PROJECT THE RIGHT IMAGE | ART FOR YOUR CORPORATE SPACE
DIGITAL BEST PRACTICES FROM THE PEOPLE WHO KNOW IT BEST
The Middle East’s established digital leaders tell you
WHAT’S WHAT IN EVERYTHING WEB
VENTURE CAPITAL 2013’S BIGGEST “NON-EVENTS” IN THE MIDDLE EAST
REINVENTING YOURSELF AT THE TOP OCTAVIA NASR GOES SOLO 2
FEBRUARY 2014 | ENTREPRENEURMIDDLEEAST.COM
A MESSAGE FROM TEJAR DUBAI Young Emirati entrepreneurs have a multitude of guidance options. Tejar Dubai aims to propel them forward, and this is how you can apply.
TECH: ONLINE ‘TREP The digital pros tell you everything there is to know Predictions for 2014? ArabNet’s CEO Omar Christidis gives an overview for the year ahead. This is one feature that you’re going to want to read- your digi identity depends on it.
ONLINE ‘TREP Telcos take connectivity seriously Telecommunications companies master the art of social media. Cleartag takes telcos to cyberspace.
MOBILE TECH Making beautiful music: The GCC adopts legal music downloads Co-founders of Anghami have hit the bigtime. Elie Habib talks numbers for the Middle East success story.
THE FIX Global ‘treps: How the world of digital has changed the SME game It used to be that you needed to seriously shell out some cash to promo your SME. Digi has just made your life a whole lot easier.
ASK A GEEK Maximize your corporate web presence Learn your SEO basics, and get to work on optimizing keywords to bring the much-needed traffic your way.
MOBILE TECH Swipe your way into the future of business Our top five picks for the business apps you aren’t using, but should.
EXPO 2020 IN PERSPECTIVE: UAE’S OPINION LEADERS SOUND OFF ON THE IMPACT OF DUBAI’S LATEST GLOBAL COUP Four industries, four perspectives, four unified goal states.
The time for excellence is now: Pushing media management to the next level in time for Expo 2020. By Sami Al Mufleh
The effects of Expo 2020 on Dubai investments, trade and free zones. By Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni
The economic impact of winning Expo 2020; what it means for the Middle East. By Masood M. Sharif Mahmood
Setting the stage for science, innovation, and an intellectual marketplace for intellectual property in the UAE. By Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh 4
PROGRAMMING THE PROGRAMMERS Harnessing corporate culture
EDITOR’S NOTE By Fida Z. Chaaban
‘TREPONOMICS: ASK A PRO I’m proof that you can leave your stellar career to become a ‘trep Changing careers? Hit the ground running and leverage your corporate experience like Octavia Nasr.
MARKETING Programming the programmers Making your corporate culture work for you: Capitalize on your employees by having them adopt the brand ethos, not just the paycheque.
ESQUIRE GUY How to keep it cool, even when the convo gets heated.
MARKETING LinkedIn 101: The basic things you’re doing wrong Learn how to maximize your LinkedIn presence, and according to our guy that means no pics of you “looking social.”
CULTURE: TRAVEL Five problems with business hotels… and how to solve them Business hotels could use some feedback. One frequent traveller sounds off.
DESIGN The ksa commuter crowd gets taken care of in Riyadh We talk to General Manager Greg Pirkle about the Four Seasons Riyadh’s recent win at the global design awards.
BUSINESS UNUSUAL Your corporate space is a reflection of your company culture So you’ve got the glitzy headquarters? Now you need the artwork to match. One career curator does the deed for you, and he chooses MENA region artists to boot.
LIFE Tech ticker: Digi books are all the rage On your next long-haul flight, pick up one of these digital-centric biographical books.
LIFE The switch Would you leave the game when you’re on top to go back to school? This issue’s Switcher Imad Awti did.
Q+A Good enough to eat A new startup helps you give the gift of healthy, locally-sourced eats, and they even deliver!
MONEY: ASK THE MONEY GUY Managing funds effectively SMEs are increasingly taking advantage of corporate credit strategies… and here’s why it works.
VC VIEWPOINT 2013’s biggest (non) events in the Middle East venture capital scene Our VC expert cuts to the quick.
YOUR MONEY It’s all about the Bitcoin, baby The Bitcoin situation has escalated. Lawmakers globally are beginning to weigh in on the subject and speculators are getting their hoarding hats on. The digicurrency has just about everyone wondering what exactly is going on and how they can cash in on the newest econo-craze.
START IT UP: WACKY IDEA Ship shape: Crowdsourced courier goes live Friendshippr is supposed to give you a shipping alternative… and pay you with a hug? february 2014
MIDDLE EAST EDITOR IN CHIEF Fida Z. Chaaban firstname.lastname@example.org MANAGING DIRECTOR Walid Zok email@example.com +971556500688 PUBLISHER Nehme Abouzeid firstname.lastname@example.org CREATIVE DIRECTION Concept and execution Entrepreneur Middle East ONLINE LIASON Kareem Chehayeb email@example.com WEB DIRECTOR Haydar Mtayrek CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Arie Amaya-Akkermans Amal Chaaban Kareem Chehayeb Ross Fitzgerald Andre Hattingh Masood M. Sharif Mahmood Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh Wassim Mourtada
Sami Al Mufleh Shoug Al-Nafisi Octavia Nasr Rani Nasr Bruce Schoenfeld Steve Strauss Eric Sui Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni
Images used in Entrepreneur Middle East are credited when necessary. Attributed use of copyrited images with permission. All images not credited otherwise Shutterstock.
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In addition to our print edition, we’re bringing you all sorts of industry news on our web mediums. Joining us online means getting relevant business and startup content in real-time, so you’re hearing about the latest developments as soon as we do. We’re looking forward to interacting with our readers on all of our social media and web platforms- like any thriving business, we’re looking to give and take. #TrepTalkME is already happening on all of our digi platforms, and all good conversations go both ways. See you on the web!
EntMagazineME @EntMagazgineME | @FidaChaaban Entrepreneur-me EntrepreneurMiddleEast EntMagazineME EntMagazineME EntMagazineME
OFFICIAL LAUNCH PARTNER
AN ENTREPRENEUR’S HAVEN
’m introducing the inaugural issue of Entrepreneur Middle East with a great deal of pride. It seemed like the perfect time to run our first issue for a few reasons, not the least of which was the announcement of the #MyDubai initiative that fit so well with the spirit of this publication. Why? Because #MyDubai is business, innovation, movement, and studied and careful action. #MyDubai is both the vehicle for both my personal growth while I meet challenge after challenge, and it is also a vehicle for shedding light on success stories that the MENA region can look to as proof that there has never been a better time for industry in the UAE, and indeed in the GCC as a whole. #MyDubai, reflected in the first issue of Entrepreneur Middle East, is proof that launching your startup and turning it into a long-term, sustainable money-maker is doable. It’s also proof that investing in that company that you’ve been monitoring so closely is hopefully going to garner you an advantageous (and quick) ROI. Finally, #MyDubai is proof that you can look to a bevy of diverse industries flourishing in the GCC and emulate the already-burgeoning accomplishments. In this issue, you’ll see some of the UAE’s opinion leaders predict the impact of the Expo 2020 from the vantage point of their respective industries. I’m honoured to have some of the country’s foremost intellectuals weigh-in on the matter exclusively for Entrepreneur. If you’re a venture capital fan, flip directly to our “Money” section for an analysis of the region’s biggest VC events of 2013- what you read may surprise you. If you’re looking for news of startups, we’ve got two to share with you this month: Friendshippr based in Dubai, and Atayeb Lebnen based in Beirut. Business travellers, we’ve got you covered with a recommendation or two, and for the culture fiends, we’ve addressed your need for both reading and art. Here and there throughout the issue, you’ll also see relevant industry sound-bites that run the gamut from finance to events. Finally, we talk everything tech with the people who’ve demonstrated stellar success in the arenas of web, social media, mobile apps, and more.
On a more personal note, there is a heavy hand of stylization at work here in Entrepreneur- doubtless my fellow media and some of our readers will notice that we’ve taken an unorthodox approach to some of these subjects. That too is part of our identity. My favorite bon mot related to our identity came from a contributor. I had firmly negated leaving his name out of the issue saying, “I don’t do anonymous contributors.” His reply (only half in jest): “Do you do grammar?” Yes, you’ll find grammar in Entrepreneur (questionable), but more importantly I hope you come away thinking you’ve found stylized and accurate content, a consistent voice, and an upbeat, business-centric persona. #MyDubai is also a forum for discourse, so don’t hold back. Join us on all of our digi platforms and make liberal use of our hashtag #TrepTalkME. Certainly tweet at me directly with your comments as I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Fida Z. Chaaban Editor in Chief Follow me @fidachaaban Email me firstname.lastname@example.org
THE KINGDOM’S NEWEST ART VENTURE: 21,39 JEDDAH ART FESTIVAL Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s cultural capital, is aiming to showcase and promote its cultural landscape through 21, 39 (Jeddah’s longitude and latitude coordinates), a non-profit initiative by the Saudi Art Council, who hope to give back to the community through art and
#MyDubai 2.1 MILLION BRAND AMBASSADORS
culture. Chaired by H.R.H. Jawaher bint Majed Al-Saud, Al Mansouria foundation founder, the opening inaugural event takes place February 4, 2014 and runs until February 8. An array of exhibitions featuring both upcoming and renowned Saudi artists such as Ahmed Mater, Saddek Wasil, and Manal Al Dowayan, will be part of the agenda. Co-Chairman of the Saudi Art Council, Mohammed Hafiz, hopes to make a strong impact with 21,39, and is quoted in a statement saying that the festival aims “to expand beyond the current borders of the Kingdom’s cultural landscape, developing a platform for dialogue between local artists and the rest of the world.” In our Culture section, see recommendations on MENA artists for your corporate space.
Selective polls garner selective results?
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and cofounder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is the most admired person in the world according to a recent poll by YouGov. The British internet-based market research firm conducted a poll for The Times newspaper: approximately 14,000 people were involved in the “Most Admired People in the World” poll, with YouGov conducting surveys in India, France, Pakistan, Egypt, China, Brazil, Germany, Russia, the United States, Australia, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Great Britain. U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin were placed second and third respectively. The only individual of Middle Eastern origin that was ranked in the top 30 was Egyptian General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (who came in 23rd) perhaps since Egypt was the only MENA country surveyed skewing the results? The list had a wide variety of individuals, from religious figures such as Pope Francis and the current Dalai Lama, to entertainment figures such as Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. A familiar name that we haven’t heard from in a while is on the list: former U.S. President George W. Bush. A name on the list that resonates well in the business world is American business magnate, philanthropist, and investor, Warren Buffet, who placed eighth.
The Crown Prince of Dubai, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched a social media savvy campaign on January 5, 2013 via his verified Twitter account @HamdanMohammed. Sheikh Hamdan encouraged Dubai residents and visitors to visually recall their greatest experiences in Dubai and to share those images using the hashtag #MyDubai. The initiative will continue on for one year, resulting in an autobiography of Dubai in the form of photos and videos from tourists, nationals, and residents. Via tweets, Sheikh Hamdan said that, “We want the world to see Dubai in all its human details, its values and everyday beauty.” When it comes to a busy and fact-paced city like Dubai, we know that there will be a ton of user-generated content. As marketing campaigns go, #MyDubai is certainly one of the best we’ve seen in a while in regards to tourism- you now have the entire population showing the best and brightest of the Emirate to the world of their own accord.
H.H. SHEIKH HAMDAN BIN MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL MAKTOUM VERIFIED TWITTER ACCOUNT IMAGE SOURCE TWITTER.COM | DANA AWARTANI “ORIENTALISM” 2010 PVC TAPED ROOM COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND ATHR GALLERY BILL GATES IMAGE © JSTONE / SHUTTERSTOCK | VLADIMIR PUTIN IMAGE © MARK III PHOTONICS
The median of KSA culture
EUROTECH Programs and Conferences 2014 AN AWARD WINNING COMPANY IN THE AREAS OF TRAINING FOR 2013 EUROTECH the regional experts in the workforce arenas of • PETROLEUM, OIL & GAS • HUMAN RESOURCES & TRAINING • MANAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP • COACHING • SOFT SKILLS • CONTRACTS & TENDERS • PUBLIC RELATIONS • FINANCE, BUDGETING & COST CONTROL • PURCHASING INVENTORY & MATERIAL • IT & TECHNOLOGY • STAFFING SOLUTIONS IN THE AREAS OF OFFICE SUPPORT STAFF
Learn more about EUROTECH’s diverse programs and conferences by visiting our headquarters. Ask for the 2014 EUROTECH information package discussing areas of coaching, petroleum, gas and oil engineering, mechanics, safety and security, maintenance and general services, banking and investments, and marketing and customer service, in addition to EUROTECH programs broadcast in English
United Arab Emirates +971508587826 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia +966561756208 Kuwait +96522475902/3/4/5 Lebanon +9613044090
ZIP CODE CROWDSOURCED COURIERS
Shared economic system ships spretty much anything As social media gradually begins to play a bigger role in daily life, the shared economic system has become the route du jour of tons of new startups including courier services. Zipments, a U.S.-based startup operating out of New York City, lets you use their website or mobile app to request a delivery of any product from their partnered retailers. After choosing your merchandise from one of their retailers, mostly comprised of local businesses, Zipments connects you with one of their couriers (assigned based on location and vehicle) and liaises direct contact. After a successful test-run in New York City, Zipments has now expanded their services to Vancouver, Canada. For a crowdsourced shipping solution in the Middle East, check out the interview about the new Friendshippr app in our tech section.
TWEET WHILE YOU DRIVE? MINI helps you TMI your timeline
KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD AUDI’S GOING INFOTAINMENT Audi’s new TT sports car has a new slick interior design that they hope will raise the bar in the auto market. The star of the new setup is definitely the virtual cockpit that comes with various innovative and unique features. If having a 12.3 thin-film-transistor (TFT) monitor and 3D-like high resolution graphics isn’t enough, the cockpit has two display modes. You can switch between the “classic” and more modern “infotainment” mode. The new Audi TT sports car will be launched in the Middle East in 2015. Digital is everywhere, and whatever vehicle you end up driving this year is sure to have a huge tech upselling component. We’ll be keeping our eyes out for the latest and greatest, see you on the road!
While connecting cars to mobile phones via Bluetooth has become a popular tool to allow drivers to have phone conversations safely and legally, some companies have opted to push connectivity even further. MINI has taken in-car smartphone integration to a new level: MINI drivers are now able to connect their social media accounts to their cars using iPhone. MINI Connected users will see posts and updates shown on the car’s cockpit display and there’s even an option to have them read aloud to you while you cruise around. The voice output function is an “optional in-car infotainment system” add-on to the range of all seven MINI cars as of this year. Statuses can be updated using a list of pre-written posts or you can opt to broadcast your vehicle data, destination, and outside temperature automatically. We’re not sure if this counts as TMI, but it’s worth taking it for a spin at least once.
A MESSAGE FROM TEJAR DUBAI
Empowering the Next Generation of Emirati Entrepreneurs
ubai is the city that speaks to what is possible when people of vision and imagination pursue their dreams. Here in Dubai let us keep creating the next generation of dreamers, creators and builders,â€? said U.S. President Barak Obama in his message to Dubai as the city hosted the Third Annual Global Entrepreneurial Summit (GES). Dubai is truly a rich source of promising young people with great ideas that need encouragement and guidance to reach their potential.
| A MESSAGE FROM TEJAR DUBAI |
Driving the development of aspiring entrepreneurs is fundamental to the progress of the UAE and to boost its overall socio-economic prosperity. Tejar Dubai is a recently launched program committed to empowering the next generation of Emirati entrepreneurs. Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, and managed by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Tejar Dubai program identifies, develops and mentors promising UAE nationals to accelerate the growth of an embryonic business idea to make it ready for implementation.
“Tejar Dubai is an innovative idea that will help boost the number of entrepreneurial projects and SMEs which are central to the future growth of Dubai’s economy,” said H.E. Hamad Buamim, CEO & President of Dubai Chamber. “Raising private sector participation of Emiratis is vital for a sustainable and profitable future. Current provision to encourage local entrepreneurship is not adequate; Tejar Dubai will offer all aspects of support, from mentoring and business advice to networking opportunities and financial support.” SMEs represent over 90% of national activity and 95% of Dubai’s economy. These businesses contribute significantly
“TEJAR DUBAI WILL OFFER ALL ASPECTS OF SUPPORT, FROM MENTORING AND BUSINESS ADVICE TO NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT.”
to employment and economic activity in Dubai and they play an essential role in building a competitive private sector. “More needs to be done to encourage UAE nationals’ participation in this area, Tejar Dubai will help meet this need,” H.E. Buamim said. As the guardian of Dubai’s private sector, Dubai Chamber was chosen to lead this national initiative not only because of its experience in supporting the development of business but because of its extensive network of business contacts that will be able to provide mentorship and advice to Tejar Dubai participants. A recent report published by Zayed University and Khalifa Fund entitled Entrepreneurship: An Emirati Perspective, indicates that 10 out of every 100 Emiratis can be considered early stage entrepreneurs and 82.5% of Emirati entrepreneurs are employed. The report also states that nearly 80% of Emiratis surveyed perceive entrepreneurship as a good career choice, and 60% are open to start a new venture in the short term. However, only 50% believe that they have the necessary skills and knowledge necessary to start their own business. >>>
Tejar Dubai is a development program committed to nurturing potential UAE nationals into becoming entrepreneurs. Launched last year under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, the program identifies, develops, and mentors promising UAE nationals to expedite the growth of an embryonic business idea and advance it to the point of being ready for immediate implementation. www.tejardubai.ae @TejarDubai TejarDubai
“CHAMPIONING THE ENTREPRENEURIAL PROCESS AND BUILDING CAPACITY OF THE EMIRATI ENTREPRENEUR ARE NATIONAL GOALS THAT TEJAR DUBAI WILL HELP ACHIEVE” The Tejar Dubai program will fill that gap by giving ambitious Emirati entrepreneurs all the tools and resources they need to make their ideas real. Not only will the initiative provide young UAE nationals with access to an extensive development program, including classroom learning, onsite training, mentoring and business advice, but candidates will be provided networking opportunities with local and international business leaders and access to investment capital to help them turn business ideas into a reality. The development of the entrepreneurship sector has become a national priority and strategy for Dubai economy and the Tejar Dubai program is in line with this priority.
“To date the Tejar Dubai program has received over 300 enquiries for participation. Almost 80 meetings have been with youngsters who submitted their business ideas and 20 more are in the pipeline. So far, four candidates have been selected to go through the Tejar Dubai programme and are now in the process of establishing their companies, undergoing customised training, and receiving the support required,” said Mr. Essa Ali Al Zaabi, Senior Vice President Institutional Support Sector Dubai Chamber, and General Coordinator of Tejar Dubai. “Enriching the entrepreneurial mindset, championing the entrepreneurial process, and building capacity of the Emirati entrepreneur are national goals that Tejar Dubai will help achieve,” continued Zaabi.
Target participants for Tejar Dubai This program is open to all Emiratis who have a business idea they would like to advance, but lack specific skills and experience to do so. All applications are evaluated on a scoring criteria that makes clear what the applicants are judged on to secure a spot on the Tejar Dubai entrepreneur development program. If the applicant scores high enough on the criteria, he or she will be invited for an in-depth interview with a panel that will probe deeper into the potential of the applicant to decide whether they are qualified to participate in the program. To mentor the successful applicants, the Dubai Chamber and Sheikh Majid’s office has appointed a team of successful businessmen and technical experts that will help winning applicants complete their business idea and bring it to fruition. Successful candidates that are selected for Tejar Dubai will undertake a program of three to six months that will have three components:
• Individually-tailored training and qualification program • Relevant work experience with managerial coaching • Mentorship from an expert The candidate will be assisted in developing a business plan that is commercially viable and sustainable throughout the program. This plan will evolve from the initial five-page proposal submission and mature throughout the program under the supervision of an appointed mentor.
Final presentation and accreditation Once the individual entrepreneur’s formal program is concluded, he or she will be invited to present the final proposal to a panel of experts who will convene together. Should the invitation be well received, an accreditation by the panel and the Dubai Chamber will be granted. Upon receiving said accreditation, the Dubai Chamber will facilitate individual meetings for each entrepreneur with a partner entrepreneur/financial institution. There is no guarantee that financial support will be secured, however the applicant’s presentation and accreditation will be of substantial help in this regard.
UAE OPINION LEADERS SOUND OFF ON THE IMPACT OF DUBAI’S LATEST GLOBAL COUP
FOUR INDUSTRIES, FOUR VIEWPOINTS, FOUR UNIFIED GOAL STATES • The effects of Expo 2020 on Dubai investments, trade and free zones.
• The time for excellence is now: Pushing media management to the next level for Expo 2020.
• The economic impact of winning Expo 2020; what it means for the Middle East.
• Setting the stage for science, innovation, and a marketplace for intellectual property in the UAE.
