BEIRUT: The 8th edition of ArabNet Beirut will gather the country's government, largest corporations, and 1300 regional/international digital professionals and entrepreneurs at the Habtoor Hilton Hotel near the end of February.
The conference will kick off with "Prototype Day", dedicated to helping startups and innovators hone their skills and develop their businesses via a series of workshops on entrepreneurship, hardware, and product development. ArabNet Beirut 2017 will then carry on with a two-day Forum, focused on the latest in business transformation, technology, entrepreneurship, and digital media.
A full track is dedicated to digital media and advertising, with a focus on content creation, distribution, monetization, and measurement, with forward-thinking speakers from Pepsi, Mars, Publicis, Mindshare, and Discovery Networks.
Another track tackles entrepreneurship, from its earliest stages, at universities and research centers, to Venture Capital investment, featuring the newest funds from the region.
ArabNet Beirut also tackles hardware innovation via high profile speakers such as Erik Katz, Founder/CEO of Circuit Launch and Managing Director of Hardware at Hackers/Founders as well as Cyrille Najjar, Founder of White sur White and CEO of White Lab, and Raphaël Crouan, Founder of StartupBootcamp IoT and Managing Director at Connected Devices.
"Lebanon is a nation of pioneers and we have the opportunity to build a digital economy and a digital sector that is competitive at the regional and international level. We have already seen Lebanese success stories on a global scale, and this is an area in which the government and private sector are actively investing today, to move the Lebanese economy forward," Omar Christidis, CEO, and founder of ArabNet, told Annahar.
Building on the growing interest of the banking sector, ArabNet Beirut 2017 features a new Banking Innovation Day, bringing together 150 bankers, technology providers, and agencies to discuss the latest innovations in banking technology, from smart branches to mobile payments.
Speakers include Farshad Nowshadi, Vice President at Saman Bank and VC at Level39 FinTech-London, as well as other senior executives from regional banks such as Riyad Bank, AlAhli Bank, Visa and Garanti Payment Systems from Turkey. The Banking Innovation Day also features a Fintech showcase, with startups from around the region displaying the latest technologies.
ArabNet Beirut will once again be highlighting the next generation of digital business leaders via its signature competitions, Ideathon, Startup Battle and Creative Combat.
"ArabNet Beirut is a very impact-driven conference that is extremely valuable for everyone attending it! It succeeds year after year in gathering the top entrepreneurs and the best startups in the region in an intimate setting that creates value for the whole ecosystem," Sami Abou Saab, CEO of Speed@BBD, a startup accelerator, told Annahar.
"Looking forward to the 2017 edition," Abou Saab added.
Similar enthusiasm was expressed by startup Synkers an educational app that matches tutors with students.
"We are very excited to attend the conference, since we know everyone that's going to be there from the startups to the judges, so it'll have a more comforting vibe for us which will help us pitch our product to the community as well as share our gradual development, updates, and services regarding the application," Audrey Nakad CEO of Synkers told Annahar.
Both the upcoming ArabNet Beirut 2017 and last fall's BDL Accelerate Conference are galvining Lebanon's IT, digital and startup talent during an ongoing upward trend.
According to Lebanon's Ministry of Information, in the last several years the ICT sector in Lebanon has witnessed significant growth: during 2009-2014 due to factors such as the "youth bulge", a new generation "are looking to take forward (professional) opportunities." The tech sector has grown at an average annual rate of 7.9 percent.
The ArabNet Business Intelligence publication reporting on the state of investments in the region said that over $700 million were invested in tech startups in MENA between 2013 and October 2015, with Jordan and Lebanon hovering around 50-60 investment deals each.
Further, the report said that Lebanon has climbed the MENA ranks in terms of the number of investments, going from 5th to 3rd place behind the UAE and Jordan.
ArabNet Beirut organizers said that the event will witness a strong governmental presence including Jamal Jarrah, Minister of Telecommunications, and Riad Salame, Governor of Banque Du Liban, and the sponsorship of such key companies such as Touch, Alfa, Creditbank, Bank Audi, OMD and LBC.
The conference will be held on February 20-22 at the Hilton Habtoor Hotel.
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