing in Technology
As the investment landscape in the Middle East is heating up with the launch of new funds and new deals being announced, a panel on investing in technology with panelists from Middle East Venture Partners, TwoFour54 Ibtikar, Y+Ventures and Wamda was organized during the first forum day.
According to Y+Ventures Managing Partner Salam Saadeh, the ecosystem in the region is changing with more and more entrepreneurs around. “The market is just starting, we have young population and high connectivity. Entrepreneurs should go fast and have added value.”
“Startups need intellectual capital more than they need financing,” he added.
Habib Hadad from Wamda said his company invests in global teams that are passionate and obsessed yet flexible and persistent.
Angus Paterson from STC Ventures said the latter looks at the team of entrepreneurs when it comes to investing in a startup. “We receive thousands of applications,” she added and called on entrepreneurs to think of the key issues and validate a business model.
Gideon Simeloff from TwoFour54 said that “by investing in companies and finding them we realize values.”
“We focus on the ability to execute and we invest in structure,” he added.
MEVP’s Walid Hanna said his company invested in 5 companies, 3 out of which are new investments.
“We look at one opportunity a day and we pitch three every three month, we look in hundreds and invest in 2 or 3% of these companies,” he added.
On the session on e-commerce revolution, Co-Founder and Managing Director of “Namshi”, Muhammed Mekki talked about the experience of the website “Namshi”, which sells clothing, footwear and accessories online.
Mona Ataya, CEO and Founder of “MumzWorld”, the Middle East’s first and largest shopping site for all mothers and babies, also talked about her experience. CEO and founder of DIA Group, Rasha Khoury shared her experience with this luxury fashion website.
CEO and founder of MarkaVIP, Ahmed Al Khatib talked about the site’s growth and stated that there are 1 million affiliated members and 255 employees. 55,000 products were sold in March at an average of 1500 purchase orders per day. “The Best Customer” spent about $100,000 in one year.
The panel had started with a little fashion show organized by MarkaVIP.
Founder and CEO of Innovative Business Solutions, Osama Natto stated that there are big opportunities yet many challenges in Saudi e-commerce. Another session discussed the massive growth of the Turkish e-commerce.
According to Jad Melki, assistant professor of journalism and media at the American University of Beirut, and according to a pre-Arab spring survey of media use by 2744 youth in Lebanon-UAE- Jordan:
81% of bloggers use English language to write blog’s posts, only 11% in Arabic, but for news 57% relied on Arabic language content. 86% of youth use Social Media, 84% from them use it for fun, while 9% use it for business and 5% for political activism. Youth mainly blog about music, entertainment, arts, sports and travel. 44% of Arab youth spend less than 1 hour daily on news, while 70% of the youth interviewed never use blogs as a source of news. Also, 56% of Arab youth have 3 or more TVs at Home, and watch TV daily. 82% of the Youth never used a credit card or purchased a product online in the past 30 days.
A panel was held to discuss the future of television panelists from Regional Smart TV, PokeWare, Intigral, Kharabeesh and MBC. According to Karim Daoud from Integral, the key question for online TV distribution is now monetization of content.
Ivan Robert Nurgberg highlighted the importance of monetizaion of online content in the future of television.
MBC’s Fares Akkad screened a video on MBC’s 04 series digital campaign. According to him, the aim of MBC is to expand the user’s experience beyond TV. Our vision is to be with our viewers regardless of the platform.
Wael Atilli spoke about Kharabeesh’s experience and said Youtube will become the operating system for publishers in the near future.
Area Lead for the Developer and Platform Group (DPE), Aben Kovoor talked about the initiatives aimed to encourage innovation for companies emerging in the digital sector.
Ahmad Hamzawi, Head of New Business Development of Google Inc. in the MENA region, Turkey and Central Asia, stated that the sales of mobile phones last year was greater than that of personal computers. 93% of the US citizens use their mobiles to access the web daily and it is expected that more than 1 billion will use mobile devices as their primary internet access point.
Facebook’s Head of Platform Partnerships for New Markets, Amina Belghiti talked about the challenge of how to make it easier for people to find an application and install it.