HYPE IT UP
THE DEETS ABOUT EXPO 2020 Since Dubai has scooped the Expo 2020 bid, we decided to do a bit of fact-checking. For starters, one of the factors that makes the 2020 win so significant is that this is the first Expo to be held in a Middle Eastern city. A form of cultural exchange, Expos showcase technological and industrial advancements, in addition to bringing the world to your doorstep. The very first World Expo took place in London in 1851, but we started our timeline with the establishment of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE)- the regulatory body for Expo events. The most recent World Expo, staged in Shanghai 2010, was under the theme of “Better City, Better Life”. There are three types of expos: Specialized (or International), Horticultural, and Universal. The timeline below lists only the Universal Expos, the largest scale of the three types, held once every five years for a period of six months, and unlike the other two types are unlimited in size, so think big. The themes for the World or Universal Expos must “concern the whole of humanity” according to the BIE website.
WHO IS THE BIE? The 1928 Paris Convention was written and passed to regulate expos such as defining rights and responsibilities of organizers and participants. As a result, the BIE was established to ensure the implementation of the 1928 Paris Convention. www.bie-paris.org
1851 – LONDON ---1928 BUREAU INTERNATIONAL DES EXPOSITIONS (BIE) IS ESTABLISHED 1929 BARCELONA 1933 CHICAGO 1935 BRUSSELS 1937 PARIS 1939 NEW YORK 1949 PORT-AU-PRINCE 1958 BRUSSELS 1961 SEATTLE 1967 MONTREAL 1970 OSAKA 1992 SEVILLE 2000 HANNOVER 2010 SHANGHAI 2015 MILAN february 2014
THE TIME TO IMPROVE ON EXCELLENCE IS
NOW Pushing media-management to the next level
By Sami Al Mufleh
n the 27th of November, every person in the UAE (both locals and expats) was anxious, eagerly waiting for the results that were to be announced that night. I turned on Dubai TV and settled down to watch the discussions and interviews before the vote. The first round of voting that evening indicated that Dubai had scored higher than the other three cities by far. At that moment, my heart skipped 20
a beat and I knew that Dubai would ultimately win the bid. An hour later it was announced and I was overcome with happiness- this win is an amazing achievement; it is positive news for every person living and working in the United Arab Emirates. Expo 2020 will take Dubai and the UAE to the next level of success and growth in every respect- primarily that of a burgeoning economy and a buzzing business sector.
Dubaiâ€™s advantageous geographical location strongly supports the campaign; our two highly efficient airports are perfectly suited to welcome the 25 million visitors expected during the six months of the Expo 2020. With over 200 nationalities calling the city home, Dubai already unites people and cultures from across the globe. Dubai hopes to use the platform of the Expo to unite boundaries of nationality and forward progress.
AS A MEDIA OWNER, I AM CURRENTLY INVESTING IN IMPROVING OUR STANDARDS AND DIVERSIFYING WITH NEW BUSINESSES RELATED TO MEDIA SOLUTIONS
Sami Al Mufleh, a Jordanian national, is the CEO of the Dubai-based Out of Home (OOH) company. Al Mufleh is an accredited civil engineer, having received his Bachelor of Science Engineering degree at Jordan University, followed by a master’s degree in Business Administration from Cambridge University. Professionally, Al Mufleh was the General Manager of Backlite Advertising, subsequently founding his own firm in 2003, Hills Advertising
Company L.L.C. highly situated in the industry. The Hills Group of companies umbrellas several different corporate endeavors of Al Mufleh, including healthcare, investments, hospitality, and real estate. The Hills Group of companies operate across 15 countries with business primarily concentrated in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Al Mufleh has been the recipient of several regional awards, and also recognized for his philanthropic endeavors.
“Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” From its origins in 1971 to the present day, UAE has expanded at an exponential rate to its current population of more than 8.26 million, with 65% of that growth having occurred in the past four years alone. Through this country’s development, the rising of one nation with one vision was and is still apparent. The UAE itself (not exclusive to Dubai) demonstrated how they value the importance of a united people. The founding fathers of the UAE showed the world that while there are many powerful individuals, it is only by working together that the nation will really advance. After two decades of living and working in this country, I can proudly say that I have been able to develop my professional dreams in the framework that Dubai has provided. The founding fathers of the UAE highlight the importance of investing in education and the continuous development in the minds of the young. New technological innovations will be showcased during the exhibition, and some of these will support the education and economic sectors as part of the knowledge-based economy, sought after by all countries through integration of telecom and information into education. This win will lead to the implementation of many infrastructure projects in preparation to provide the best to visitors, in addition to those offered by airlines and the planned airport expansions. Projects worth 25 billion dirham are expected to
be implemented in Dubai over the next six years. The gains will also come from further investments in infrastructure and the footfall of 25 million visitors to the exhibition, including 19 million from abroad during the six months of events and activities. This mammoth direction will reflect positively on the country’s overall economy with the most significant benefits in infrastructure, tourism, transport, technology, financial, and property sectors. Hosting the event will also jumpstart the already good employment rates, creating an outstanding 277,000 jobs of which 50,000 are slotted permanently. I have seen all of the ambitious projects become a tangible reality, and I assure that the leaders of this nation could not have done it without its people. When you have such a big mechanism operating by your side as one nation filled with intelligence, ethics, and mutual respect, as an entrepreneur, faith gives you the power and strength to go big -beyond and above your opportunities- and this is when innovation and creativity really kick in. So “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” is something that has been already done with the country’s operational ethos, and now in light of the Expo winning bid, we go global. I am originally Jordanian, but I have always felt that it was a smart move to set up my professional career in Dubai over 20 years ago. Back then, Dubai was only a project in the making and profession-
als didn’t want to risk it- they’re feared investing in a project that wasn’t matured as yet. My educational background as a civil engineer with a master’s degree in Business Management gave me the completed vision of my current endeavor, Out of Home (OOH). I was able to create and direct both the commercial and management knowledge in addition to the technical side. OOH media is more than just a medium- I consider it a beautification project that enhances the city. With all the technological innovations Expo 2020 will bring us, I am looking forward to see where it will take us in terms of OOH. As the capital of excellence, Dubai will astonish the whole world not only for the quality of the Expo itself, but also for the strategy that surrounds the project before and after the event. We will be remembered for “connecting minds, connecting people”, and we’re fortunate enough to experience the reality of it first-hand. As a media owner, I am currently investing in improving our standards and diversifying with new businesses related to media solutions. In terms of exposure, Dubai will be the epicentre of the world in 2020, so we need to create an OOH inventory according to expectations of excellence and quality of the bid. I am optimistic- I expect to become a reference on media-owner management, performance, and integration, embodying the values of the community to give back to Dubai all of the opportunities that have already been given to me. february 2014
EXPO 2020 IN PERSPECTIVE
THE EFFECTS OF EXPO 2020 ON DUBAI INVESTMENTS, TRADE AND FREE ZONES By Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni
The infrastructure that will be needed for Expo 2020 will lift Dubai to new heights of global business potential.
fter years of dedicated planning and commitment to secure the Expo 2020, Dubai has once again become the focus of global attention. The vision, the progress, the potential, and the ambition have made this dynamic city of ours a place like no other. The consequences for hosting the third largest non-profit event in the world –after the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup– are immense. We are already seeing a renewed surge in investment and confidence in UAE businesses as a whole and Dubai in particular. We have seen a city, an Emirate and a country united in victory and the entire population of Dubai, whether nationals
or expatriates, celebrate with a very real sense of pride. The emotion we saw when Dubai was announced as the winner of Expo 2020 is ongoing, but it is also beginning to translate into tangible results. In the short term, we will witness an influx of overseas investments from the entire spectrum of businesses, from SMEs to multinational corporations and government entities. In the medium term, with the run up to Expo 2020, we will see the larger businesses looking to have a more established presence, and in the long term, when the Expo has taken place, we will have an increase in FDI from those countries who have seen for themselves the incredible benefits of operating from Dubai. And those are just the direct business investments. Of course we have much more to look forward to in terms of travel, tourism, and retail, which in their own right are immensely beneficial to the Dubai economy. Many overseas businesses are already aware of the advantages Dubai has to offer, but that is a very different situation than actually seeing those advantages in operation. People
will come to understand that our free zones are not a minefield of bureaucracy, but a straightforward, easy to navigate means of working from the Middle East’s most vibrant economy, with the most advanced infrastructure and zero corporate and personal tax. Suddenly, the dream becomes a reality. At Dubai Airport Freezone, we offer full turnkey solutions which take care of visas, office equipment, driving licences, bank accounts and everything in between, so that our clients can concentrate on their businesses from day one. The infrastructure that will be needed for Expo 2020 will lift Dubai to new heights of global business potential. Already, the Emirate is one of the most attractive business propositions in the world in terms of logistics, and with the estimated US$7 billion worth of investment that is earmarked for further development, Dubai will become an obvious choice for the world’s most influential corporations and governments to have a presence. As a matter of prestige and in terms of tangible investment, being awarded Expo 2020 is, without doubt, one of the landmarks of Dubai’s incredible journey and an event that will go down in history as one of our crowning glories.
DR. MOHAMMED AL ZAROONI Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni is the Director General of Dubai Airport Freezone (DAFZA), a role he has held since 1996. He is responsible for managing all strategic initiatives implemented by DAFZA management and to help position the organization in faster-growing functional and geographical areas. An influential economic figure and a free zone expert in Dubai, Dr. Al Zarooni holds a variety of management roles including, Chairman of Dubai Free Zones Council, Vice-President & CEO of Dubai Silicon Oasis, a member of the Executive Committee of Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, and a member of the Dubai Eco-
nomic Committee of Dubai Executive Council. Prior to joining DAFZA, Dr. Al Zarooni worked at the Department of Civil Aviation as the Director of Administration & Research, where he was a key figure in establishing the free zone division. Prior to this he served at the Ministry of Education for eight years. Born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dr. Al Zarooni received a PhD in Economic Geography from Durham University, UK, where he wrote his thesis The Place of Free Trade Zones in Economic Development. He also holds a BA degree from Emirates University and an MBC in Economic Geography.
EXPO 2020 IN PERSPECTIVE
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF WINNING EXPO 2020 WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE MIDDLE EAST
By Masood M. Sharif Mahmood
he World Exposition (Expo), also known as a World’s Fair, is one of the world’s oldest international events and is the largest gathering of people on the planet, and the opportunity for host nations to showcase the brightest talents and new inventive landmarks the country has to offer. Expo 2020 is about connecting minds, people, and cultures, and creating the future. Expo 2020 is a platform for innovation and a link between East and West, placing the UAE, and Dubai in particular as the platform city to hold Expo 2020, and connect innovation from the region to the rest of the world. The UAE has strongly positioned itself as the Middle East’s top trading economy, with a fiscal surplus of US$11bn in 2011. It was able to do so by heavily investing in infrastructures ranging from transport to tourism, connectivity and critically ICT, in turn becoming a dynamic hub for global commerce. 24
Boasting one of the fastest growing economies in the world –the Ministry of Finance and Industry estimates that the nominal GDP rose by 20.8% in 2012 to $360 billion, compared with $298 billion in 2011– the UAE not only relies on its rich resources in hydrocarbon, but they have also developed and diversified the local economy to encompass construction, transportation and ICT, as well as becoming a central player in international trade. In a larger context, the World Expo has become central to showcasing countries’ successes and a driver for economic growth and potential business opportunities with global players. The Shanghai World Expo in 2010 involved 192 countries and 50 international organizations and was the most expensive World Fair in history. The Expo recorded 73 million visitors, the highest number of visitors at an Expo, and cost the host nation 11.96bn Yuan (US$1.89bn) to run the event. China made an operating profit of more than 13bn Yuan, exceeding its investment and demonstrating the positive economic impact a host nation with a strong national infrastructure can generate. The UAE, like China, has invested heavily in infrastructure growth, particularly in ICT. A recent executive report on the
UAE ICT by Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz) found that the UAE is the second largest ICT market in the GCC after KSA in terms of capital and volume of spending. Between 2003 and 2010, the ICT spending has grown at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of almost 19 percent to reach a value of $12 billion. The ICT spending for the period between 2013 and 2015 is expected to be about $40 billion in the UAE, of which approximately $30.4 billion will be in communications. As a start, building up to Expo 2020 means there’s a drive for innovation from local and international investors, increased infrastructure capabilities and business expansion to meet consumer demands. The ICT industry is seeing consumption trends increasing. For example in 1990, internet penetration in the UAE was zero percent. By 2012, this had increased to 85%, surpassing the United States, South Korea and Japan. Yahsat, like many UAE-based companies, is investing in contributing to the development and success of the UAE economy by creating long lasting international and local partnerships. Yahsat connects the UAE to all corners of the world, much like what the country hopes
THE UAE HAS STRONGLY POSITIONED ITSELF AS THE MIDDLE EAST’S TOP TRADING ECONOMY, WITH A FISCAL SURPLUS OF $11BN IN 2011.
to achieve at Expo 2020. For example, a key business pillar within Yahsat is YahClick, which is dedicated to connecting communities across the Middle East, Africa, Central and South West Asia, with affordable broadband Internet solutions. Yahsat does so by working with service partners across the 28 markets embedding YahClick as a key solution for high speed, reliable and cost effective broadband Internet solution. As a local and homegrown company, Yahsat will also be further pursuing its Emiratisation initiative to ensure even more Emiratis
are recruited and trained– supporting the UAE National Vision of 2030 and helping showcase what the UAE really has to offer in terms of its intelligence and workforce. The UAE’s opportunity to host the Expo 2020 adds further significance to the country across the globe. It brings a platform for the UAE to shine as an example of a small nation being able to combine domestic strengths with international partnerships and collaboration in order to become an economic, social and cultural leader in the region. Yahsat’s success is also built on a similar foundation,
joining UAE talent and vision with global industry leaders. Expo 2020 will drive companies to invest more in the Middle East and garner the rewards of one of the fastest growing ICT market in the world. The UAE satellite industry is vital to one of the UAE Expo 2020’s core values, that of opportunity and finding new paths to economic development. The event is expected to provide a perfect stage for the UAE to demonstrate its progress and plans for the satellite sector along with the many other development areas.
Expo 2020 will drive companies to invest more in the Middle East and garner the rewards of one of the fastest growing ICT market in the world.
Masood Mahmood is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Al Yah Satellite Communications Company, Yahsat, the Abu Dhabi based Satellite Communications Company. Taking up position as CEO in June 2013, Masood is responsible for the management and full deployment of Yahsat’s operational capabilities both on the commercial and governmental front. He will also focus on the complete rollout of YahClick, Yahsat’s flagship satellite broad-
band internet service spanning 28 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Central and South West Asia. Prior to his role as CEO, Masood held the position of Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Yahsat. Before joining Yahsat Masood worked as Vice President at Mubadala’s Information and Communications Technology unit (ICT) where he was in charge of corporate strategy and asset management of all assets under ICT such as du, EMTS,
Injazat and Yahsat. In addition to a wealth of experience in corporate strategy and asset management garnered from his role at Mubadala ICT, Masood also has significant experience in investment management and business development having served for more than decade at a number of high profile government and semi-government entities in the UAE, such as Dubai Holding and the Executive Office of H.H. Sheikh Mohamad bin Rashid Al Maktoum. february 2014
EXPO 2020 IN PERSPECTIVE
SETTING THE STAGE FOR SCIENCE, INNOVATION, AND A MARKETPLACE FOR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IN THE UAE
“THE YEAR 2020 IS ALSO THE TARGET FOR WHEN RENEWABLE ENERGY WILL BE INTEGRATED IN THE UAE IN A MAJOR WAY. DUBAI HAS COMMITTED TO SECURE 5% OF ITS TOTAL ENERGY NEEDS FROM RENEWABLE SOURCES BY 2020, WHILE ABU DHABI HAS TARGETED 7%”
By Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh
ubai’s win of the hosting privilege of Expo 2020 may have come as a surprise to some, but to those of us who have witnessed the emirate’s growth over the past few decades, it seemed only fitting for an Emirate that has epitomized ‘boldness’ since independence. The very same boldness that helped transform Dubai from a small trading city just 40 some years ago to a world-class metropolis today is what makes Dubai
and the World Expo such an obvious pairing. Ever since the first Expo was held in London in 1851, this has been an event focused on bringing the world together to share the best of technology, innovation, and culture. And what better city to host the World Expo in 2020 than what is already one of the planet’s most cosmopolitan, innovative, developed, prosperous and exciting urban centers? Now, with six years to go until this massive international exhibition gets underway in Dubai, it is exciting to peer
ahead into the future and imagine how Expo 2020 will change Dubai and the UAE overall for the better. With the theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, it would be remiss for Expo 2020 to not have a major focus on advanced technology and innovation that uplifts society and individuals. In particular, I hope and believe that Expo 2020 will present to the world the undeniable evidence of the success of the UAE’s knowledge economy transformation efforts.
Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh is the President of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.
As per the UAE’s Vision 2021, the goal is for the country to have a diversified and flexible knowledge-based economy powered by knowledgeable, skilled and innovative Emiratis and strengthened by world-class talent. For the past decade or so, efforts have been underway across the country to achieve this. Dubai and Abu Dhabi in particular have invested billions into building the ecosystem that a knowledge-economy requires; improving the quality of education, establishing advanced universities, setting up free zones and drafting new laws and policies to attract business. By the time Expo 2020 rolls around, these seeds that the UAE has planted will have begun to bear fruit. And one such fruit that is critical for the onward progression of the knowledge-economy ecosystem is the cultivation of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are the real engines for innovation. They are the agents for change who can revolutionize the way we live with just an idea. Where others may just see a risk and limited reward, entre-
preneurs passionately chase their dreams, resulting in new products, services, and knowledge for everyone to benefit from. It is only by taking on risk that great reward can be achieved, and entrepreneurs embrace that. In the run-up to Dubai Expo 2020, I believe we will begin to see the real bloom of entrepreneurs in the UAE. They will be homegrown dreamers who have benefited from the improved education, business laws and support in the UAE, as well as foreigners drawn to the opportunities the emirates provide. And I am confident that the UAE’s leadership, in recognition of the value of entrepreneurs, will amend the financial regulations and business rules to give these agents of change every chance needed to achieve their dreams. By the time Expo 2020 is upon us, I predict that the UAE will be recognized as a major competitive center for science, technology, and innovation. It will be a marketplace for the intellectual property that comes out of the country’s research institutions, like the Masdar Institute of
Madar Institute lab
BY THE TIME EXPO 2020 IS UPON US, I PREDICT THAT THE UAE WILL BE RECOGNIZED AS A MAJOR COMPETITIVE CENTER FOR SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION. Science and Technology, of which I am honored to be president. Dubai’s own competitive business environment will serve as a testing ground and consumer of many of the new products that its scientists, engineers and innovators develop. As both an international trade and travel hub, Dubai will show the world how the UAE is developing and sharing its intellectual wealth as well as its financial resources for the wellbeing of humanity. The year 2020 is also the target for when renewable energy will be integrated in the UAE in a major way. Dubai has committed to secure 5% of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, while Abu Dhabi has targeted 7%. Dubai’s hosting of Expo 2020 will show the world how fossil fuel rich economies can take the initiative to develop and integrate clean energy. Meeting those targets will also surely see the uptake of the human capital and renewable energy technologies and systems being developed at Masdar Institute today. With the successful completion of Expo 2020, I expect the UAE to enjoy increased international investment for some time to come. In particular, I hope our educational and research institutions, in collaboration with the local and global industrial enterprises, will demonstrate the country’s contribution to the protection of environment, prevention of wasteful resource consumption and most importantly, the wellbeing of mankind. february 2014
DIGITAL BEST PRACTICES 2014 THE WHAT’S WHAT OF THE INTERWEBS
BY THE PEOPLE WHO DO DIGI BEST TELCOS ARE TAKING OVER CLEARTAG TALKS SOCIAL MEDIA FOR THE REGION’S TELECOMMUNICATION COMPANIES MOBILE APP MANIA ANGHAMI HITS 4.3 MILLION LEGAL MUSIC DOWNLOADS AND PROVES THAT IT CAN BE DONE HACKER HACKER CYBER SECURITY CONCERNS HITTING THE FOREFRONT OF CORPORATE AGENDAS 28
SOCIAL MEDIA APOCALYPSE THE DAY THE INTERNET RUINED YOUR CAREER… OR JUSTINE SACCO’S DIGITAL PREDICTIONS ARABNET ANALYZES THE REGION’S TRENDS FOR THE YEAR AHEAD SEO BY THE BOOKS SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION FOR YOUR SME IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK
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#TrepTalkME ENTREPRENEUR IS DIGITAL www.entrepreneurmiddleeast.com EntMagazineME @EntMagazgineME | @FidaChaaban Entrepreneur-me EntrepreneurMiddleEast EntMagazineME EntMagazineME EntMagazineME
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ARABNET TALKS BUSINESS digi-business that is
CEO Omar Christidis gives you the heads up for navigating the web in the GCC
he most interesting thing in my opinion is that [H.H.] Sheik Mohammed [Bin Rashid Al Maktoum], went up on stage in a conference and said I want all of the government to be on mobile device nonstop. He even tweeted at one point, and I remember this so clearly. What a powerful tweet! He said, ‘We gave you a period of two years and those who are not doing so in two years, we’re going to have farewell parties for them.’ I remember meeting with clients in Dubai, and everyone was talking about farewell parties so I mean if it’s on Sheikh Mohammed’s agenda, then it’s really on everyone’s agenda.” Omar Christidis, CEO and Founder of ArabNet, one of the region’s most relevant digital summits, discusses the evolution of the GCC’s switched-on ethos. That’s not all he finds fascinating, he speaks at length about e-commerce and the importance of mastering that type of portal and medium immediately. “In 2014, for retailers definitely one of the top priorities in e-commerce. That extends across the board.” “You talk to the big retailers today in the UAE, all of them across the region even are launching online stores, whether it’s Landmark or Spinney’s. We’re seeing, and we’re going to see, lots of supermarkets coming online, it’s one of the topics that we’re really interested in. Payment providers that have launched in the last year, including people like Payforit and Echo are really trying to >>>
“We’re seeing digital on the CEO agenda, because digital is perceived as today a customer service channel, a product-delivery channel, and a sales channel. All of these different things and more.” 30
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“Setting up that kind of relay system is really important and it will make all of the difference to clients deciding on which bank is on the ball.” There are a few companies regionally who are captivating Christidis’ attention lately, specifically in the banking sector. One excellent example according to Omar that we were able to verify ourselves very swiftly? “RAKBANK. They are doing extremely well. This is a great example of how a MENA region bank is doing social media right.” Indeed, a
quick tweet later at RAKBANK from our magazine’s account and we’re rewarded with a quick and witty response. They’re fun, funny, and fast, while still delivering content and added value. We also tested their Facebook response time, and found similar impressive results. Omar’s recommendations for banks about to venture into the social media sphere? “Obviously
“RAKBANK [...] are doing extremely well. This is a great example of how a MENA region bank is doing social media right.”
ARABNET’S TARGETED MARKETING “In Riyadh, our event is really focused on the Saudi Arabian market. It has more speakers than are from KSA talking specifically about KSA. It has its own specificities, and from a consumer perspective it’s really the biggest market. Certainly there are more consumers in Egypt, but if you factor in purchasing power and where advertising dollars are interested in going, they’re definitely aiming for Saudi Arabian targets,” says Omar Christidis, referring to how exactly each ArabNet conference is structured, and explaining the differences between the three events. “We see Dubai as
the business hub for the region, so that’s where we stage our international event. We see the opportunity for the digital summit in Dubai to become the platform for digital business, not just in the Arab world but in emerging markets more broadly. We see our UAE event as a platform for SMEs from around the region who have established themselves in their home markets. They can come to the summit in Dubai to leverage this platform as an expansion opportunity to the rest of the GCC and to access budgets that are targeting the entire Middle East and to grow as well internationally.”
RAKBANK TWITTER ACCOUNT IMAGE SOURCE TWITTER.COM
help create the infrastructure on which platforms can rise. And we’ve seen massive investments in the e-commerce space from the big players, not retailers but platforms like Souk and Marka and Amsheed –who I’d say are the biggest players- have each raised between 20 and 40 million dollars for growth and expansion.”
a financial institution will not ask for sensitive information over social media, but I do think a process must be set in place. A one-line response about something like bank location can be delivered via Twitter. But if it’s something that requires information collected from the side of brand most likely they should -and will- ask for user contact info to speak directly to the client. Setting up that kind of relay system is really important and it will make all of the difference to clients deciding on which bank is on the ball.” A search through their Twitter timeline also confirmed that RAKBANK has the more sensitive areas of banking concerns mastered as well.
This year, Christidis sees online marketing activities for SMEs as extremely important. “You can get a lot of mileage doing online marketing on a much lower budget today than it would be required to do traditional marketing. That’s one key thing. Understanding how to leverage digital marketing and social media
best practices. How to leverage content and create,” is of primary importance in the year ahead according to Omar. “The big traditional sectors are focusing on digital now, and cyber security is important for big business,” he says referencing several conferences taking place in the region. >>>
“You can get a lot of mileage doing online marketing on a much lower budget today than it would be required to do traditional marketing.”
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What are developers and the rest of the digi-oriented workforce missing out on that can be capitalized on this year? “There is a tremendous opportunity in B2B, people aren’t leveraging that. They immediately think, ‘I want to do the next Instagram or the next Facebook.’ Those are difficult -you have to build a lot of critical mass before you start monetizing and it’s difficult to build critical masswhereas if you do B2B you can start getting revenues in immediately and there are a lot of businesses that need support. When we talk of mobile app companies, they all get excited about releasing them and trying to make money on apps that they own, but the majority are still generating at least a quarter to half of their revenues from working with clients.” In terms of development and tech demand, where does he see it going? “Whether it’s banks, operators, healthcare institutions or schools. There is a massive kick today to get tablets in the classrooms to deliver educational content or edutainment. This year we’ll see more and more games that teach being created. We’ve seen already pretty successful (relatively), interesting applications that teach kids that the Arabic alphabet or things like the shapes, letters, animals. For hospitals it’s looking
“Whether it’s banks, operators, healthcare institutions or schools. There is a massive kick today to get tablets in the classrooms to deliver educational content or edutainment” 34
at how to use tablets on how to provide information to your patient through an application, things like Mobile Baby launched in Saudi Arabia [by Mobily] which allows mothers to get pictures of their baby ultrasounds delivered to their mobile devices.” What is 2014 from an evolution perspective in digi? Christidis says that when social media started out, it was perhaps perceived as more of a niche channel or a marketing channel alone, and boy have things changed since. This year “we’re seeing digital on the CEO agenda, because digital is perceived as today a customer service channel, a product-delivery channel, and a sales channel. All of these different things and more.”
One universal trend in the digi job market? “Content marketing is a big trend across the board. People who can generate content that adds value and is more subtly-branded. People’s attention to the traditional ad spot is diminishing and we’re seeing more and more product placement. The line between advertising and content is increasingly becoming blurry. We’re going to see more of that for 2014,” adds Christidis. He’s quick to point out that the market advantage is with the agencies that can strategically produce these challenging types of content veins, and explains that contentproviders will increasingly demonstrate an edge over the more traditional, straightforward ad placement types of strategies.
THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY CRISIS CONTROL “Be honest and if you mess up, be upfront about it. I think that one of the key things is being humble- respecting users and understanding that they are intelligent. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for a big company to say I’m sorry.”
REPUTATION MANAGEMENT “When you find yourself in a crisis, admit that you made a mistake- there is no shame in that. We all make mistakes and that humanizes the brand and actually makes it closer to the consumer. That ad-
As the CEO and Founder of ArabNet, Omar Christidis is widely acknowledged as a digital expert in arenas of web development, social media, e-commerce, digital trend analysis including advertising and strategic marketing, digital content localization, and more. Christidis graduated magna cum laude with BA in Ethics, Politics, and Economics from Yale, followed by an MBA from the Yale School of Management with distinction in Data Analysis, Economics, Finance, International Finance, Developing Winning Strategies, and Ecommerce Strategy. The annual ArabNet conferences are staged in three countries regionally; two GCC-centric events held respectively in Dubai, UAE and Riyadh, KSA, and one dedicated to the Levant region held in Beirut, Lebanon. ArabNet Dubai focuses more on digital advertising and marketing due to the high concentration of brands and agencies. In addition to the large-scale ArabNet conferences, specific dedicated smaller-scale events such as the ArabNet Developer Tournaments are considered an industry reference, often used as regional recruitment ground for talent in the digital mediums.
mission builds trust with the consumer if they know that when you mess up you’ll be honest about it. When you mess up, do try to compensate for that mess up. I’ve seen some models of telecom operators that went and gave all of their customers extra minutes to compensate for a lapse in service. They were honest and even had it on their website, ‘We’re sorry for the recent outage.’”
COMMUNICATION “Respond when the users ask questions, and address their key concerns. Listen. That is extremely important -sometimes people see social media as a broadcast platform- it’s not, it’s an interactive two-way platform. If you don’t use the two-way channel you’re not getting the most out of social media. It’s even a way to get ideas from your customers on how to improve products and services.” BULL’S-EYE “Social media should be mostly Arabic for Saudi Arabia. In Dubai, English unless you’re targeting nationals. Before you decide on language, analyze your target audience, it’s also about what lingo does your audience speak? You’re not talking to everyone- you’re talking to a specific segment. You could be tweeting at 10a.m. and think that that’s the right time to tweet, but your audience is awake after midnight. That’s part of listening and understand your audience. What are they talking about? Where are they engaging? For some brands, it’s Facebook, for others it’s more Twitter. There is no one size fits all social media strategy.” CONTENT “Most good agencies will automatically come to a client and say that you cannot talk about your product more than 10% or at max 20% of the time on your social media platforms. The rest of the time, say 80%, you have to create content that is relevant and adds value to the user. That content is either directly related to your product or added value. If I’m a car company based in Dubai, my shared content might be around great road trips to take to other Emirates. You can get even more specific and narrow it down to great one-day road trips to take. You might
talk about car maintenance and tips and tricks to get the most mileage out of your car. These are all examples of relevant content that someone who is a car fan might appreciate and will continue to engage with you on.” MEDIUMS “Unless you have a lot of content, YouTube is a challenging platform to be on, and it’s expensive. Creating high quality video content is not cheap. Social media comes before apps for SME. For retailers, having an app is not as important as having an online e-commerce platform, and those are not easy. There is a lot of logistical issues like supply chain- all of these things are challenges. What do I want my app to do for a brand? If you keep in mind adding value to the user, that’s the most important thing- the person is not going to open your app if they don’t get value out of it. Twitter is gaining ground in some key markets like Saudi Arabia, especially among the younger segment. The thing is that we don’t have that wealth of statistics about Middle Eastern users, but what we do know is that more broadly speaking, younger teens are favoring new platforms as more exciting like Instagram or Snapchat.” WATCHDOG “Set your KPIs. Key performance indicators are everything. If you’re not directly monitoring those mediums, you need to set a plan and monitor the plan. The deliverables that you’ve set like rates of engagement, and a pretty good content calendar that should be fleshed out. You can plan your tweets in advance, specifically about timely topics- the weekend, holidays. Plan those way in advance and you can do special things for them, and once you set topics, you can have repeating content. If you’re a brand that has a lot of views you might do something one a day week, every week about music, or media or shows. I think that once you have something structured in place you can do a lot around it. Certainly I think you cannot just hand over completely without having some sort of audit and setting clear and measureable goals for the agency.” february 2014
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TELCOS TAKE CONNECTIVITY SERIOUSLY Cleartag sets the industry standard in the Middle East
leartag, a digital agency with offices in both Dubai and in Beirut, has created quite the name for themselves. The agency, part of holding DNY Group, services retainer clients across the Middle East with some of the most established brands topping the list, specifically social media platforms in the highly-coveted telecommunications sector. A digital leader, Cleartag has amassed numerous Web Awards. Declared an Official Honouree and shortlisted for the Webby Awards, making them one of the only Middle East-based digital agencies to have ever received a Webby Award nod. The
agency took home the Sapphire in Digital Innovation at the MENA Cristal Awards last year for their collaboration on Novo by Bank Audi. They continue to participate in the region’s most relevant industry conferences on an annual basis, Arabnet and GITEX, generally presenting client-oriented landmark achievements. In 2013, Executive magazine named Cleartag as one of “Lebanon’s Top 20 Entrepreneurs 2013”, lauding their “method of cross-pollination”, working across multiple platforms and mediums for market penetration. >>>
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Omar Abou Ezzeddine, Deputy General Manager of Cleartag, a Cum Laude Bachelor of Business Administration graduate of George Washington University, followed up with a master’s of science concentrating on Information Systems Development. The 31-year-old digital enthusiast and entrepreneur works closely with his staff to ensure that their MENA telco clients, du out of the UAE, MTN Yemen, and touch Lebanon, are innovative and dynamic- key factors when telcos take to social media.
I DON’T THINK ANY TELCO CAN OR SHOULD FUNCTION WITHOUT THE ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE, SERVICE, AND ASSIST CUSTOMERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Why is it important to have a social media presence for companies in the telecommunications sector? The purest, simplest and widest form of interaction in our era is through mobile and social media platforms. The unity between the telecommunication sector and social media is just a very direct embodiment of how we communicate today. Connectivity, be it voice or data, is no longer a luxury, it’s a basic need for everything from business to personal and with billions of customers across the globe. I don’t think any telco can or should function without the ability to communicate, service, and assist customers on social media. It is really life as we know it- and life requires live care, immediate answers, and swift fixes. There is nothing faster than social media to ensure this is implemented.
What are your thoughts on promoted tweets and promoted Facebook posts for the telecommunications sector? We need to accept the fact that these platforms are shaping our businesses, but they are also very much commercial. Promoted tweets and Facebook posts are a necessity to increase reach and visibility. With this, it is the force of the actual content that will determine engagement. Determining whether a tweet or post needs promotion or not depends on many factors including target audience, type of tweet or post (product, service, announcement, and the like), internal KPIs and more. A very popular brand that has many followers requires promoted tweets and posts to make sure the message reaches the desired audience. Any tweet or post that has the potential to go organically viral should not be promoted.
When creating a digital strategy for your telecommunication clients, what are the top three things that should be incorporated? The top three items that are a must when handling the strategy for a telco are an SLA for response time, response rate and engagement rates, a mechanism/platform to liaise with the offline customer support team and internal units, and a dynamic content creation strategy.
When did Cleartag land the du account? What platforms is Cleartag managing for du? Cleartag officially won the du account at the start of September 2013 and we took over all social media operations on September 15, 2013. As one of the true digital leaders in the UAE, du is available and active on a number of social media platforms Cleartag manages including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
DU TWITTER ACCOUNT IMAGE SOURCE TWITTER.COM | DU FACEBOOK PAGE IMAGE SOURCE FACEBOOK.COM | TOUCH LINKEDIN IMAGE SOURCE LINKEDIN.COM
“The unity between the telecommunication sector and social media is just a very direct embodiment of how we communicate today”
“Online complaints and crises are no stranger to any business, including telcos. The key is responsiveness and communication with the concerned party. One angry tweet or post can very quickly become a happy and thankful one when it is dealt with swiftly and professionally”
In addition to du, Cleartag manages several other telcos in the region. What have you learned about fostering a good social media presence in the telecommunications sector? Cleartag currently works with a number of telcos in the region including touch Lebanon, MTN Yemen, and most recently, du. Any agency working with a telco must be nimble, flexible, and extremely swift. The telco industry is extremely competitive and fast paced with volumes of customers who are resorting to social media platforms in an effort to get their answers fast and on the go. Furthermore, we are encountering a new wave of thought leaders within telcos who are constantly innovating and challenging the norms of the industry by allowing agencies such as Cleartag to assist with co-creation and innovation in products and services within these telcos.
How did you determine the “voice” of du on their social media platforms? The tone of voice was carefully defined using the brand guidelines of du. We incorporated this tone of voice online by observing previous case studies and by understanding the audience. This is about pattern analysis. The first couple of weeks are always a trial period that helps define the tone needed in different scenarios and cases. When Cleartag first took over du’s platforms, what challenges did you face? The first and foremost challenge of any new account is twofold. Firstly, adapting to the community you are managing online; secondly, adapting to the client and team that you’re working with. I can comfortably say that in digital those are two challenges you never fully overcome, however, it’s up to the agency to set the pace with both the online community and the client. The takeover process with du was extremely swift therefore, the Cleartag team deployed on the account had to very quickly get fully immersed in the brand, the products, the services,
the technicalities, the events, and much more. I wouldn’t call this a challenge, I would call this phase a thrill… one filled with so much adrenaline, you can’t but feel the excitement. How does Cleartag liaise with du on problem-solving for customers in real-time? Discuss your crisis control strategy for an online complaint. Customer support on social media is very much about identifying a problem, acknowledging, and resolving in a timely manner. It is our responsibility as the agency to first rely on scripts and logged cases that we can immediately refer to in order to resolve a case. Online complaints and crises are no stranger to any business, including telcos. The key is responsiveness and communication with the concerned party. One angry tweet or post can very quickly become a happy and thankful one when it is dealt with swiftly and professionally. With the correct internal escalation matrices and healthy communication between the agency and the concerned units’ client side, everything can be resolved. >>> february 2014
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“THERE IS NOTHING TRICKIER THAN INCORPORATING A BRAND IDENTITY WHILE REMAINING HUMAN” When civil unrest occurs, what is your Discuss the trickiness of navigating digital strategy for touch Lebanon? social media influencers? In light of the With Lebanon, that is always a tough inherent distrust of corporate accounts, call specifically when we use the word how do you get the online commu“unrest” as we are, unfortunately, no nity to trust a company that they view strangers to civil and political unrest. negatively? Prior to Cleartag’s takeover, However, if you are referring to specific touch Lebanon was disliked on Twitter incidents where there is loss of life, we aland they’re now considered a “fun” and ways advise positive force on the our clients to MENA timeline. “It has become imperative refrain from Crisis management to expose information in an engagement on social media reintelligent manner. We have in such casquires the same skills es. Customer needed to handle a found that infographs and care remains social conversation or graphics are the key to effective functional dispute outdoor with always howa challenging crowd: communication online today” ever, engageTransparency, respect ment related communications are usually and simplicity. There is nothing trickier halted as a sign of respect. than incorporating a brand identity while remaining human. While we always stratIs Facebook or Twitter is a more effecegize online, when it comes to core comtive corporate medium? Discuss the use munity management, it is simply common of Instagram and its efficacy for a telco in sense and transparency, away from plots light of the fact that it’s visually-based? and ways to impress influencers. Every With the influx of information, human person on a timeline is an influencer or a beings are being exposed to today through potential blogger or celebrity. the access to digital and social platforms, it has become imperative to expose information in an intelligent manner. We have found that infographs and graphics are the key to effective communication online today. Pure content does not grab the average users attention and verbose is dead. A visual Facebook post generates more engagement than pure content. The same goes with Twitter. Since Instagram is visual by design, the above becomes natural. Instagram is quickly becoming an ideal place to sell, converse and cross-sell, but we cannot just choose one platform over another without taking the target audience into consideration. Every platform has its audience. For example, Instagram is very popular in the UAE among Emirati audiences, while Twitter remains the first choice for bloggers and influencers with 401,000 users in the UAE as per the latest registered data. As for Facebook, it’s always the platform that gives mass exposure. The UAE has the highest Facebook penetration rate in the region with Omar Abou Ezzeddine presenting for a telco at ArabNet approximately 3.4 million people.
How do you engage influencers with a telecom account? Is it important to foster relationships with influential tweeps for a telco? How do you gage who is considered an influencer on Twitter? This is of primary importance. Influencers not only assist in influencing brand perceptions, they also allow for further engagement, crowdsourcing and make room for feedback that can be key to a brands success online. Having said that, in the social media world today such relationships are tricky considering the different “influencer” profiles and their intentions online. Agencies must be extremely careful in their profiling of influencers. The initial step and key is research -followers, field or industry, social presence on other platformspresence online meaning publications or other, case studies with the same tweep on other timelines. The second step is less quantitative and more simply about network and public reach. Social media is a digital representation of human connections, not the simplest form of communication.
MTN YEMEN FACEBOOK PAGE IMAGE SOURCE FACEBOOK.COM
NO BRAND IS SUCCESSFUL WITHOUT AN EXTREMELY DYNAMIC ONLINE COMMUNICATION STRATEGY FOR ANYTHING FROM GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENTS TO PRODUCT AND SERVICE LAUNCHES AND MORE. Do you think telcos are better positioned on social media if they are executing their platforms in-house? I have always believed that the community management or call center role of social media management is a build, operate, transfer function from an agency to a client. In some cases this can be done in one to two years and in other cases it could take up to five years. As an agency, we provide a platform that our clients plug into that assists them in managing all platforms including ticketing, escalation, sentiment analysis, and much more. In the end, social media for businesses is about data modelling and data analysis at its core. Itâ€™s very important to outsource social media management in order to put a brand on the social map, to set the proper guidelines, tone of voice, platform and create a strategic model to abide by and follow. However, the real focus of any agency should be on the strategic and creative role and approach of communication on social media platforms. While one extremely important thread is customer care, no brand is successful without an extremely dynamic online communication strategy for anything from general announcements to product and service launches and more.
How did Cleartag and du decide on hours of operation for Twitter? Is there an ideal timeframe for telco operational hours on social media? du social media channels actually operate 24/7. No matter the hour you address du on social media, be it at 3 a.m. or 5 p.m., youâ€™ll receive a response very quickly. This is something that was agreed upon and made clear as an expectation by du on their social media platforms. When it comes to customer care, I can very confidently say that du are really breaking boundaries in making sure their customers are assisted at all times. The ideal
case scenario should not be less than a 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. schedule. Social media customer care channels should mirror consumer demand. And this is how intense demand is for telecommunication customer support. What telecom accounts in North America do you find have an effective social media presence? T-Mobile USA are doing a great job on social media in terms of customer support specifically. Their response time and response rate are impeccable and their tone of voice is interesting. february 2014
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Making Beautiful Music THE GCC ADOPTS DOWNLOADING MUSIC VIA MOBILE APP… LEGALLY
nghami, the region’s legal alternative to pirated music, is celebrating an impressive 4.3 million downloads. Launched publically on December 30, 2012 after a beta period that began nearly two months earlier on November 5th, the mobile app’s Co-Founders Elie Habib and Eddy Maroun were caught off-guard by their first milestone achievement. “Totally unexpected for us was that on March 4th, 2013 when we got to one million downloads,” says Habib. “While an entrepreneur always plans for success, I have to admit that it was totally unexpected for us. We hit our second million on June 6th, 2013, and we never looked back.”
Division of labour between the CoFounders is thus: “I am the techie guy… I handle the actual product and operations and I wrote the first version of Anghami,” says Habib, whereas Maroun “handles the musical part -which by far is a more complicated task dealing with music from artists- and business development. I focus on the product, team and growth strategies. I don’t code as much as before.” Now in the process of opening up their new offices in In5, Dubai Internet City, Habib says that logistical difficulties were primarily recruitment followed by funding, despite the fact that they had US$3m raised. Their initial base of Lebanon proved to be setback for quality staff: “We are basically a music company, but at core an engineering one. Recruiting top-notch engineers for a startup wasn’t easy when launching, now it’s actually recruiting top-notch engineers who want to work in Lebanon that’s getting harder and harder. While
Anghami Co-Founders selected as Endeavor entrepreneurs in Palo Alto, California by Endeavor’s 50th International Selection Panel (ISP) October 2013
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we are quite keen to keep our staff centralized (as all benefit from learning from each other), we’ll probably be hiring more remote workers to cope with our growth.” There is one benefit that came from starting out of Lebanon- Habib says that due to the telecommunication limitations they were “forced to be creative and created a specific compression scheme for our music. We worked with Dolby sound all in the mountains of Batroun! It was an impressive test to drive from deep in the mountains without any interruption on Sundays. I can tell you my
kids got to know all of the music and weren’t too happy when I had to stop to take notes,” he jokes. “For me, this was a landscape and 2G connectivity at most- that definitely proved that if it works [in Lebanon], it will work anywhere!” Strategically, Habib says that their “biggest misstep was believing that we can transition from a free model (in the first three months) to a freemium model, and that users will understand the concept. It turns out that you need much, much [sic] more communication when introducing a new model. Slowly, we realized we needed more explanations/onboarding to the users, and this is clear in the latest versions of Anghami– and will be clearer in upcoming ones.” >>>
“I have to admit that it was totally unexpected for us. We hit our second million on June 6th, 2013, and we never looked back.”
ANGHAMI BY THE NUMBERS KSA FOR THE WIN?
DIAL +966 “Saudi Arabia represents just over 20% of our user-base, and it has been consistently the highest number of Anghami free and paid users. Though we are witnessing impressive growth in several other countries such as Egypt, UAE, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, Morocco, and Jordan.” DIAL +20 “The second highest number of Anghami users would be Egypt. We expect Egypt to probably become our top country soon.” DIAL +216 “Anghami is available in 191 countries which means we are pretty much everywhere. Our presence in MENA is lesser in countries that don’t have 3G and low smartphone penetration. This would be Tunisia.” PIECHART “Android is roughly 50% of our user base. iPhone is 38%, BlackBerry is 11%, and Nokia has just 1%. We are launching Windows Phone shortly, but I still expect Android to dominate the market.”
PEOPLE POWER “We employ 18 people today, and we are hiring at least four more within Q1 2014.” PREDICTIONS “Our business plan –that I just looked up right now– indicates that in the first year we would garner close to 230,000 users. That’s how high our expectations were. Talk about business plans!”
GOAL STATE “While I am happy that we have close to four million tracks now, I am more ecstatic [about] reaching eight million in mid-year 2014! We are focusing now on more Indie labels, and I guess you’ll get more unheard-of songs in Anghami as we grow and get more recognition for our product.”
TIMELINE “It took us 95 days to get to one million users. It took 10 months for Facebook, 24 months for Twitter to hit one million users. Clearly it’s a different era, but we could never have estimated 95 days.” DIRECT RELATIONSHIP “The Gulf constitutes close to 40% of our userbase and while the differences between countries prevail because of many factors -UAE and Qatar smartphone penetration is 75%- some other countries are far from this number. Our product is mobile and our growth goes with the smartphone trend.”
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value in it you will upgrade, otherwise the The fix for this was alterfree service should be just enough for you. ing their communication On top of freemium comes advertising, methods: “We realized –by which we will be launching quite soon at learning– that communicating large scale.” He admits that the debate a message to millions of users for the MENA region is whether or not has to be tailored differently freemium has demonstrated success here, and incrementally.” Right but maintains now, installthat “the best ing Ang“Slowly, we realized we needed option is alhami on your most what we smartphone more explanations/onboarding to are providing gives you a the users, and this is clear in the now.” one month latest versions of Anghami– and Insofar as free trial to will be clearer in upcoming ones.” marketing stream and and user endownload gagement on social media platforms goes, to your heart’s content. The Anghami’s most active platform was Face“freemium strategy –probably book pre-December 2013. He says Faceone of the most used stratebook’s algorithm affecting post-visibility gies now on mobile- originally in user timelines changed that, and that discussed at large by Chris their Twitter account has now surpassed Anderson, Wired’s former Facebook. They’re currently “experimentEditor in Chief. Freemium is ing on Google+ and Instagram. So far, a good equilibrium between Instagram seems quite promising until paid and free, as we realized the Facebook guys roll [out] their paid that we are bringing a new posts probably.” Currently an iPhone user, concept to the region which Habib is “definitely dogfooding our prodis streaming, rather than ucts, so I will be switching to Android ownership– our fiercest by next week.” The first song he himself competitor was always going downloaded on the successful platform? to be piracy.” Habib explains “I just looked it up right now on the systhat freemium basically works tem. That would be Thriller by Michael by the user-base finding value Jackson. Not bad of a choice.” in the product, “If you find
Mohammad Assaf (Arab Idol) testing out Anghami at a du event
Freemium is a good equilibrium between paid and free, as we realized that we are bringing a new concept to the region which is streaming, rather than ownership– our fiercest competitor was always going to be piracy.
The Logistics > “We never thought it would be that hard to get legal music, since piracy is quite easy. We started by doing deals with the Arab labels in the region (some for exclusivity), since we realized that the Gulf region is more likely to want Arabic songs. This by itself was quite hard as there are a lot of solo producers in the region, and legal rights are somehow murky for several known old artists. After that, we had 44
to make deals with the large majors in the States, which is totally a different story– requiring much more negotiation skills.” > “We are partnering with The Voice on MBC and Anghami will carry exclusively all The Voice music. Clearly we expect this to be big. We are [also] expecting to launch a couple of new features at the same time– but I cannot disclose more.”
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DIGITAL SECURITY AT THE TOP OF THE PECKING ORDER IN QATAR Doha stages regional security forum As cyber crimes increase in number and severity, digital security has become a highly prioritized issue in both private and public sectors. Doha will host the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Security Forum February 4-5, 2014 at the St. Regis Hotel. The forum will be staged by Meeza in collaboration with Al Iktissad Wal Aamal Group under the patronage of Qatar’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Dr. Hessa Sultan Al Jaber. Eight speakers, including BlackBerry Security Group’s Nader Henein, Europol’s Troels Oerting, and Secretary General of the International
Telecommunications Union Dr. Hamadoun Toure, will be presenting at the Security Forum. In an interview with Gulf News, Dr. Hessa Al Jaber stressed the importance of using panels and forums to highlight the significance of digital security: “We need to spread constant awareness of all that’s happening within the field of digital security and constantly explore means of defense and protection; and further develop digital security systems within institutions and companies, as well as legislation and related laws.”
Who you gonna call?
Intersec zeroes in on mobile phone crime The increasingly larger role mobile phones play in our lives has made them virtually sacred. As a result of that, we’ve seen a significantly greater threat posed by cyber-criminals, given the amount of valuable information stored on our devices- everything from banking access to highly sensitive medical information. McAfee Labs Threats Report of Q3 of 2013 shows that malware in Android phones alone have grown by a third from Q2 of 2013, at over 680,000 samples. Moreover, in September 2013, Vodaphone Germany reported the theft of personal information from two million of their customers. The issue of mobile phone crime was brought to the table in Dubai on January 21, 2014, on the last day of Intersec 2014. The Mobile Phone Crime Conference was organized by Dubai Police, and had a panel of speakers that included senior officials from Dubai Police’s Criminal Investigation Department as well as experts from Scotland Yard. While the panel had informative talks about the different types of electronic crimes and their alarmingly increasing rate, there were also talks on how to protect your devices and counter potential threats to phone security. With the business world constantly changing with technological advancements and innovations, it is expected to see businesses invest more in robust security measures to counter cyber crimes, including on staff mobile phones.
Intersec Dubai UAE 2014
the day the RUINED
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internet YOUR CAREER Justine Sacco’s PR blunder should teach everyone valuable lessons about social media By Fida Chaaban
A JUSTINE SACCO TWEET IMAGE SOURCE TWITTER.COM
ll it takes is one stupid comment on social media to ruin your professional image. I have often cautioned my staff that regardless of whether or not you post the disclaimers that run the vein from “Opinions are my own” to “My opinions do not reflect those of my company”, you are still somewhat accountable for anything and everything you say on a public platform. What you do and say online does reflect on your employer and the most recent example of this is Justine Sacco- the now infamous (former?) head of communications for InterActiveCorp (IAC). As head of comms for IAC, the conglomerate umbrella of global monster sites including UrbanSpoon.com, Match.com, The Daily Beast, Vimeo, About. com, Ask.com, and Dictionary. com, Sacco made what is possibly the biggest mistake of her career when she tweeted prior to boarding a flight to her native South Africa. The under-140 character comment that started it all? “Going to Africa. Hope
I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” The offensive tweet quickly went viral, and articles popped up all over the internet with Justine gaining over 6000 followers literally overnight. The #HasJustineLandedYet hashtag began trending worldwide and IAC was forced to release a statement distancing themselves from their public relations executive: “This is an outrageous, offensive comment that does not reflect the views >>>
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Sacco’s questionable sense of humour was quickly examined in most articles that went live, and various tweets from 2012 were also quoted and broadcast by top media sources.
and values of IAC.” The statement also clarified that IAC had not yet liaised with Sacco about her tweet explaining that, “Unfortunately, the employee in question is unreachable on an international flight, but this is a very serious matter, and we are taking appropriate action.” Speculation and jibes about Sacco being sacked quickly followed, in addition to articles from every major news outlet. The New York Times Lede blogged, “A Twitter Message About AIDS, Africa and Race”, the Huffington Post speculated on whether or not Sacco’s account had been hacked, and Mashable.com called it “Trial by Social Media.” Forbes-lister Barry Diller, powerhouse Chairman and Senior Executive of IAC, is now up to his ears in a public relations nightmare, since all of the articles that mention the previously little-known Sacco also mention her employer, New York based-IAC and all of their affiliated websites.
Sacco’s questionable sense of humour was quickly examined in most articles that went live, and various tweets from 2012 were also quoted and broadcast by top media sources. One oft-repeated quote that caused even more outrage was something Sacco tweeted February 24, 2012: “I had a sex dream about an autistic kid last night.” Another tweet of hers from last January that seemed oddly like a self-fulfilling prophecy? “I can’t be fired for things I say while intoxicated right?” Actually, you can. Sacco’s Twitter bio of the now-deleted account described her as “CorpComms at IAC. Troublemaker on the side. Also known for my loud laugh.” No one is laughing now, least of all Sacco or Diller, her (former?) boss. In a surprisingly cunning public relations coup, Aid for Africa quickly scooped up the domain
JustineSacco.com and redirected it to their landing page which encourages people to donate. One of Aid for Africa’s main aims as detailed on their website is “introducing medical strategies to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.” The only positive thing to come out of Saccogate thus far is the huge amount of traffic that went the way of Aid for Africa after tens of thousands of people Google-searched Sacco, landing on the re-routed domain. The negative public relations blitz caused by Sacco’s extremely poor judgment is what you make of it. What we make of it is an example of how one person’s unfortunate lack of tact and terrible lack of appropriateness can discredit and endanger corporate reputations; the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and IAC is one of the biggest out there.
DELETED TWITTER ACCOUNT PAGE IMAGE SOURCE TWITTER.COM
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FIVE MINUTES OF FAME THE PRO GUIDE TO SOCIAL MEDIA
These are some of the basic social media rules that Sacco broke. Learn how to play the social media game like a real public relations professional, and protect your career in the process.
FIVE MINUTES OF INFAMY THE PITFALLS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Sacco’s career is most likely over, and while we’re not all head of communications for mega-corporations like IAC, we should all come away with some valuable lessons.
> DON’T AIR YOUR DIRTY LAUNDRY.
If this is not something you want associated with you for the rest of your career, do not post it on social media. Full stop. > YOU ARE NOT A LONE RANGER.
It is the best way to promote positive corporate aims, and it is also the best way to promote corporate failings.
At all times remember that putting yourself out there with your real identifying information means that anyone can quickly link you to both your company and to your personal associates.
> DISCLAIMERS DO NOT MATTER.
> ON TOP OF THE GAME.
> SOCIAL MEDIA IS A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD.
If you think that your “tweets are my own” bio is going to protect your superiors from having to answer for your bad behavior online, you are sorely mistaken. When you go down, your superiors are left to clean up the mess.
> OPINION LEADER.
Be the person on the timeline who is elegant and eloquent. Use the best of your personality to convey a positive, witty and effective person. No one wants to hire someone posting things like “Hate my job, get me outta here.” > TAKE THE HIGH ROAD.
When you are faced with a difficult social media situation, opt for the less-is-more tactic. Do explain yourself concisely with a confident voice and avoid any aggressive undertones.
Share things in real-time only after you’ve read them to yourself first and confirmed that they are in good judgment. If you have even the slightest bit of doubt, do not share it.
> THE WEB IS ITS OWN BOSS.
> VIRALITY IS INEVITABLE WHEN YOU’VE DONE SOMETHING WRONG.
If you make a mistake, it will spread far and fast. All it takes is a few retweets or an Instagram repost or a Facebook share. It will haunt you long after you’ve said it. > DELETING DOESN’T HELP.
The first thing that people do when they see a disaster-in-the-making is screenshot whatever is happening in anticipation of the expected delete. Deleting the offensive comments often fans the flames.
JUSTINE SACCO TWITTER ACCOUNT IMAGE SOURCE TWITTER.COM
All of the media clout in the world cannot silence the internet when it gets going. The web is a platform for all and by default that means that public opinion cannot be quelled.
ADVICE FROM A PR PROFESSIONAL IN TRAINING
Q + A WITH GUGU NDABEZITHA
As a South African public relations professional, do you think that Justine Sacco’s tweet was worse because she’s a South African national? I think because she is a South African national it makes it worse because she knows first-hand what we go through as a nation on a daily basis. It is no secret that the world has controversial opinions about South Africa, and most of these opinions are negative and reflect negatively on South African citizens. Upon reading most of the responses to Justine, it is pretty sad that it has been close to two decades of freedom and democracy in our country but race is still an issue. After the passing of our former president, Nelson Mandela, we should know better! It is unacceptable to mock your own country like that and it is also wrong of us to send death threats to another. With or without context, it is unacceptable and she should know better. However, I do think that we should learn from the late Nelson Mandela and reinforce the spirit of peace and forgiveness.
“THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS YOU WILL LOSE A JOB OPPORTUNITY BECAUSE OF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA REPUTATION.”
AID FOR AFRICA WEBSITE RE-ROUTED FROM JUSTINESACCO.COM
Do you believe that the statement released by IAC was wise? To be honest, I do think it was a wise move. IAC is a reputable organization that needs to keep their reputation clean in order for clients to trust them on present and future projects or deals. It is a business at the end of the day, and they will do what needs to be done for the wellbeing of their reputation and business. Despite the idea that personal Twitter and other social media platforms shouldn’t reflect on your employer, they do. What advice can you give young professionals using social media platforms? Young professionals are very opinionated and controversial, but the truth of the matter is you will lose a job opportunity because of your social media reputation. All I can say is keep that digital footprint in order, think before you press “send”, and most importantly, always remember to never, ever make your boss look incompetent. Damage control is one of the most difficult aspects of public relations. In a time of a global media blitz like the Justine Sacco scenario, can you give three important tips to remember when executing damage control? Do your research. Do your research. Do your research and apologize immediately. You do not want to release a press release or statement that will cause more damage. Make sure your client does not comment without your knowledge. Go back to what you were taught in university/college: Use your persuasive skills to the best of your abilities! february 2014
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MAXIMIZE YOUR CORPORATE SEO BASICS WEB PRESENCE KEYWORD RESEARCH MADE EASY By Eric Siu
hen it comes to optimizing your website for search engines, knowing the best keywords for your brand is critical. But sometimes the process of researching your keywords can get out of hand.
A keyword, or keyword phrase, is an easy way of referring to the queries people type into the search bars of their favorite engines. As a website owner, you want to know which keywords your customers are searching for so that you can use SEO best practices to optimize your site for them and improve your chances of appearing in the natural search results for these queries. Say, for instance, that you run a petgrooming business in Dubai. You want your website to appear at the top of Google’s list for the keyword phrase “pet grooming Dubai, UAE.” You might have already read about the importance of things like keyword competition or keyword search volume when conducting your keyword research. But forget all of that for a moment. The only keywords you need to worry about when you’re starting out are the keywords your customers are actually typing into their search engines.
There are a few different ways you can website. Unfortunately, a large number of find these keywords: your results will come up as “Not Provid> Use your customer research knowled” (thanks to anonymous browsers and edge. Nobody knows your market better Google’s proprietary reasons), but add the than you do. phrases that Instead of relying on a third-party keyword you do see to Instead of generating tool, start writing out a list of relying on a your growing third-party keyword list. all the different keyword variations your keyword gen- customers might be searching for. You can also erating tool, find similar start writing out a list of all the different information in your Google Webmaster keyword variations your customers might Tools account. be searching for. Following our previous > Leverage Google’s “Related Searches”. example, a pet grooming keyword list You can also head over to Google and might include “pet haircut Dubai, UAE,” conduct searches for each of the individual “dog grooming Dubai, UAE” and “pet keywords you’ve come up with to this grooming UAE.” point. Then scroll down to the bottom > Look in Google Analytics. If you have of the results. There, you should see a Google Analytics installed on your website, separate section where Google lists other log in and head over to the “Traffic Sourckeywords that are related to your original es” menu. There, you’ll be able to separate phrase. If any of these keywords are your organic search visitors and see a list relevant to your business, they deserve a of the keywords they used to get to your place on your keyword list.
Once you have an initial keyword list compiled, you can start thinking about keyword search volume and keyword competition. Head over to the Google Adwords Keyword Planner, which recently replaced the External Keyword Tool. You’ll need a Google Adwords account to access the tool, but you should be able create an account without funding it right away. Alternatively, if you prefer to use another keyword tool, such as Wordtracker (plans start at $69 per month) to research search volume, use that one instead. Once in the Google Adwords Keyword Planner, select the option labeled “Enter or upload keywords to see how they perform” and paste your list into the text box that appears. Modify the targeting options if necessary and then click the “Get search volume” button. The screen that appears will give you a rough estimate of the average number of
monthly searches each keyword receives and how competitive Google thinks the phrase is. There’s no hard and fast rule about the minimum number of monthly searches you should aim for, as your threshold will be determined by the size of your audience and the profit margins of your products. For example, if your market is small and your website only receives an average of 1,000 visitors per month, a keyword with a monthly search volume of 100 visitors could be quite lucrative. But if you’re serving a larger market and operate on miniscule profit margins, it might not be worth your time to optimize your site for keywords with less than 3,000 to 5,000 average monthly searches. Search competition is similarly subjective. If you’re in a competitive market, you might not have a choice but to target tough keywords. At the same time, just because a key-
word has low competition doesn’t mean you should optimize your site for it -- especially if it isn’t well-targeted to your customers. If you’re struggling to get started with keyword research, I recommend not worrying too much about either one of these metrics. Start by tailoring your sites to the keyword phrases your visitors are mostly likely to use to find your site, assuming that their Keyword Planner results show at least a few monthly searches. Only after you’ve cut your teeth on these introductory phrases should you start to worry about metrics-driven keyword research. See this article in its entirety at Entrepreneur.com
FIVE EASY TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE SEO
1. Use a domain statistics tools like Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. 2. Fill in a keyword in your Post URL if there isn’t one. 3. Publish unique and rich content, in order to have unique and rich keywords. 4. Use social media to incorporate keywords; for example, try starting a trend on Twitter using a hashtagged keyword. 5. Keep in mind that quantity does not ensure an effective SEO strategy; posting frequent (but not too frequent) quality content is more effective.
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ENTREPRENEURS How technology is changing the SME game By Steve Strauss
ot long ago, I was speaking at a conference in Amman, and then one in Palestine. It was fantastic for several reasons, but mostly because there are few things I love more than speaking and meeting with entrepreneurs around the world: • No matter what country they hail from, entrepreneurs are all alike in one way: They are passionate change-makers willing to take a risk to make a difference. • Inevitably also, the entrepreneurs I speak to are incredibly creative, devising new and better ways to solve problems, and in the process, they create great companies and turn a good profit.
• And they are all excited about the many, many technological tools now available to them- tools that make their job easier and more affordable. I outline these factors, and many other global entrepreneurial changes, in my latest book (done in conjunction with the World Entrepreneurship Forum), Planet Entrepreneur. The bottom line is that it is the greatest time ever – ever – in the history of the planet, to be an entrepreneur. I do not say that lightly, and it is not hyperbole. The global entrepreneurial revolution is real, it’s here, and it is happening right now. The Cold War is over and the entrepreneur won.
Technology has made it so that anyone, anywhere, can start their own business, lead their own cause, and organize their own community.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC Philips has released a new line of audio products: the new SB2000B, SBT30, and SB5200 portable speakers designed for outdoor use. Bluetooth-enabled, the new editions are designed and built to withstand outdoor settings while still providing high quality sound. Their new home-use sound bar, the Philips HTL9100, was awarded “Home Theater Innovation of the 54
Year 2013-2014”, by the European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA). EISA is comprised of 50 special-interest magazines from 20 European countries. With wireless and surround sound, it is designed to give users that extra edge while enjoying their favorite flick. It looks like the new Philips gadgets are going to make some noise in the home entertainment market.
Indeed, there are two main things that have changed over the past generation that have combined to create this golden era of entrepreneurship, especially for small and medium enterprises. The first is the fall of the Soviet Union and China’s capitalist turn. The result of both is that free markets rule the day, and entrepreneurship is now very much in vogue. Entrepreneurship is the future. This is as true in America as it is in Asia as it is in the Middle East (see, for example, Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East, by Christopher Schroeder.) The other transformational change is that of technology. Digital. The Internet. Technology has leveled and flattened the playing field, as Thomas Friedman has famously noted. We are living through one of the greatest technological revolutions of any era, and entrepreneurs are both making it possible and taking advantage of the opportunities technology provides. Once upon a time, an entrepreneur in, say, Dubai was stuck selling his wares in and around Dubai. Global commerce was for the East India Trading Companies of the
world. But no longer. Today, because of the technological, digital, internet revolution, that businessperson in Dubai is free– free to create a business and sell his goods across the globe. Today, any SME can look every bit as big as a big business, and at a fraction of the cost. Indeed, technology has made it so that anyone, anywhere, can start their own business, lead their own cause, and organize their own community. It has radically brought down the cost of entry into the global marketplace, and has enabled millions of people to start businesses and to live better lives. A global entrepreneurial revolution is occurring because the global technological revolution is the engine that makes it go. We checked into this new century only a decade back. Although the 21st century has brought with it the many of the challenges of the old century. It is highly likely, even probable, that the solutions that we will see in this new century will be developed not by a political or religious or social leader, but instead will come from an entrepreneur powered by technology.
After all, already, it is the technologyempowered entrepreneurs who have created the social networks that are changing how people live, share, speak, shop, and organize. It is the technology entrepreneur who has made the mobile phone (and their apps) the most used tool in the world, connecting billions. And it is the technology entrepreneur who is harnessing the power of the waves and the sun and the atom to create cleaner, more sustainable energy. Technological advancements and digital communications will continue to transform economies and entrepreneurs. No,
we don’t know what the next Facebook or Twitter will be, and we don’t know who the next Steve Jobs or Richard Branson is, but we do know this: He or she is out there, probably in a little apartment or garage somewhere, maybe in the Middle East even, using technology to invent a solution to some problem. And it is that now anonymous entrepreneur’s invention that we will all be using in, say, five years or so. So, welcome to the age of the entrepreneur. Welcome to the global entrepreneurial revolution. And hang on to your hats because nothing is ever going to be the same.
The solutions that we will see in this new century will be developed not by a political or religious or social leader, but instead will come from an entrepreneur powered by technology. Steve Strauss is the senior business columnist for USA TODAY, an author, and an entrepreneur who speaks all over the world. You can contact him to speak to your group at sstrauss@MrAllBiz.com and visit him online at his tech startup TheSelfEmployed.com february 2014
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SWIPE YOUR WAY INTO THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS
Platforms Android, iOS Meeting business contacts and expanding your allimportant network is probably the main reason for attending conferences and social events. If the organizers of these events use Bizzabo and you load it onto your device, it helps you discover business contacts at the event and connects with them via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also discover great events happening, and set meetings with people straight from the app.
Apps for ‘treps on the go By Rani Nasr
At our fingertips, we’ve got what is arguably the most powerful device ever created by man: The smartphone. The way we utilize it, as business people, can turn its power into a destructive (or a constructive) force. It’s easy to get lost between all these swipes and taps; however, it’s also easy to run your entire business from this tiny powerhouse provided you’re using the right apps. Here’s a list that will simplify life, and more importantly, they’ll open up new horizons in conducting business.
Platforms Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows It’s simply your travel organizer: As complicated or exhausting as your business trip might be, just forward confirmation emails for flights, airport pickups, hotels, meetings, and moreto TripIt, and it’ll get it sorted for you, presenting you with a clean travel agenda. A bonus is that you’re able share your trip plans with coworkers, add notes, and discover. 56
Platforms Android, iOS Jump Desktop allows you to control your desktop computer from your phone. Prepare your downloads before you get home, send that file that you forgot to place on a USB, and install a program on your desktop while taking a walk in the park. Super simple and super useful.
THE PICK OF THE PACK Square Register Platforms Android, iOS
An app made by the co-creators of Twitter, Square Register can turn your phone or tablet into a cash register that handles credit cards so that you run business on the move. No monthly fees, commitments or surprises, only a 2.75% transaction fee per swipe and youâ€™re able to access your funds within one to two working days. The best thing about it is that you can request your free Square Reader device that reads cards by simply swiping them across it.
SPECTACULAR... BRAND PROMO App developers animate your products
Spectapp, a mobile app newly released in the Middle East, instantly overlays a video, a game or any creative digital experience right on top of a newspaper, a magazine page, and even on actual product packaging, turning a static viewing experience into an interactive one. Developed by two entrepreneurs, Ayman Chalhoub and Nijad Khunaysir, Spectapp has already partnered with several regional and international household names for a few immersive digi-products. Some of their collabs include the likes of Audi, Playstation, Ford, and Grey Goose. Want to make your next corporate event really pop? Get Spectapp to create an integrated digi-map station and watch your guests actually want to learn about your brand. The possibilities are endless. www.spectapp.com
CardMunch Platforms iOS
LinkedIn and technology are abolishing the usage of the old fashioned business cards, right? Wrong. This LinkedIn-owned app is a business card reader that converts business cards to address book contacts and LinkedIn connections by simply snapping a picture. A pretty neat invention, no? Timesaving and ergonomic. february 2014
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Wacky idea | who’s got VC | Q&A
“BY LEVERAGING FIRST DEGREE AND SECOND DEGREE CONNECTIONS ON FACEBOOK, THE POTENTIAL SHIPPING NETWORK YOU OPEN IS BIG”
Crowdsourced Mobile App Courier Friendshippr Goes Live By Kareem Chehayeb
emember the last time your friend posted a Facebook status asking if anyone could (please!) carry a small package from Doha to Dubai? Not very many people responded, probably fearing excess baggage charges and inconvenient pick-up and drop-off delays. Friendshippr, a new mobile application out of the UAE, aims to meet the need for small-scale shipping
What was the inspiration behind Friendshippr? It was born from a real world dilemma. After I moved to Dubai, I still wanted certain goods from the States. One [thing] in particular: Old Spice High Endurance Deodorant which wasn’t available in Dubai. It’s a small ticket item so the shipping costs made it prohibitive to buy and ship. I would basically rely on friends or family travelling from the U.S. to Dubai to bring me some. I found that I wasn’t alone and that basically everyone I met (especially in Dubai), was doing the same thing with all kinds of products. Having things shipped with your traveling friends is just a typical thing people do, but I found some problems within it that were annoying and prevented it 58
solutions by crowdsourcing your network across the Middle East. Developed by Ramy Assaf and UI/UX professional Kaysar Ridha in partnership with serial entrepreneurs Mohamed Hamedi and Ali Hamidi, Friendshippr’s user-interface is easy to navigate, and even allows you to thank your shipper with a pre-determined reward… like a hug.
from happening. Mainly, it’s difficult to find out who is travelling next and who is willing to be your “courier”. It’s also awkward to ask people to do it for you. That’s where I saw an opportunity that a digital platform could help resolve. Is there another way of connecting with friends on Friendshippr without needing to use a Facebook account? Not right now. The thing is that people are comfortable doing this activity with people they know or trust. It’s important that the network you use is familiar to you. I don’t necessarily see strangers doing this for each other offline, so I didn’t see a major value in connecting strangers online. Facebook provides a sense of identification, provides
intelligence to help us connect people in the right locations, and of the social networks– I’d say it has the highest potency of “friendship” versus Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. By leveraging first degree and second degree connections on Facebook, the potential shipping network you open is big. What was the process of designing and developing Friendshippr like? It was more of a matter of really understanding the offline behavior of informal shipping that already takes place around the world. It was a combination of categorizing the different behavior and use cases along to accommodate for along with a workflow that would be simple, mobile and effective.
What were some of the challenges you faced while working on this app? When you develop for mobile first or mobile only you have a lot less physical space. Designing it took (and will continue) to take iteration. Fortunately, our technical team have had a lot of mobile development experience. Despite our best effort not to over-engineer it, at the end we still had removed about 80% of the functionality originally on our list. The challenge is keeping it as simple as possible, and proving a core value proposition initially with no extras. Friendshippr is currently available on iOS and Android platforms, are there any plans to launch Friendshippr on BlackBerry 10? We don’t have any plans on developing for BlackBerry. I don’t think BlackBerry has plans on developing for BlackBerry. It’s yesterday’s phone. I know there are diehards, but I don’t see enough value in pouring our time into that.
What’s the app marketplace like? Would you say the Middle East’s market is relatively competitive? The Middle East’s app market is moderately competitive, but not nearly as much as other markets. There is a talent pool across the region that is thinking mobile. I think we will inevitably see more apps that will hopefully surprise us. Do you have angel investors for your app? We have a number of angel investors. Mostly they are friends of ours or people we knew already. We were fortunate in that sense. They either believed in us and our track record or were convinced about the opportunity to build such a network. Our investors are individuals with relevant backgrounds to the project. We have people with previous experience from Uber, AirBnB, and Google. Our only institutional investor is Honeybee Tech Ventures.
“Despite our best effort not to over-engineer it, at the end we still had removed about 80% of the functionality originally on our list.”
What kind of capital did it take to develop Friendshippr? Since the founders have all been involved with the development and management -taking no salary- since day one, we’ve been able to save significantly. Nonetheless, there are still costs to setup and cover the infrastructure needs. We’re pretty efficient on the development side, however building up and acquiring a user base at a fast enough rate is where we plan to spend the capital. What do you think is a weakness in your app? Building a global consumer logistics app overnight is not so straightforward. We have a lot of improvements to make when it comes to usability and user experience. People expect perfection and our app is not perfect. We try to improve it everyday.
“Building up and acquiring a user base at a fast enough rate is where we plan to spend the capital.” After earning degrees in Business Administration and Political Science at the University of California Riverside, Ramy Assaf opted for an entrepreneurial route rather than a corporate one. After gaining experience with a small startup, he focused on online marketing and worked with small businesses.
In 2009, Assaf became interested in Dubai’s developing market and relocated to the UAE joining Zawya. During a stint with Honeybee Tech Ventures, he led Laimoon.com, calling it a “priceless experience.” His personal favorite mobile app? “I’m in a complicated relationship with Candy Crush.” february 2014
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Wacky idea | who’s got VC | Q&A
GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT
Startup foodies Atayeb Lebnen Locally-sourced produce purveyor supports the agriculture industry in Lebanon
hat happens when two foodies with an interest in the outdoors take it to the next level? For entrepreneurs Celine Chami and Marwan Ammoun, growing their own vegetables and enjoying homemade goods soon gave them the idea for their newest startup.
THE BACKSTORY In 2012, both Chami and Ammoun left their senior-level corporate positions in favor of starting their own businesses, and thus far they’ve managed to successfully get three separate startups off of the ground. Their first two businesses contributed to the launch of Atayeb Lebnen (AL): Emagine sarl, a boutique concept creation agency, and Pinea Campus, an outdoor campsite with amenities. Their time at Pinea Campus helped them “realize how important it was to eat quality food with no additives or chemicals. We wanted to create a more sustainable business out of this, so we thought of developing Atayeb Lebnen highlighting products that have been produced traditionally and naturally.” Their corporate endeavour, Emagine sarl, helped them brand, market and execute the business side of AL. 60
Chami and Ammoun then began sourcing high quality goods like extra virgin olive oil, thyme, sumac, pine nuts,honey and arak- products that boasted a long shelf-life, and that could be easily packaged, shipped, and accurately presented online. “The concept then evolved to tell the stories of the far away forgotten villages, where people still produce their own honey, jam, and thyme,” explains Chami. Eventually, “the aim of the website is to become a platform for these communities and villages to be able to sell their products and also for people to easily find and purchase such products,” she adds. In the works for six months, Ammoun says that the name “Atayeb is a commonly used word in Lebanon, describing the good food that comes from the land. Lebnen is Lebanon in spoken Lebanese.” Atayeb’s next goal is
to expand to offer a wider range of locally produced products like jams, syrups, and molasses, and they are hoping to develop a corporate clientele with branded basket options for companies who wish to support local industries with their gifting budgets. How will they the measure success of AL? “Once the demand is high enough for us to accommodate all types of local produce available in Lebanon, and when local communities start contacting us to feature their products on the website.”
“The aim of the website is to become a platform for these communities and villages to be able to sell their products”
ATAYEB LEBNEN TWITTER ACCOUNT PAGE IMAGE SOURCE TWITTER.COM
How long did it take to get the website functional? The website was built using a third-party hosted e-commerce solution. Customizations were made to reflect the visual identity of Atayeb Lebnen. We decided to use a ready-made solution because of the lower initial investment and being able to launch faster. The customized website and integrations with the payment gateway and shipping provider were done within one month. The major hurdle we faced was to be able to find a local payment gateway provider that is compatible with international e-commerce solutions.
THE LOGISTICS How much was your initial investment and what were the startup expenses? For brand creation, development, web development and application to social media, we made use of Emagine services to be able to develop and launch the brand. The initial investment made todate in this venture is $25000, spent to get the initial order of produce, work on the packaging, and advertise the concept. This seed investment was fully funded by us.
Atayeb Lebnen is using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+, how did you decide on which social media platforms to employ? The target audience of Atayeb Lebnen is mainly young adult to adult females, married, who care about providing to their families a healthy lifestyle. This audience can be found on Facebook as a primary platform and on Twitter as a secondary one. The strategy is to develop these two networks in the early stage and migrate to more visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest in the long run.
How did you determine which payment methods you would accept? As a start, Atayeb Lebnen will only be taking orders out of Lebanon. The website is able to accommodate orders through credit card payments or cash on delivery (COD). COD was added to address the lack of widespread online credit card use in Lebanon. Once we establish a solid platform in Lebanon, we’ll be looking into opening new markets after studying the shipping requirements of food and beverage products for specific countries. Since we’re an online store, we contacted different couriers available and opted for Aramex- they have a special e-commerce solution with competitive rates that we pass to the customer. What would you have done differently now that Atayeb Lebnen is up and running? After launching, testing and collecting feedback, we are working on two major things: Revisiting the packaging of some of the produce to make it more shippingfriendly, especially once we begin to start shipping internationally. The second thing is to consult with design professionals to enhance the overall look of our gift baskets.
“Once we establish a solid platform in Lebanon, we’ll be looking into opening new markets after studying the shipping requirements of food and beverage products for specific countries” How do you expect to penetrate the market? This is the main challenge we’re facing across the entire business model. We source high quality produce and are offering it online for people to purchase. It will take time to establish the trust needed for people to purchase such products online, but we aim to push it further by physical presence through promotional kiosks in malls where people can taste the products before purchasing. Another strategy is to create a sampler package to be sold online at a fraction of the price. february 2014
business unusual | LIFE | TRAVEL | DESIGN
FIVE PROBLEMS WITH BUSINESS HOTELS (AND HOW TO SOLVE THEM) By Bruce Schoenfeld
s big a fan as I am of today’s business hotels -and I’ve said repeatedly in this space that they’re the best part of traveling for work- I’m reminded almost every week that there is room for improvement. Drawing on conversations with other road regulars and on my own experience, I’ve compiled a list of hotel gripes. All are easy enough to fix with minimal investment, training or policy changes. And unlike airlines, which are stuck in a financial box with a product that has become a commodity, most hotels seem to truly care what their customers want. Nevertheless, these same issues keep showing up at hotels across the country, from bargain brands to four- and fivestar chains.
All are easy enough to fix with minimal investment, training or policy changes.
1. NO BATHTUB Who are these focusgroup participants telling hotel executives that business travelers don’t take baths? Air travel is more physically taxing than ever, and after pulling a Rollaboard through an airport, packing and unpacking my computer bag at security, lifting my suitcase (stuffed to the limit so I don’t need to check anything) to the baggage compartment and then on and off the rental car shuttle, I relish a hot soak. But walk-in showers, once found only in wheelchair-accessible rooms, are replacing bathtubs with each new round of renovations. And while we’re on the topic of baths, could housekeeping please leave the
shampoo in the shower or tub where I left it last night? Especially at serviceobsessed high-end chains such as RitzCarlton, the protocol is to move amenities back to the sink so they look nice. And they do. But that’s small consolation to me once I’m wet.
STRATEGIC APPOINTMENT FOR ST. REGIS FLAGSHIP IN ABU DHABI? The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort in Abu Dhabi has announced the appointment of a new General Manager. Stewart Selbie took on the role in December 2013, after more than thirty years within parent company Starwood Hotels and Resorts.
Selbie will also oversee the capital as Area General Manager of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi’s Tourism & Culture Authority recently released figures showing a year-to-date (August) growth rate of 13% for guest arrivals, and the expanded team of senior appointments will be intended to reflect and capitalize on that improving business environment. St. Regis is the luxury brand of global hospitality powerhouse Starwood, which also operates the Sheraton and Le Méridien brands among others. The company faces a critical year
in 2014 as it’s tipped to offload some of its worldwide real estate portfolio. Once it has turned some of those assets into cash, the company’s value will become ever more reliant on profits generated at its remaining flagship operations like the St. Regis Saadiyat.
IF YOU GOT A PROBLEM, YO, I’LL SOLVE IT
It’s time to tickle your tastebuds: La Maison du Chocolat opened its first Middle East location on November 20, 2013 in partnership with Ikram Group. Wissam Al Mana, Executive Director of Ikram Group, and Geoffrey D’Anglejan, La Maison du Chocolat Managing Director, were both in attendance at the opening of the ground floor Fashion Avenue café in The Dubai Mall. Founded in 1977, the brand’s current artisanal direction is overseen by Master Chef of La Maison du Chocolat Nicolas Cloiseau.
2. THE DEMISE OF THE CLOCK RADIO Some hotels have a new generation of clocks that have done away with radio altogether. Sure, you can dock your iPod and listen to your tunes, but that won’t give you the local news, a ballgame or the late-night drone of a call-in show (the best soporific I know). And another thing: If housekeepers would check to make sure the alarm isn’t set before proclaiming the room ready for occupancy, I’d have far fewer unwanted 5 a.m. wake-ups. I know I can check for myself before turning off the lights. But I shouldn’t have to. 3. NOT ENOUGH OUTLETS Business travelers use outlets by the desk for charging a laptop, phone, iPad, iTouch- sometimes simultaneously. But at more than half the properties I visit, I find myself on my hands and knees hunting for places to plug in, or relegating my phone to the bathroom overnight. 4. NO LOCAL PAPERS I need to see the weather, sports events, TV channels and political gossip applicable to where I happen to be. Business hotels look alike, as do the office parks and malls that surround them. Give me a fighting chance to feel like I’m in an actual place with a local paper outside my door.
Whatever your hotel pet peeves, general managers are there to address the issues. Here’s how to help them help you.
5. THE HIGH COST OF BREAKFAST I don’t care how much it costs a hotel to make an omelet. When you’re significantly more than the place across the street and they’re less expensive, it can’t help but make me feel I’m being ripped off. There’s more -internet for a price, dysfunctional parking attendants, concierges who know less than I do and front-desk phones that ring and ring- but I’ll stop here. And I’ll gladly suffer through all these pet peeves rather than return to the days when workout rooms were the size of walk-in closets, Wi-Fi was a novelty and the average hotel bed had the topography of a mountain range. The business-hotel experience is, in general, terrific. But paying attention to details like these would make it even better. See this article in its entirety at Entrepreneur.com
BE FRIENDLY Brian Moloney of the Wyndham Cleveland advises guests to be cordial to a front-desk employee -or, even better, a manager- when they check in. “Make eye contact, just like we would do with a guest,” Moloney says. That way, if you have a problem and call downstairs to rectify it, you’re more than a room number. GO STRAIGHT TO THE TOP The chain of command is supposed to work, but issues often get lost in bureaucracy. “Go directly to the general manager,” says James Horsman of The Madison, a 356-room independent property in Washington, D.C. “Ninety-nine percent of the time that something hits the general manager’s desk, it will be expedited immediately.” He suggests getting the GM’s e-mail address. “I carry a BlackBerry that’s on 24/7,” he says. DON’T EMBELLISH When stating your gripe, honesty is the best policy. “I can tell what time you got in, who you dealt with at the front desk, all of that, because I have video cameras everywhere,” says Mark Sanders of the Sheraton New York Hotel. “So overstating what actually happened won’t serve you well.” MAKE YOUR FEELINGS KNOWN “So many guests leave and never tell us what went wrong, and we don’t hear about it until we read the surveys,” says Ulrich Samietz of the Hyatt Regency Vancouver. By stating your case face to face, you’ll give the staff a chance to address the issue and, perhaps, compensate you for your troubles. A Trip Advisor post or survey response will get you neither.
business unusual | LIFE | TRAVEL | DESIGN
Nutrition tips for workaholics Easy to follow diet guidelines for ‘treps on the go By Shoug Al-Nafisi
CHECKS & BALANCES FIVE MEALS A DAY A wholesome breakfast nice and early is your guaranteed boost to get you ready and focused for work. Include varied items of the different food groups throughout the entire week and don’t forget to space out your meals, keeping in mind that food should be nutrient-rich and smallportioned to maintain an “energy high” throughout the day. You’ll be able to get through your working day smoothly, and still have the energy for more! Easy on the “fast sugar” fixes from sweetened cereal, white bread, pancakes, and the complimentary syrups and spreads- you’ll experience a bad energy crash later in the day. FUEL ECONOMY PROTEIN & FIBER In order to keep up with life in the fast lane, you’ll need to have a constant supply of fuel. Food choice plays a major role as protein and fiber-rich foods take longer to be digested, causing a more sustained release of energy. For optimal performance and productivity, these two are key elements of all meals throughout the day. Note that most high-protein foods such as meats and dairy have high fat content, and so opt for the leaner (low-fat) options. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your snacks! STATE OF AFFAIRS ANTIOXIDANTS Regular hassles and day-to-day stressors use up a lot of energy, not to mention affect your end-of-day mental state. Challenges at work take a large toll on your
wellbeing as stress produces elements fatiguing your entire system. A very potent remedy is to take it on with antioxidants; found in fruits and vegetables, varying in type with every food item. Limit fruits for their sugar content and aim for more vegetables that are rich in color. TIME MANAGEMENT APPETITE Make your mealtime a joyful experience by chewing and sensing the different flavors. Try not to discuss work over food in order to get over that feeling of time running out. This gives your body time to read its own satiety signals, allowing you to think twice before going for seconds. By practicing stimulus control, you’re more likely to be able to control your portions as well as making healthier choices. PRODUCTIVITY REPORT FLUIDS Since water makes up approximately 60% of the average adult human body, it only makes sense that it is the most essential macronutrient. Water is the medium in which all bodily processes and reactions take place, as well as nutrient transport. With reduced intake of water (and potential dehydration), decreased cardiac output and blood pressure cause impaired oxygen transport to body tissues in turn impairing organ function and causing fatigue- decreased productivity from micro to macro levels. Have a bottle of water handy and within sight at all times. If you’re having water close to a meal, shoot for at least an hour before or after eating.
GOLD’S GYM TURNS TWO IN UAE Gold’s Gym, the chain of fitness centers operating in the U.S. since in 1965, has reached its second birthday in UAE after the opening of the first gym in October 2011 in Business Village, Deira. The chain was made famous by an iconic location in Venice Beach, California and by the patronage of that State’s future Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his early years of fame. The latest anniversary sees the business running 11 clubs in seven locations across the UAE, with the aim of doubling those numbers in the coming years. The chain’s operator in the UAE, Al Ahli Holdings, is a corporate giant in its own right with businesses in areas ranging from real estate to logistics, and even online gaming. The group’s ambitions for the fitness centers extend beyond the UAE into the region, with Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman potentially on the radar.
Urban Places Urban Spaces: Karmic ROI New York City-based architect turned Beirut-based yoga instructor, Danielle Abisaab, launched her first studio in her flat. After 11 successful years of establish-
ing her yogic venture, she launched a new studio designed by her personally, putting both past and present career expertise to work. “Design and execution [took] two months. I was fortunate to work with an amazing and highly professional contractor who literally gave me the illusion of working in New York.” The new space maximizes a basement flat in Beirut’s Achrafieh district where students can buy membership cards or pay a per class rate. Abisaab used a North American business model and it has paid
off- her ROI happened “nine months into operation.” The approach has garnered her hundreds of loyal students who also attend regular workshops staged by guest instructors, hosted by Abisaab. “My life partner is my business partner, couldn’t have done without him. It came about simply because he believes strongly in what I work hard at transmitting and putting out there.” Were there any setbacks? “This studio came together very easily as the result of past reflections and observations.” Namaste.
Happiness, available at Lulu. We at Lulu have always been trying to widen our network, expand our range, innovate our promotions and improve our service so that more than 570,000 shoppers who come to our 106 stores across the region daily, get exactly what they want,
Ranked as No.1 Hypermarket Chain in the region by PlanetRetail UK.
business unusual | travel | design | life
SUNDAY TO THURSDAY KSA COMMUTERS REGIONAL BUSINESS TAKES YOU TO RIYADH
GREG PIRKLE IS ADAMANT THAT HE CAN MAKE YOUR STAY AN ENJOYABLE (AND USEFUL) ONE
H RECOMMENDED BY THE GM “I love all three of our restaurants, but my favourite is our Italian restaurant Rosso. The deep reds and dark woods give it great character -alluding to the name translated- it means red. The fun style of service and music finish off the surroundings to make it a great dining experience. My favourite dish would be the Mushroom Risotto… probably the best risotto I have ever tasted. Of course a close second would be the Chilean Sea Bass, perfectly steamed to perfection.”
aving regional business interests dictate that sooner or later you’ll end up visiting Saudi Arabia and in specific, you’ll be visiting Riyadh. As hotels go, there are a wealth of good properties to stay at when you’re doing the Sunday to Thursday commute to KSA, but the General Manager of the Four Seasons Riyadh Greg Pirkle is certain that you’ll be comforted (and catered to), as a business traveller staying at his hotel. Newly renovated, the Four Seasons Riyadh boasts a number of features that recently garnered them a design award- and a whole lot of regional attention. The winning interior hotel renovation was executed by “GA Design International, a leading British interior and architectural design practice specializing in hospitality design worldwide,” says Pirkle. Why was GA chosen for the largescale overhaul? “Expertise in the international field, combined with the unique hotel background of the principals, made GA Design the perfect choice to execute the revitalized hotel design for Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh.” Indeed, the award-winning space is both ergonomic and luxurious, ensuring a work environment that allows for both on and off time during your stay.
“GA Design is recognized for its quality of work and ability to respond to different environments incorporating local architecture and cultural references into its concepts,” and the proof is in the pudding. Pirkle describes the hotel’s Kingdom Suite detailing “the precious jewel motif that begins with the floating diamond sculpture above the water-feature in the lobby. [It] continues throughout the entire hotel, the Kingdom Suites’ interiors open out into a luxurious scheme of platinum crystals and gold. Soft silver and gold tones delicately dominate the scheme, while the platinum crystal motif appears in the screens dividing the entrance lobby with the high ceiling living room. Elegant furnishings, plus the inclusion of contemporary objets d’art and all the usual thoughtful Four Seasons touches result in an exclusive enclave resonating with modernity, style and glamour.” Aside from the extreme luxury of the Kingdom Suite, the hotel’s less extravagant revitalized spaces take the needs of the business traveller into account, and Pirkle says that they’ve based a lot of the design decisions (including room upgrades) on what it is exactly that you need when travelling for work. Having been with the
Four Seasons Riyadh since October 2011, Pirkle will be heading to Bahrain as the new General Manager for that property as of April of this year, and he’ll be succeeded by Anthony Tyler. A veteran of the hospitality industry, Pirkle previously managed the Four Seasons Resort in Langkawi “for a period of five years. I first joined Four Seasons Boston in 1989 as a Director of Housekeeping, and enjoyed a rapid ascent to senior executive positions within the respective properties I worked for namely, Four Seasons Hotel Boston, Pierre Hotel in New York, Regent Hotel Jakarta, Four Seasons Resort Wailea, Maui, Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma, Four Seasons Resort Hualālai, Four Seasons Resort Langkawi, and Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh. So all in all I would say that I have been in the hospitality industry for 24 years in total.”
“The refurbished Superior, Premium and Deluxe guest rooms feature rich jewel-toned schemes, elegant furnishings, and advanced technological amenitiesmany of which have been thoughtfully incorporated keeping in mind the business guest,” says Pirkle. “Being located in Riyadh, business travellers account for the largest percentage of our guests. Our experience with the demands of this category of guest has made us experts of sorts in anticipating the individual needs of businessmen and the little ways in which we can make their stays more comfortable and productive.” Other than the Four Seasons Riyadh, Pirkle says that “in regards to design and overall layout, I believe Four Seasons Resort Langkawi to be one of the best I have seen and fortunate enough to work.” The Malaysian property designed by
Bill Bensley, is “between contemporary Moorish style with a blending of the natural environment. The landscaping is also so well done that you feel you are still within a rainforest jungle.”
IT’S YOUR TURN
CONNECTIVITY & TECH “Guest rooms and suites have been upgraded to offer the ability to connect personal laptops to LCD screens, hi-speed wireless internet up to 18MB for seamless video conferencing, and a media hub that offers easy access to all media outlets in the room.”
Maison Van Cleef & Arpels and Tashkeel in partnership with Design Days Dubai (DDD) announced theme of The Middle East Emergent Artist Prize for 2014: Turning Point. The theme, Turning Point, highlights “the moment in the evolution of a project when the maker finds their voice- the point when they have understood, through the working process, the nature of the planned final work.” Applicants for the award should submit works in progress, specifically that which represents an “instrumental point in the creation of a final project”. Submissions may be in several formats: sketches, photography series, unedited video, maquette, a record of a performance, or series of Polaroids. Van Cleef & Arpels will reward the winner with a trip to Paris to attend courses at L’ÉCOLE Van Cleef & Arpels and the artwork of the awarded artist will be unveiled on the Van Cleef & Arpels stand at DDD 2014. A selection of applicants will also be invited to participate in Tashkeel’s March exhibition, including a range of artists from the Middle East from the emergent to more established figures. Design Days Dubai March 17-21, 2014.
OPTIONS “The spacious Executive and Superior Suites include comfortable -and in certain categories, dedicated- working areas that help business travellers enjoy heightened productivity throughout their stay.” SPACE “Business guests heading to Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh can look forward to a very rewarding stay, with a choice of 274 renovated rooms and suites that promise a heightened level of comfort and consideration for the business traveller.”
EXEC STAY “The latest treasure to be unveiled by Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre is its opulent new Kingdom Suite. This spectacular new duplex Suite spans the 48th & 50th floors guaranteeing breathtaking views of the city, and offers an impressive 330sqm of Four Seasons grandeur for the exclusive benefit of its occupants.” COMPARISON “Guests of the Four Seasons [globally] can expect handsome, unique and iconic high-rises in New York, Toronto and Riyadh, ‘overwater bungalows’ in Bora Bora, and airy, white stucco villas in Punta Mita, Mexico. But cultural authenticity is very important in all Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts designs.When guests have travelled a long distance, they want to know they’ve arrived somewhere different with its own distinct character. At Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh, capturing that unique sense of place has been achieved through regional construction methods and traditional colours, indigenous woods and stones, and local artwork.”
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Leaving your stellar career to start your own business? I’m proof that it can be done | There is life after CNN By Octavia Nasr
t the age of 44, I was at the prime of my career with the “World’s News Leader” as the CNN slogan boasts. I had built my hard-earned senior position loyally and meticulously over a period of 20 years with the cable news network. My professional life had encompassed many prestigious achievements in various privileged roles- carrying the most unique responsibilities the broadcast news industry can offer anyone. More importantly, my title was created for me, tailored to fit my duties and who I was within the network. I was the first to hold the title of Senior Editor of Arab Affairs in 2004. I was later promoted to cover the entire Middle East in 2009, earning the Senior Editor of Middle East Affairs title in Western media. I was also a witness to and partner in CNN’s growth through major news stories, management reshuffles, and technological advances, all the way to the early adoption of social media as a tool for both news gathering and broadcast-
at the top, but reality was not as neatly organized as I would’ve desired. I exited the network that had been my home and my family for the past two decades abruptly, in shock and full of disappointment, following an unfair and unwarranted campaign against me that the network chose not to stand up to. Under the numbness of the shock and the desire never to leave bed ever again, was a need to chart the future, carry on and even soar. Having lived my life as a live broadcast journalist where split seconds and frames count, knowing what’s ahead was key and the only way I knew how to move forward. Sure, I had always told myself that I needed a
“Having my own company has always been a dream. Although the uncertainty of being on my own scared me, it always felt right” ing. On the other hand, CNN witnessed and shaped greatly my personal and professional growth with all their excitement and turbulence. It was and remains the backbone of who I am as a journalist. What I know about journalism I learned at CNN, it will be forever embedded in me and a badge of honor I carry with me wherever I go and whatever I do. In 2010 CNN and I agreed to “part ways,” as the network subtly put it in a leaked memo to the media. There could not have been a better time to leave if I ever wanted to leave the network while 68
break, I wished I could take a long sabbatical, I would write a book if I found some extra time on my hands. For years, I had said these things to myself and to others. When I was left in the cold alone, although I needed a break more than anything, all I wanted was a plan into the future and a vision as to what I wanted to be doing next. My immediate three options were working for another media organization, freelancing or starting my own company. Most people predicted and/or desired that I would join another network; most
of the emails and messages I received from my supporters suggested that route. Friends and colleagues who called me with advice and positive thoughts supported such a move as well. My immediate family and my very few closest friends left me alone to figure things out on my own without any pressure and without any interference. Only love came from the ones who really understood the magnitude of what had just happened and truly cared. I was already burnt out from a career that owned my life and the lives of those I loved 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I hadn’t had a vacation that was not interrupted by breaking news in years. I could never enjoy any real time off. Looking back, it now seems as if going to work was like taking a poison pill every morning, work was a grind that never stopped and just couldn’t slow down. Despite all that, I was hooked on it: I loved the adrenaline rush from working around live breaking news. I adored the people I worked with and my job was so much on the cutting edge of technology and newsgathering, I was always looking into the future, exploring, and experiencing things before they become available to others in the industry. So, unless a network was going to offer me some great new opportunities, I simply was not interested to do the same job elsewhere. Freelancing was a good temporary option. With so many friends and former colleagues running their own businesses, and with the reputation I had crafted for myself, it was the most reliable option- it would allow me
to sustain myself and keep me going at least until I figured out what my next step was going to be. I did some gigs, some were fun and others were boring. Soon I realized that, just like when I was at CNN, I must create the projects and motivate others to join in if I wanted to feel the satisfaction of making a difference. Having my own company has always been a dream. Although the uncertainty of being on my own scared me, it always felt right. My father is my business role model. He was instinctively an entrepreneur who dedicated his life to his business. He set a very good example although my sisters and I did not follow in his
Octavia Nasr in Sanaa, Yemen
footsteps. He championed plastic recycling in Lebanon and he made it his specialty decades before recycling became trendy. Although he started from nothing and wasn’t formally educated, he worked hard and provided us with a decent standard of living and certainly a great education. My
YOU’RE YOUR OWN BOSS? EIGHT TIPS THAT WORK FOR ENTREPRENUERS 1. Know and trust yourself for you will be on your own. 2. Take risks and accept failure the same as success. 3. Serve clients with honesty and adhere to the highest business ethics. 4. Hire the best and train only those with great potential.
5. Give others many opportunities to be creative. 6. Treat jobs as fresh pages in new chapters in your life book. 7. Set time to reflect and assess after every project. 8. Have fun whatever you do.
Octavia Nasr is the founder of the United States-based Bridges Media Consulting (BMC). Specializing in integrating traditional and digital media, media and newsroom management consulting. BMC also executes staff training, talent coaching, in addition to reputation building and management. BMC serves an elite clientele of brands, businesses, and individuals in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Nasr moved to the entrepreneurial world
husband has never worked for anyone in his entire life; I watched him for years work hard, build his landscaping business and grow his clientele. He also championed environmental protection and Green Living before they became fashionable. In these two men I saw what it means to own and run a business. It is hard work, and at times is often laden with uncertainty while flowing with abundance at other times. Underneath it all is an unmatched pleasure in calling the shots, taking risks, doing what you do best, finding and training talented employees, helping others by solving their problems and guiding them through unchartered territories. To this day, people don’t fully understand my response when I’m asked, “Who do you work for?” I feel a great sense of fulfilment and ease when I reply, “I work for myself.” I love these words more than anything in the world: I work for myself. This expression frees me, pleases me and defines me. I am grateful to all the lessons and all the teachers who helped me along the way. With CNN in my rear-view mirror, I learn new lessons from my clients every day. I consider myself lucky to have found a new passion in the workplace and a new career path that reflects me. It’s a driving force that I intend to use not only to make a living but also to make a difference and give back.
in 2010 after a long career in journalism, 20 years of which were in various senior positions including Executive Producer, Anchor and Senior Editor of Mideast Affairs at CNN. Nasr’s first job was with LBC in Lebanon; she served as Assistant News Director, Executive Producer and later War Correspondent. To read Octavia Nasr’s opinion editorials, visit her blog octavianasr.com and follow her updates on Twitter @octavianasr.
PROMOING GCC WOMEN IN BUSINESS The ongoing effort to increase the numbers of women in senior positions in the private sector has received a boost with the signing of partnership agreement between the United Nations-backed Pearl Initiative and the Sharjah Business Women Council. The memorandum of understanding sees the organizations agreeing to work together to define and promote best practice in the promotion of women as candidates for Executive roles and positions at Board level. Unlike some other programs, the two organizations will seek
to educate corporate leaders in the region, making the business case that more women’s involvement will improve companies’ performance rather than arguing from a position of social justice. The first project this agreement will facilitate is a major survey of women in senior management and leadership positions within the Gulf to examine the processes and procedures that enabled them to reach senior levels in their organizations so these steps can be developed into a framework for assisting career development for women.
Imelda Dunlop, Executive Director of the Pearl Initiative, Badr Jafar, Founder of the Pearl Initiative, H.E. Ameera Abdelrahim Binkaram Chairperson of the Sharjah Business Women Council february 2014
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Harnessing corporate culture to make your employees loyal to your brand, not your money By Rani Nasr
hink about some of the strongest cult-like companies you know. Now think about how everyone else wants to work there. A company can be looked at like an equation with four variables: People, environment, output, and consumer. The company’s culture is the heartbeat that keeps these four frontiers healthy. For me, moving to the digital services industry (relatively small to medium business category) after being a veteran in the hospitality industry (multinational conglomerate) was driven by the main rationale of corporate culture. At some point, we’ve all asked ourselves something like, “Is this really what I want to do for a living?” For an average employee, productivity and dedication to the job depend on a sense of belonging, selfesteem in their work environment, and their self-actualization within a timeframe. The corporate culture is the air we breathe at the workspace that allows the corporate ecosystem to exist and shapes its variables. It’s the spirit of the forest.
HUMANIZING RESOURCES The corner stone of every business is its people. Maslow wasn’t kidding around when he made that “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid. After compensating your employees fairly, which should go without saying, you need to establish their sense of belonging to your company: corporate patriotism. It all starts out in the recruitment phase: You have to be picky about choosing who is cut out for your culture and who isn’t, the same way you would when analyzing their skillset. Once you have the right people, start molding them into a family. If your company is your “baby”, treat it as such. Take it out for ice cream, have lunches or coffees with your staff and listen to what they have to say. Making yourself available, as the top rung in the ladder, to listen to your staff’s concerns will help out sort glitches in the system- before they become out and out problems. The leading members of your company have a different point to prove than that of the lower-tiered employees: Listen to all sides of each story.
You have to be picky about choosing who is cut out for your culture and who isn’t, the same way you would when analyzing their skillset. LEARNING CURVE Nurture and help people to grow under your brand. It’s crucial to every employee to develop their skills and grow their careers while contributing to the company at large. In this day and age, companies that offer the best career development opportunities may still miss the human factor, like the all-important celebration of individuality. Giving people room to be themselves will encourage your staff to give their all, improving productivity and in the meantime, you’re harvesting their versatile efforts. This is your goal state. What you don’t want? The “Hey, at least I submitted it on time,” result.
COGS AND WHEELS Culture is part of corporate structure as well. The way your hierarchy is engineered oftentimes mandates your corporate culture. I say “engineered” because structure follows the basic rule of engineering: “Optimization is key.” A good example of this would be Apple elevating their design group to report directly to the CEO, leading to the exceptional results that we’re all familiar with.
MASLOW’S “HIERARCHY OF NEEDS” SOURCE: EDU.ORG | CREATIVE COMMONS
A TWO-WAY STREET Your brand should fit into the community the same way the individuals fit within your brand or family, and the same way your community fits within a larger ecosystem. Your community is the soil from which your forest gets its minerals from. Give back. Contributing to your environment will not only reap direct fruit, but it also will reinforce the sense of belonging your employees and clients alike have for your brand. Hold a reforestation event, clean the beach, do a campaign to collect funds for an active NGO in your city, stage charity dinners, go green… The options of how you can help out with CSR initiatives are endless. Ask yourself, “What’s the company’s legacy?” and take your pick accordingly. LIVING THE EXPERIENCE When it comes to dealing with clients, here’s where individuality pays off. Google is rumored to have “the coolest staff” in the world primarily because their culture was designed to make them seem that way. Don’t let business be just a transaction, make it an experience. Have your clients breathe your company’s culture to better understand and identify with your product. It’s easier said than done, but try any and all of the following: • Teach personal branding to your employees. • Hold seminars and/or off-job training sessions. • Have them project their image to the outside that you nurtured on the inside.
The customer is not always right. In fact, the customer seldom knows what they want, especially in the service industry. Clients tend to act as experts, contradicting the fact that they’re seeking out your expertise in a particular field. Clients love it when you give them more than they bargained for, and that’s not always about exceeding their expectations- sometimes it’s as simple as showing them that you’re not a machine churning out an end product by rote. Encourage the human (and interesting!) side of your staff. RIGHT SIDE UP Contrary to popular belief, the customer is not always right. In fact, the customer seldom knows what they want, especially in the service industry. Clients tend to act as experts, contradicting the fact that they’re seeking out your expertise in a particular field. If your employees are well trained and coached on how to tell clients that they aren’t always right, it will give them a sense of empowerment and achievement which adds to the value of your product. Lowering your standards to suit one client’s needs will lower the value of your product to other potential clients. Keep your standards up, but
coach your employees to be polite and matter of fact about it. MONEYMAKER Money is one of the major indicators of success for every business. Know your competition and then educate your employees about your competition. If we can glean any relevant lesson from global politics, it would be that patriotism peaks when the enemy is waving their flag. Once your employees know about the performance and strategy of your competitor, it is then time for them to focus on the financial goals and targets. This is the first step, followed by how each employee in their own way, drawing on their individual strengths mentioned earlier, can contribute to the revenue stream. Everyone from executives to interns can feel, and take part in, the rush of excitement at knowing how much they have contributed and how far there is to go in meeting the company’s goals. If you succeed, celebrate as a team and if you fail, learn as a team.
Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”
Don’t let business be just a transaction, make it an experience. february 2014
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The Esquire Guy on…
NOT LOSING YOUR COOL KEY TECHNICAL MATTERS Silence! ...Not them. You. The only thing more terrifying than getting yelled at by a superior is being calmly asked to change your behavior. Now that’s scary. Being out of control is scary at first but comical later on. Remember: If you lose control, you will be mocked at a gathering of those you’ve yelled at. You will be ridiculed. Your mental state will be pondered. A flash of anger is like a comet with a long, long tail. Think of yourself as a football team. Things aren’t going well? Timeout. Counting to 10 works. It’s a little infantilizing, but it works. Counting to 20 works, too. Takes longer, but it works. Counting to 30 is a little much. Think of anger as a cue- not that someone has done something wrong, but that you have been hurt, that your boundaries have been violated, that this 72
is the last in a long series of events that have upset you. Thinking about what those things might be is a good way to spend those 10, 20 or 30 seconds. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hang on. Stopstopstopstopstopstop. Before you freak out, before you lose your mind, before you go over there and yell at Mindy or Steve or Mindy and Steve … calm down and ask yourself a few questions. Is it worth the risk to your reputation, to company morale? Is it worth having to follow through on your threats? Is it worth raising the volume? Because the next time you’re going to have to be even louder to make your point. Is it worth being so loud? Is it worth freaking people out? Also: Is it worth the energy required to yell, to slam your fist? Is it worth the high blood pressure? The twitch in your eyelid? The twitch in both eyelids? The general bluster?
Anger is a tricky, effective, terrifying thing- which is why it requires etiquette If you’ve decided that it’s worth the risk and it’s worth the energy, then let’s figure out how to do it. Let’s figure out how to be restrained and thoughtful about something that is mostly unrestrained and thoughtless. Although anger is the most powerful impulse we have, it’s the one we think about the least -if we think about it too much, it ceases to be anger- but nothing should be more considered. With anger we can change the way people work. We can motivate them. We can make them realize they’ve caused offense. Also, we can scare them. We can make them curse us to their spouses. We can make them burn us in effigy. We can make them cry. Anger is a tricky, effective, terrifying thing- which is why it requires etiquette.
HOW TO BE ANGRY First, a conversation all of us should have with a psychologist before we act on our rage. All Of Us We’re pissed. Michael McCloskey, associate professor of psychology at Temple University, who studies aggressive and self-aggressive behavior: In the heat of the moment, driven, competitive people can be quick to assume someone else’s action as negative or that they’re trying to get one over on them. AOU Oh, are we pissed. MM Before you act on that, give yourself time to ask yourself: Is that the real reason, or are there any other reasons? AOU We’re listening. MM In the heat of the moment, especially when you’re angry, you’re going to think the fact that you’re angry is evidence that you’re right. So if an employee didn’t get something done, and you think it’s because they’re lazy and don’t care about their job or the business, you take your anger as evidence of being right. But if you stop, give yourself a moment and think about the hundred other possible reasons for it before you go in there
HOW TO BE CONSTRUCTIVE screaming and yelling, you might find out the person’s kid was sick. AOU Kids, doc? We wanted to be myopic and now you’re making us look at things with a wider frame. You’re making us be thoughtful. MM … Or something else happened, and this was someone who usually does a good job. You want to work with the person, versus coming down on them like a ton of bricks and losing the loyalty you’ve built up. AOU Ton of bricks. Damn. MM Humans have a wonderful ability to habituate to whatever we have to deal with. So what happens is that after a while, you have to scream more and louder and go to more extremes to get the same results. And then when you have to go to more extremes, you’re talking about physical stuff, and that’s how you get yourself fired and sued. AOU Yeah, we need to relax. Anger is a defense mechanism, a cue to let us know that our boundaries have been violated- a wake-up call. How we respond to that wake-up call can be either constructive or destructive.
QUIZ | SHOULD YOU YELL? 1. Is someone’s life in danger? Yes! (30) No! (0) 2. Are you employed as a drill sergeant, lifeguard, construction worker or carnival barker? Yes! (20) Of course not! (0) 3. Might there be a long list of things you’re yelling about, instead of the one thing you have chosen? No! (10) I guess there might be! (0)
4. Are you prepared to act on your threats? Yes! (5) Maybe some of them! (0) 5. Say, a week from now, if someone played back a video of you getting angry, would it embarrass you? No! (3) So, uh, yeah, forget all that. Anyone want a coffee? I’m buying. (0)
More than 20 points You should yell. | Fewer than 10 points Best not to.
Don’t act immediately. (Obviously.) Count to 10. Count to 20. Or don’t count- you’re not an 8-year-old. Maybe just sit there awkwardly staring at whoever is pissing you off. If you want to blow up, you can always do it later, but you can’t undo it once you’ve done it. Displaying anger is like being given a bunch of data, picking out a random statistic and acting on whatever it suggests. “If you stop and think about it, you might find there were other things that actually had you upset beforehand, and this is just the lowest-hanging fruit in terms of what to get upset about,” McCloskey says. The etiquette of anger is in the restraint. The etiquette is in being quiet. The etiquette is in not doing anything. The etiquette is in the gathering of information, in listening, in not acting. There are two currencies of business: money and information. By not acting you maintain your dignity and continue gathering key information that can help you make an informed decision- including the decision to get angry or not. Your anger will be implied anyway. And implied anger is the most effective anger- it forces the other party to temporarily guess at your feelings. They might end up apologizing and making corrections before you’ve allowed yourself to be vulnerable. (That’s the thing about anger- it makes you powerful and vulnerable at the same time.)
Implied anger is the most effective anger- it forces the other party to temporarily guess at your feelings. As long as you’re not reacting, you’re controlling information. You are maintaining a dignified position. When it comes to anger, the etiquette is saving your ass- and possibly a relationship. Maybe even your business. See this article in its entirety at Entrepreneur.com
BASIC THINGS YOU’RE DOING WRONG WITH YOUR ONLINE IDENTITY By Mohammad Hijazi
e have, beyond a doubt, dawned on a new era: The era of online stalking. Whenever anyone wants to know more about you, you can bet your life they turn to Google. For people searches, LinkedIn profiles tend to show up higher in search engines results when compared to other websites. This is why you should be taking this opportunity to create and maintain a professional presence on LinkedIn to leave a great impression on anyone (especially potential employers) who might be lurking around your profile.
THE EMAIL ADDRESS
The first step to a professional LinkedIn presence is a professional e-mail address. It is advisable not to use your work email because you might not have access to it indefinitely and it might be monitored by your employer- not a great idea if you’re looking for another job. DO Create a professional email address using your first name and last name or first initial and last name. DON’T Email addresses like email@example.com or puppy_loveXOXO@msn.com will only cause a potential employer or a professional acquaintance to laugh at you. I would. Additionally, your email provider says a lot about you. DO Gmail, Live and Yahoo are generally widely acceptable and professional. For students looking for potential internships and future employment oppurtunities, 74
using a university email address is even better, but you should ensure that you still have access to it when you graduate. If you want to go the extra mile, you can always opt in to creating your own domain and an email like me@yourname. com. It only costs you around $10 per year and it’s guaranteed to impress an employer. DON’T If you are using AOL for example, you give off an internet newbie vibe: “Hi, I’m from 1996. What is this internet that you speak of?” If you use Hotmail, you are perceived as an amateur or a teenager: “Hi, I’m 16. Would you like to chat with me on Windows Live Messenger?”
THE NAME GAME
This has to be the simplest thing that you should do right on LinkedIn. Unfortunately this seems to be one of the most oft-repeated mistakes that I see. DO Write it as you would do on any official document with proper capitalization, example: John Smith. You would be surprised how many people get this wrong. DON’T If you use lowercase (ie. john smith), no one will hire you because they will think that you’re so lazy that you can’t even bothered to capitalize your own name. Do not use all caps (ie. JOHN SMITH). Worst case scenario? Do this: jOhN sMItH- it will cause your potential employer to burn his computer monitor without continuing to read your profile. I only mention this because I’ve seen it several times on LinkedIn, unfortunately.
LINKEDIN WEBSITE PHOTO © DOLPHYN / SHUTTERSTOCK
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MOHAMMAD HIJAZI LINKEDIN ACCOUNT PAGE IMAGE SOURCE LINKEDIN.COM
Your profile photo is the first thing that people notice on a LinkedIn profile. However, it is greatly different than what your idea of a Facebook profile photo. On LinkedIn, your photo should professional, and I’m sure in your own network you’ve seen some of these hilarious (read: ridiculous) images. Below are some tips that are based on real recurring observations from my network. DO Use a simple professional photo with your entire face showing clearly, and you may use a passport photo with a white background if you have no other option. Use a color photo with minimal filters or “creative” editing, and it should be timely. This means that it should look like what you look like now, not five or 10 years ago. Make sure that your clothes and face do not blend in with the background of your photo. Regarding staging, good image ideas include an office photo, a photo of you while working (provided your face shows clearly), or a photo being interviewed or giving a presentation- this is called a “business action” shot. DON’T Do not have an empty profile photo and black and white photos are generally considered unacceptable. People will tend to pass by your profile quickly if you do not provide a photo and perhaps they won’t even bother accepting your connection request or query. Don’t use a logo as your main photo on LinkedIn, no matter how much you love your company or current employer. Don’t overdress for your photo- wedding dresses and tuxes belong in photo albums and not on LinkedIn.
Mohammad Hijazi, Editor in Chief of Cloud magazine, is an online enthusiast who is heavily involved both professionally and personally in several different spheres of the digital world. This article, the first of a twopart series, is based on a workshop that Hijazi stages specifically for people looking to present themselves properly on LinkedIn and how to use it to its full potential. In the next issue, Hijazi will discuss more pointers on ensuring that your LinkedIn profile is impactful and attractive, in addition on how to maintain it and build a connection base. Talk to him on Twitter @mhijazi
DEFINITELY DON’T Now for the comedy; the next few are based on real recurring observations from my network and from people who have tried to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Do not use a photo that is not of you, especially if it a cartoon- even if you are the world’s biggest Mickey Mouse fan (or Britney Spears for that matter), it’s a huge no-no! Next, do not show extra skin. Ladies and gents, even if you spend a lot of your time perfecting your body shape, your potential employers don’t care (unless this is part of your work, like modelling), and chances are they’ll find it unprofessional and inappropriate. Artsy fartsy photos are also out, even if you are a designer. A cropped photo of half your face, a caricature of yourself or a sideways portrait do not belong on LinkedIn. If you want to show off your creativity, you can easily present your portfolio on the site. Sunglasses in your photo are also unacceptable: Your professional connections will think it’s childish that you think it’s cool that you own Ray-Bans. Having one or more other people in your profile photo will not make you look sociable, and on that note: Drunk photos, photos at parties, photos with drinks or food should be reserved for your Instagram account. Don’t show off items such as cars or motorcycles in your photos. If you can afford that Lamborghini, you probably don’t really need that second job that you are submitting for.
THE CALLING CARD
Your business card is the small box that summarizes your LinkedIn profile. In many cases, this is the only thing people look at if they are in a hurry. Your goal is to make this as attractive as possible so people are tempted to delve deeper into your profile. In order to achieve that, you have to fill in the appropriate information: Set a header that summarizes your work in a few words. If you’re job hunting, you can mention it there. Fill in your current and previous jobs and your education. Additionally, to stay relevant, it is very important to set your current location and industry so that your profile shows up in related searches.
For people searches, LinkedIn profiles tend to show up higher in search engines results when compared to other websites
YOU’RE SO VAIN
A vanity URL is your LinkedIn username, much like your Facebook username or Twitter handle. When you create a profile, LinkedIn doesn’t automatically provide you with a username. You can create it directly from your business card by clicking on the small link at the bottom. Whenever you want to share your profile with people, instead of a long list of annoying numbers, you can share a smaller customized link like www.linkedin.com/in/mhijazi. Next issue: Maximize your LinkedIn profile. february 2014
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YOUR CORPORATE SPACE IS A RELFECTION OF YOUR
Middle east artwork worth the investment By Arie Amaya-Akkermans
hen it comes to your corporate space and the artwork that you choose to present, it’s a foregone conclusion that you are going to eschew the promo print massproduced stuff. The tough part is knowing which artists are worth the investment, and what image they convey when presented as the centerpiece of your lobby and on the walls of your boardrooms. Both institutions of note and prestige collectors trust art curators to make the choices suitable for their corporate digs, and so should you. We’ve asked one of the region’s foremost galleries to choose five MENAbased artists who have been snapped up by multinationals and art-savvy entrepreneurs.
MOHAMMED OMAR KHALIL A Sudanese artist, Mohammed Omar Khalil is one of the most important living painters in the Middle East. A pioneer printmaker and traveler between cultures, his work has investigated all the corners of the Arab world and has also engaged with contemporary renditions of classical Italian painters. Khalil’s work is found in important museums in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. His legendary exhibition, Paolo Ucello, the Battle of San Romano (2010) was a collaboration with retail giants Saks Fifth Avenue. 76
Camille Zakharia, Lebanon Markings XVIII 71.8cm x 71.8cm 2008
CAMILLE ZAKHARIA Living across different continents but anchored in Bahrain, Lebanese photographer Camille Zakharia has been at the forefront of innovation since the 1990s with a body of work exploring the singular architecture and transient nature of life in the Gulf. His projects vary from ancient cities to immigration to coast life to urbanization.He has been showcased at the V&A Museum in London, England and the 55th Venice Art Biennial. Zakharia’s work is placed in prestigious collections and institutions across the Middle East.
Mohammed Omar Khalil, Sudan Paolo Ucello, The Battle of San Romano series Media on canvas 185cm x 300cm 2009
HUSSEIN AL MOHASEN A pioneering Saudi artist, Hussein Al Mohasen has merged street and conceptual art in humorous works executed with stencils but with the slow dedication of fine art. Bright neon colors and pop art icons are interwoven with critical readings of the regionâ€™s tragic narratives, oscillating between the digital and the real. The unmistakable audacity of the street artist meets the craftsmanship and attention to detail of a seasoned painter. His work has been showcased and collected extensively in the region since the 1990s.
Hussein AlMohasen, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia This Color Space is Mine 2 Mixed media and stencil graffiti on paper 120cm x 40cm 2013
Zuhair Al Saeed, Kingdom of Bahrain Untitled Mixed Media on Wood 80cm x 205cm 2013
ZUHAIR AL SAEED One of the most promising emerging artists from Bahrain, painter Zuhair Al Saeed has produced a sober body of work based on architectural ruins such as doors and frames; the artist then reinterprets these found materials into archaeological artifacts through a combination of painting, sculpture and installation, transforming them into elegant and timeless pieces. His work has been collected by HSBC Bank and the Ministry of Culture in Bahrain.
HOSSAM DIRAR The Cairo-based multidisciplinary artist, Hossam Dirar, engaged with photography, painting and video, overlaps in his work the digital and the painterly, combining photography from the restless city with the slow reflection of calligraphy and a stencil-like freshness on acrylic. The subtle photographic treatment of the canvas confers a cinematic quality on otherwise commonplace images. Last year, Dirarâ€™s work was selected by Saatchi as one of the twelve emerging artists worthy of investment.
Hossam Dirar, Egypt Cloudy Day Mixed Media on Canvas 121cm x 120cm 2013
Albareh Art Gallery provides a full range of art consulting services, from initial consultation to final purchase and installation for public and private collections, assisting collectors in locating high-impact pieces, assembling new collections, enhancing existing ones and creating compelling spaces through acquisitions of both modern and contemporary art. Arie Amaya-Akkermans is the liaison and assistant curator at Albareh Art Gallery, Bahrain. firstname.lastname@example.org | www.albareh.com
business unusual | LIFE | TRAVEL | DESIGN
TECH TICKER Digi-biographies are all the rage By Amal Chaaban
In keeping with our digital-bend this issue, we’ve highlighted some reads on the market written about a few of the field’s most controversial individuals. On your next flight grab one of these bestselling biographies, and settle in for the sometimesexhilarating and other-times frustrating trips into the lives of digi’s biggest names. We’ll see you in cyberspace. WHO Jeff Bezos | Amazon THE BOOK The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
by Brad Stone Stone’s work on The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone has paid off richly: the book was the 2013 Winner of the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award. In a 2010 commencement speech, Jeff Bezos said “...In the end, we are our choices.” As the founder of one of the world’s largest retailers, Bezos is in a position sound off. From his beginnings as an intellectually gifted student to the founding of
WHO Steve Jobs | Apple THE BOOK Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Long before Steve Jobs was the household name associated with Apple, he was thinking of products that were considered the stuff science fiction is made of. It was his vision that catapulted Apple forward and while there is some dissent when discussing his business acumen, Jobs’ capacity for creativity is universally agreed upon. Author Walter Isaacson, the current president and CEO of the Aspen Institute also a former CNN chairman and managing editor
of TIME magazine, does a commendable job in filling in the blanks of the notoriously private computer pioneer. There is no whitewashing of his bad traits -Jobs was known to reduce staff to trembling masses with a single searing remark- and no embellishment of his already considerable genius. A well-written tome on a man who helped shape how we use electronics, this book was reviewed by Sam Leith as “monumental” for The Guardian.
Amazon, Bezos’ rise has not been surprising to those who knew and taught him in his early years. This is, after all, the student who chose to create a survey of his grade six math teachers in order to learn to tabulate statistics. Given that this is the only book out there that has been published with the cooperation of Mr. Bezos, the author does a great job of staying neutral. The Everything Store was lauded Best Book of 2013 by The Washington Post.
WHO Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, Christopher Stone, Noah Glass | Twitter THE BOOK Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship and Betrayal by Nick Bilton
This is the story of four young men from radically different backgrounds and the company they built. The mini biographies of each of these founders make this book good, but what lifts it to great is the story of how Blogger was created then sold to Google (Williams), how a hacktivist became a businessman (Dorsey), how one played peacemaker (Stone), and how one essentially was betrayed by the rest (Glass). The startups that were prequels to what we now know as Twitter laid the foundations for big money, linked by Bilton to big problems as egos became
overinflated and power struggles became the norm. Hatching Twitter, described as “captivating and fast-paced” by Tim Wu for The Washington Post, is also credited in the same review for doing “an excellent job of depicting the emotional atmosphere at West Coast startups: a cycle of exhilaration and hopelessness shadowed by the persistent fear of missing out.” Lionsgate announced on December 18, 2013 that it had “optioned the rights” of the bestseller for TV series development. Hatching Twitter was named Best Book of 2013 by The Wall Street Journal.
WHO Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg | Facebook THE BOOK The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich
At its most basic, this is a story of two college boys who didn’t fit in and tried hard to get in to the “right” groups at Harvard University. Two men that were behind the creation of the social media behemoth we now know as Facebook and yet it’s only Zuckerberg who is the very public face of the site (eclipsing the lesser-known Saverin). Not surprisingly, Zuckerberg did not accept any requests to speak to the author and while he didn’t
take the opportunity to defend himself, Janet Maslin of The New York Times did. Maslin refers to The Accidental Billionaires as “nonfictionish” and unflatteringly discusses Mezrich’s prose as “guesswork- long, lyrical, hash-slinging, protracted feats of guesswork.” Despite all of this, the book debuted at #4 on the NYT Bestseller list, and later, prompted a screenplay adaptation becoming blockbuster flick, The Social Network.
SPECIAL MENTION ATARI’S NOLAN BUSHNELL SOUNDS OFF Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Keep and Nurture Talent by Nolan Bushnell with Gene Stone Nolan Bushnell founded Atari and he helped launch the career of none other than Steve Jobs, so he is in a position to advise companies on how to lure and keep the best and brightest creatives floating around the workforce. Rather than a traditional step-by-step guide, Bushnell imparts a series of experiences via “Pongs” (alluding to the game that made Atari a hit). These pongs discuss everything from how to design a website that attracts creative people, to sustaining a corporate culture that encourages forward-thinking.
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Getting ahead with
SAVVY PAYMENT MANAGEMENT Andre Hattingh outlines the benefits of SMEs choosing the credit route
You are a growing business and you are juggling it along with financial processes. You do not have the huge financial departments of a large corporation and have to look after your cash-flow either on your own or with a small team, so what can you do to make the process simpler? Andre Hattingh, Head of Commercial Product, Visa Inc. CEMEA, shares how to simplify financial management so you can concentrate on the important stuff- the growth of your business. SMEs | The backbone of the economy There is a growing recognition that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can be a vital resource to combating some of the challenges facing the region by contributing to job growth and the economy, and bridging some of the regional economic development imbalances that 80
have emerged within countries. SMEs have been widely recognized as effective and successful in developed markets, where they are responsible for much of the growth in new jobs, and contribute to over 60%â€“70% of employment and more than 50% of GDP. A constantly changing and competitive region, the uncertain global
economy and the increasing globalization of businesses and customers present SMEs with new issues, including having to drive greater efficiency and productivity, and scaling to grow and change the company. Financial control and flexibility aided with good payment management can help businesses thrive in the transforming business environment.
Whether you’re a small business, entrepreneur, independent contractor, or sole proprietor; operational efficiency is increasingly critical for you to remain competitive and to drive real growth beyond cycles. Financial processes such as payment management are a critical component of running your business and you need control, convenience and cost-savings. Payment management is designed to enhance the efficiency of small businesses processes and improve your bottom line, better manage your cash flow and help growth – not just with startups, but for those who need to grow to the next stage. Streamlining expenses and better access to funds Streamlining expenses with business cards is an easy way to separate company and personal expenses, manage business and travel spending, and simplify bookkeeping. Managing outgoings on a business card allows you greater control of your business spending - you can track expenses by category; issue cards to key employees, set spending limits, and better manage your company’s cash flow. Fueling growth for your business by
transitioning from business cheques to business cards not only comes through faster, more cost-effective ways to pay, but also as purchasing flexibility through online purchasing and business travel bookings. Automating payments and leveraging the internet as a tool for business makes business easier to do. Access to funds whenever and wherever you need it gives businesses more malleability to scale up, increase revenue and cost efficiency. Other benefits that offer savings in cost and time with business cards include offers from business travel and accommodation to business support services and products.
Access to funds whenever and wherever you need it gives businesses more malleability to scale up, increase revenue and cost efficiency.
Bargain hunter You are where you are today thanks to a savvy business sense and knowing a good deal when you see one. So do not stop now, keep a sharp look out for the perks that come with using business cards and make them work for you. There are many out there that are designed to enhance the efficiency of your business processes and improve your bottom line. Do you travel overseas a lot for your business? Make sure you choose a card that gives you a better price on flights, accommodation and car hire. Or perhaps you need gifting services or access to key news publications and services. Payment solutions for SME’s are fast evolving to meet the needs of your business, so explore your options and make these solutions work for you. From simple things like choosing your business payment card to enlisting the help of an efficient online management system – you can increase productivity, streamline your financial processes and keep your mind focused on the big opportunities ahead.
Andre Hattingh, as the Head of Commercial Products CEMEA Visa has over 15 years of experience in card payments in consumer and commercial products. He has been with VISA for seven years, first heading up core products in Sub-Saharan Africa, and for the past three years, he has been overseeing commercial products for the CEMEA region.
Small and Medium Sized Enterprises in MENA: Leveraging Growth Finance for Sustainable Development – study supported by Shell Foundation and Citi Foundation
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The most important non-events of venture capital in the Middle East By Wassim Mourtada
2013: THE RECAP
was asked to write an introductory article on the “2013’s Most Important Venture Capital Events in the Middle East.” Certainly, there were several events that would qualify as important. We could cite iMena Holding’s closing of financing of over US$20m, and its quick and very concentrated deployment of capital into a very small number of investments ($7m and $8m into EasyTaxi and HelloFood) respectively. This represents an important raise that includes key strategic investors such as the UAE’s Etisalat and an atypical concentration of risk in VC funds (whether iMena identifies itself as a VC investor or not). We could cite Fadi Ghandour’s (long anticipated) transition from a mega-angel investor into a more traditional VC fund, and his being joined by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation. IFC, in turn, will invest a very meaningful $15m into the Wamda Capital VC Fund, targeted at $75m and representing perhaps the standard by which the regional VC industry will be measured (for right or for wrong). Perhaps not as dramatic is Paul Kenny’s “recycling of talent” where you have another founder of an excited technology-driven company join
Each and every individual leading those VC efforts have labored, oftentimes in obscurity, and faced odds and prevailed against challenges that were not visible to many. 82
a relatively prolific angel investor, Arya Bolurfrushan, to found a small first VC fund. This is a subtle development, but represents a real “organic” development that perhaps is the better measurement of the non-fertilized and steroid-injected VC development of the superstars of the region; a good attempt at providing another data point in the long running debate: Does size matter (when it comes to VC funds)? We will also mention the ever-so-vogue equity crowdfunding, led in the region by Eureeca, which has had a small handful of individual successful events, as well as regional startups having raised funds on the international crowdfunding platforms. In the absence of an organized angel investment scene, these represent a small glimmer that at the very least ought to be observed, either as an adjunct to the “traditional” VC industry or a potential disruptor, as its advocates, well, advocate.
These “events”, while generating impactful headlines, are better understood within their own context: Each and every individual leading those VC efforts have labored, oftentimes in obscurity, and faced odds and prevailed against challenges that were not visible to many. While they are branded as VC’s, they are also entrepreneurs, first and foremost. While they are in the position of VC’s passing judgment on the risks that entrepreneurs bring in their ventures, they carry their own risks as organizations, as strategists and as far as their judgments are concerned. Clearly, there is a lot to be excited about, and a number of events and achievements to laud and celebrate. However, perhaps the most important event is the non-event of the discourse around the “Venture Capital Industry in the Middle East” topic -shifting away from the individual evangelizing (and sometimes shrill) voices of lone individuals and ill-formed groups bemoaning the
lack of organized venture capital funds and propagating the message of the importance of such an industry to the economic development of the region- to one that takes for granted the existence of this “Industry”. It is a soft proclamation it makes: I exist. Surely, VC in the form of risk capital for business in this region has been around since time immemorial when capital was provided for trade by ship and by caravan. It was around in the previous “Dubai Boom” when risk capital was made available to speculative (and not-so-speculative) real estate development, investment in franchises and distribution ventures. It has been around in the form of formal government investment support in some countries (the UAE is one example) towards their citizen’s “small business” ventures. However, what has been missing, sorely in the minds of the many believers, entrepreneurs and erstwhile venture capitalists alike, is the organized pooling of capital in funds to provide risk capital investment in new(ish) standalone ventures, with a primary view on “technology and innovation”: the holy grail of adapting the economic and innovation engine of Silicon Valley to the Middle East Region.
Yes. It is now official. VC in the Middle East exists. It exists as a small industry. And that is the most important (non-) event of the last 12 months. One can say it was inevitable: As the economy in the region develops, and as the traditional opportunities become more competitive, capital will seek newer kinds of outlets. However, to proclaim victory is very premature: the coming “Dubai Boom Part Two)” may have both the effect of raising confidence enough for people to deploy capital into funds and into these technology driven startups. It could also have the negative effect of channeling the capital back into real estate and related investment, and speculation: After all, “why should anyone invest in risky technology startups when they can get guaranteed double (even triple) digit returns in liquid investments like real estate and the local stock markets.” Some of us are nostalgic. And performance counts: the results of the handful of VC vehicles assembled in this time period will define investor appetite in the future, it will impact government policy towards the sector in terms of providing both financial and non-financial support and will, if done correctly, condition the IPO markets to expect successful VC backed companies,
thereby encouraging a larger flow of capital back to VC funds, thus completing the ever elusive “virtuous cycle of capital deployment”. However, the seed has been planted. And the fate of the industry is now in the hands of a limited number of professional investors and entrepreneurs. How they fare in their first steps will have a very great impact on the development of the industry. Time will tell.
VC in the Middle East exists. It exists as a small industry. And that is the most important (non-)event of the last 12 months. Wassim Mourtada is the founder and Managing Director of CrystalPoint Partners, an investment firm specializing in esoteric, special situation and alternative investments. In this role he is Chairman of Envision ALR, specializing in the commercialization of technologies in Regenerative Medicine, Synthetic Biology and Nanotechnology and is Chairman of the Pakistan Energy & Resources Company. His first passion was, and remains, venture capital. He has been involved in direct VC investments in biotech, alternative energy, semiconductors and the internet. He has successfully assisted major Silicon Valley funds raise capital from sovereign wealth funds and has advised governments on three continents on VC and cluster development activity. He has chaired and spoken at a number of international conferences such as the Inaugural Research Commercialization Conference and BIO. He has published policy papers for the US Federal Reserve Bank and the Government of France and by Euromoney in the seminal “Financing Spinouts”, among others. Previously, he was Associate Director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance.
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IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BITCOIN, BABY THE MOST VOLATILE CURRENCY DEBATE IN YEARS SOARS AND SINKS OVERNIGHT 84
Bitcoin is everywhere, literally. The world’s most popular digital currency is headlining the biggest financial publications, and frantic web editors are struggling to keep up with the drama- Bitcoin has been fluctuating from a high of over $1,200 to a low of under $600 as of last December. It’s worth remembering that in early 2013 one Bitcoin was worth a paltry $13.
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ons of traders have taken a major hit, depending on when exactly it was that they bought their Bitcoin. A few lucky holders of the unregulated digital moolah acquired their stash way back in 2009 when each Bitcoin was valued at only $24. Many of the early adopters have since struck it richone such story about a Norwegian Bitcoin holder, Christopher Koch, went viral. Rightfully so since the 5,000 Bitcoins he bought back in 2009 at $24 allowed him to buy an apartment in Oslo reportedly for 2.6 million kroner (roughly $477,000) although some reports suggest the value was closer to
A few lucky holders of the unregulated digital moolah acquired their stash way back in 2009 when each Bitcoin was valued at only $24.
$800,000. Norway, the wealthiest of the Scandinavian nations, has its reservations about Bitcoin and recently decided that it doesn’t count as “real money” after Koch’s story generated interest internationally. Germany too has addressed the digital currency issue; they have announced a “levy” of sorts to be implemented as it now considers Bitcoin an “asset”. The crypto-currency has taken another recent hit due to a Chinese “ban” on trading. Volume-wise, BTC China was the globe’s largest
Bitcoin trader, but due to an early December 2013 joint statement from the Chinese central bank and several Chinese ministries forbidding the use of the yuan to buy Bitcoin, it has sharply devalued the digi-currency. China isn’t the only one up in arms about the virtual currency- there have been two U.S. congressional hearings about Bitcoin and the European Banking Authority (EBA) issued a sternly worded “warning to highlight the possible risks you may face when buying, holding or trading virtual
currencies such as Bitcoin,” adding that they recommend that “if you buy virtual currencies, you should be fully aware and understand their specific characteristics.” Said characteristics include Bitcoin being limited to exactly 21 million units with only 12 million units presently in circulation, its creation by an unknown developer or group of developers under the mysterious pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto ostensibly of Japanese origin, and finally having all transactions times-
Bitcoin describes itself as the “first decentralized digital currency” tamped and logged publicly in a “block chain” which is supposed to prevent double-spending. The recent plummets in value are being dubbed “corrections” by some of the financial press, and credit for these dives in value is largely given to the Chinese barring yuan-Bitcoin buying. All that said and done, Bitcoin’s legitimacy is hotly debated: Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is accepting Bitcoin as payment for space flights and there’s even a website devoted to matching job seekers with employers who pay in Bitcoin. The Founder of Coinality.com, Dan Roseman, recently appeared in an interview for Bloomberg discussing the reasons why job seekers (mainly IT professionals) would accept freelance work in exchange for a currency that isn’t holding steady. The answer is that they want to wade into the pool without investing the >>>
Bitcoin and the GCC If you do a quick online search, you’re able to locate a number of Bitcoin exchange personnel across the Gulf. As a currency exchange hub, Dubai seems to be the perfect place to cash in on the trend, however it really is a buyer-beware situation since it is completely unregulated as yet. The traders themselves are rated according to feedback from their clients and their accepted payment methods appear on their profiles. A few of the traders accept cash, others state wire transfer, bank deposit and Western Union as methods of payment. Some of the
traders list phone numbers, Skype and email addresses, and they’ll even take appointments for specific cities and dates via SMS. One trader specifies Friday and Saturday for in-person meetings in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and some boast of being online “24/7”. Since Bitcoin exchanges are unregulated transactions, you are on your own and legal recourse is probably not going to go very far, if anywhere at all- hence the warning of central banks and banking authorities. Do your research before choosing to wade into the Bitcoin economy.
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greenback. Other than that, who really uses Bitcoin and what’s the point? In an animated information video, Bitcoin describes itself as the “first decentralized digital currency” and reminds prospective Bitcoiners that it’s a peer-to-peer system with relatively low fees, Wallets have no limits and they cannot be frozen unlike conventional bank accounts, and that it is pre-requisite free to start and hold a Bitcoin account. These same reasons are being used by lawmakers and detractors when expressing concern over Bitcoin, and also in the context of saying that Bitcoin can facilitate money laundering, tax-evasion and other illegal activities. The internet is peppered with articles about discarded hard drives and USB sticks storing old Bitcoin Wallets and passwords. It’s caused a flurry of landfill treasure hunts since once you lose your Wallet or your password, there is no way of retrieving the lost funds which are basically encrypted computer code. Other than buying Bitcoin, you can “mine”
for it either alone or with a group. This is basically how James Howells, an IT worker, accumulated his 7,500 Bitcoins years ago, way ahead of the now digitrend. This newly minted millionaire has one huge problem that caused a global media storm: He threw out the hard drive that he was storing his Bitcoin Wallet on, and at the time of tossing it out between June and August 2013 his Wallet was estimated to be worth $9 Million. Unless Howells manages to find his missing hard drive at the garbage dump, he’s lost it all for good. That’s considered one of the pitfalls of Bitcoin- if you lose your Wallet or your password, you can kiss your money goodbye. There are several types of Bitcoin holders: The bandwagon crowd, the laypeople who want it just because everyone else has it (more on this later), the speculators sitting on tons of Bitcoins in hopes of cashing in advantageously, and finally the people who actually use Bitcoin to buy goods and services, both legal and illegal.
At the time we went to print, the P2P currency was hovering around USD $820. This is a screenshot of our Bitcoin Wallet- the green dot indicates another Bitcoin trader transferring us currency. The value? Approximately $8.20 or AED 29.93
Code-savvy people globally are joining Bitcoin mining centers in the form of hubs or “pools” in hopes of a pay-off. Mining blocks help manage Bitcoin transactions and also create new funds; a few tech journos have joined pools to give mining a spin and the reports are largely coming back with the same verdict: the process is being labelled counter-productive. The catch? The more Bitcoins that are “found”, the harder they become to find. One profitability calculator (bitcoinx.com/profit) measures “difficulty” as “how difficult it is to find a new block compared to the easiest it can ever be.” The blocks will continue to be created even when all 21 million Bitcoins are generated because transactions will still take place.
Code-savvy people globally are joining Bitcoin mining centers in the form of hubs or “pools” in hopes of a pay-off. The peer-to-peer Bitcoin economy has created a bit of a “FOMO” situation according to Adrian Chen’s opinion editorial for The New York Timeseveryone feels that they’re missing the digi gravy train. In his piece, Much Ado About Bitcoin, Chen also points out that the value of Bitcoin is largely emotional. By sheer dint of the fact that it isn’t a tangible form of currency and that Sakoshi is already an urban god of crypto-legend, it immediately lends an air of cool to what was formerly the domain of Deep Web dwellers. Bitcoin now has a fanbase and an anti-fanbase, and on either side you will find both those who have a real grasp of economics and computers and those who don’t. No matter which side of the financial fence you’re sitting on, we’re all riding this out together.
Credit where it’s due BLC Bank’s Brilliant Lebanese Awards acknowledge the efforts and achievements of some of the Levant’s most impressive entrepreneurs in three categories: Business of the Year, Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, and People’s Choice. The competition is judged by a panel using four strict criteria to assess and reward accomplishment in the world of business: Creativity, Financial, Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility. This year the winners of the two main categories,
Business of the Year Nehman & Samer El Hachem for Hintragand and Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Helene Nasr, founder and President of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) control and management organization Scitek, scooped prizes of $30,000 each. The People’s Choice is publicly-voted going to the entrant able to generate the most votes via social media and was awarded to Hassan Chahine of New Media Tourism.
Scitek scanning a newly arrived container at the port
business unusual | LIFE | TRAVEL | DESIGN
THE SWITCH #TrepTalkME Each issue we feature a corporate professional who has made a career switch either for entrepreneurial endeavors or academic ones with plans to pursue ‘trep endeavors. If you’ve made The Switch, tweet at us @ENTMagazineME and hashtag #TrepTalkME. We want to hear your story.
SWITCHER/AGE Imad Atwi/29 FORMER COMPANY/POSTION SWITCH TO ‘TREP/ACADEMIC Booz & Company/Associate to INSEAD MBA in Singapore and France. THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This is by far the best investment I have and probably will ever make. CV/PORTFOLIO In my most recent position, I assumed an Associate level. My career with Booz & Company had been rich, fulfilling, and challenging to say the least. I was with Booz & Company for four years, assuming various leadership and teamwork responsibilities. During my tenure, I focused on telecommunications, media, and technology sector, advising governments, regulators and telecom operators in the MENA region on strategic projects including growth strategy, negotiation, ICT policy, digitization, and wholesale. I had a couple of promotions during that time, transitioning from a Consultant to a Senior Consultant position, then finally at Associate level which is typically a post-MBA level position. THE PLANS POST SWITCH Working in an entrepreneurial capacity along sustainability is one of my key priorities. The Middle East region is opening up to the startup scene, angel investing, and young creative minds. In addition, many businesses and governments have seen the benefits of sustainability, yet
are still unable to expand and reap the benefits on a large national scale. I want to address those issues not only from a government/business top-down perspective, but also from a bottom up grassroots movement, raising awareness to consumers. THE MOTIVATOR TO SWITCH I did not want an education, and I wanted to fail. Anyone can easily pursue knowledge and seek an education, and you can pretty much do it for free. However, surrounding yourself with a group of highly diverse and experienced people will guide your logics, will propose 20 different approaches to the same problem, and you will truly think outside the box. I want to fail more often; an MBA from one of the top schools does just that. I believe that INSEAD has the right elements for me to grow in a very safe, conducive yet rigorous environment across all aspects. A prof once said, “Quit often, and quit early.” THE PROGRESS POST SWITCH Describing INSEAD’s experience as overwhelming is an understatement. More than 70 nationalities, diverse individuals, dozens of clubs, a plethora of academics, activities, networking, socializing, event signup, and more. Only one week of the official program has passed and yet you can already feel the energy and adrenaline rush amongst each and every attendee. You cannot and will not be able to do everything -INSEAD is very much aware of this fact- you’ll need to
tailor and prioritize your activities and efforts to suit your needs and skillset, but make sure you have that balance or else FOMO will get the best of you. So far I’ve learned that I need to step up my time management skills. THE DIFFERENCE POST SWITCH Managing time at Booz & Company was easy; you had deadlines, priorities, teams, and actions plans. INSEAD is much more- you’ve got to juggle academics, career searching, networking, events, socializing, club participation. It’s a true test of prioritization, decision-making, and opportunity cost! You’ll have to devise tactics, play smart, and be efficient. If this is what unemployment feels like, then sign me up for a lifetime membership! Preparing and discussing case in a classroom with 79 other highly qualified and diverse individuals challenges your stance and pushes your reasoning- it accelerates heartbeats! We’re often discussing the case studies well after the class ends and heated debates are expected!
FLYING HIGH IN ABU DHABI The Red Bull Air Race World Championship is back. Abu Dhabi will be hosting the first round of the 2014 air race from February 28 until March 1. After a threeyear hiatus, Red Bull promises that this year’s Air Race World Championship will demonstrate a large improvement over previous ones, having spent time 90
working on technical and safety issues. One of the pilots we’ll be keeping an eye on is Salzburg’s Hannes Arch, the 2008 champion. After finishing closely at second in 2010 to long-time rival, Paul Bonhomme, Arch is looking to come and reclaim the championship. We’ll see you there!
The inaugural issue of Entrepreneur Middle East